Janikowski’s back issue forces Raiders to try kickers

By Nick Shook
Read full post on NFL.com

Through all of the ups and downs in Oakland over most of the last two decades, there’s been one constant: Sebastian Janikowski.

The kicker, selected 17th overall in 2000 by the Raiders, has spent his entire career in Oakland, earning a reputation as a strong-legged, mostly dependable boot for the Silver and Black. It sounds like his long tenure in Oakland could be facing a serious threat, though, seemingly out of nowhere.

Janikowski has struggled with a back issue, which left him looking “awful” on Monday according to a source, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. As a result, Oakland worked out three kickers on Monday, including former Chargers kicker Josh Lambo.

There’s been somewhat of a misconception over the last year or so that Janikowski has steadily declined as a kicker, but statistically in 2016, he finished slightly above his career field goal percentage (80.4), making 82.9 percent of his attempts (29 of 35) with a long of 56. Janikowski made 37 of 39 extra-point attempts, with one getting blocked. Nothing statistically from the last three seasons jumps out as a red flag.

But age is also a factor, as Rapoport noted. Janikowski is 39 years old, and is apparently starting to feel the effects of Father Time. There’s that, and there’s also his contract, a four-year, $15.1 million backloaded deal signed in 2013 that is set to pay him $4.05 million this season, per Spotrac. It’s the second-highest cap number for a kicker in the league, trailing only New England’s Stephen Gostkowski ($4.5 million, per Spotrac), a 33-year-old who made 84.4 percent of his field goal attempts last season and carries a career percentage of 87.1.

Janikowski’s contract also has a dead cap number of just $360,000 (again per Spotrac), offering the Raiders an easy out if they wanted to go down the route of divorce.

Should Janikowski have lingering back issues, it makes sense to get an idea of who could immediately replace him with one phone call. Considering his contract and age, though, this is a storyline to continue monitoring closely, especially for a team that is a favorite to contend deep into January and a kicker who recently said he wants to play “until they kick me out.”

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