Why Releasing Matt Prater Was and Is Still the Right Decision


It’s rather obvious that the Denver Broncos have to address the kicking situation, and Mike Klis of the Denver Post is reporting that veteran kicker Jay Feely will be in for a tryout on Tuesday. Chances are that Feely will be one of a few who are brought in, but tryouts don’t guarantee the Broncos will sign one.

The story I want to address is why the Broncos released Matt Prater and why it was the right decision then, and still is today. I completely understand why fans are pining for Prater based on the performance of Brandon McManus, the kicker who took his place. However that pining, while understandable, is misplaced.

Let’s start with this, the NFL is not a democracy. If you are an elite player, you get more rope. When a player like Von Miller screws up, the Broncos are going to be more patient because talent like that comes along once in a decade. When a kicker, even a very good one like Prater, screws up; the team is going to have a lot less patience.

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Don’t take my word for it; coaches like Jimmy Johnson, Bill Belichick, Bill Parcells and many more have all said the same thing. The better player you are, the more rope you get.

Think back to the preseason for a minute, Prater was terrible. I understand, looking back, that he probably had things on his mind but McManus was easily the better kicker in training camp. Maybe the Broncos should have given Prater the benefit of the doubt but they obviously felt between his off the field issues and on the field performance that it was worth the risk to go with McManus.

Prater has been average at best this season for the Detroit Lions. He is 5-5 on short field goals, 20-29 yards but only 1-3 from 40-49 and that one he made was after he got a reprieve from his own team committing a penalty.

Prater missed a field goal to win the game versus the Atlanta Falcons but because the Lions committed a pre snap penalty, he got another chance and made the kick. Look for that rule to be changed in the offseason, by the way. A team shouldn’t benefit from their own penalty.

In all fairness Prater is 5-5 from beyond 50 which has always been his strength. Has he been better that McManus, yes but not by much and Prater is not the weapon on kickoffs that McManus is.

Then there’s the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about, the financial aspect. The Broncos are facing an offseason where some of their best players are due to hit free agency. Some of those players include: Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Chris Harris Jr., Terrance Knighton and others.

Prater was due to make more than three million next year and I believe the Broncos feel like that money could be better spent in trying to keep some of the players listed above. It’s a hard reality but sometimes decisions have to be made with the salary cap in mind, and it was probably a factor in the release of Prater.

I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind and I understand why fans are frustrated. They remember Prater making every big kick and now they watch McManus miss 33 yarders, I get it. The only thing I want fans to consider is that there were reasons why the Broncos did what they did.

It didn’t work out, sign a veteran and move on.