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Rams Sign New Punter, What Does it Mean for Johnny Hekker?

Although they are not nearly in as dire straits as many other teams, the Los Angeles Rams could use some help at at a few spots before they are certifiably in the Super Bowl conversation. There are clear needs heading into the 2021 NFL Draft, but punter is not one of them. This is why the news of signing former Buffalo Bills punter Corey Bojorquez was a shock to many fans around the horn.

Rams Already Have a Premier Punter in Johnny Hekker

Punter Johnny Hekker has been nothing short of spectacular for the Rams. Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Oregon State, Hekker has been one of the most imposing punters in the league since his debut in 2012. He has twice led the league in total punting yards and been nominated to the Pro Bowl four times. Hekker has also been nominated for NFC Special Teams Player of the Month three separate times in his career. While the punter is admittedly not the sexiest position in the league, Hekker’s consistency has allowed an already commanding defense that much more of an advantage when it comes to boxing opposing offenses in with as little field to work with as possible.

Although Hekker is a top-tier punter, his 2020 season wasn’t in line with his normal level of productivity. His longest punt of the season sailed for just 63 yards (a downgrade from his typical production) and he averaged a career-low 45.6 yards per punt. And despite only seven of his punts going for touchbacks in the 2016-18 timespan, five of his punts in 2020 went for touchbacks. Still, Hekker has been consistent enough throughout his career to make the signing of Bojorquez a puzzling one at best. Not to mention, the Rams already have a true backup punter in Georgia State alum Brandon Wright.

Johnny Hekker rams Corey Bojorquez
Credit: Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

What Does Bojorquez Bring to the Table?

Bojorquez does not come accompanied with the same starry accolades as Hekker, but to his credit, few punters do. However, Bojorquez led the NFL last season with an average of 50.8 yards per punt, tying him for fourth-most in a single season in NFL history. However, Bojorquez also kicked seven touchbacks (two more than Hekker) which tied him for most in the league in the 2020 season. He also only downed 18 of his 41 punts inside the 20-yard line. Although he’s talented, it’s not exactly mystifying why the Bills were not desperate to bring him back.

Many potential theories abound as to why the Rams would want to go this route in the first place. Even though Hekker is signed on for another three years, according to Over The Cap, the Rams would save $3.75 million in cap space if they were to release him before June 1st. But even though the Rams are strapped for cash at the moment, especially with the cap lower than previous years because of the financial losses the league accrued after the COVID-19 pandemic, the money saved doesn’t seem worth the drop in value.

Could the Rams Have Other Ideas Instead?

Given Hekker’s minimal drop-off the last two years, new special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis and company could be invested in some sort of friendly competition at the punter position. Although it seems unlikely that Bojorquez would be the victor, his strong leg would give Hekker a very slight run for his money.

Some spectators have floated the possibility that because Bojorquez is a lefty as opposed to Hekker who is right-footed, the pair could provide different looks for punt returners in practice. If receiver Cooper Kupp is still the Rams’ go-to punt returner for the 2021 season, he may benefit from having two very different stylists fielding him punts.

Ever since the advent of the Sean McVay regime, and the Rams as a franchise started to become respectable again, the team has frequently gone off the beaten path and thrown tradition to the winds. While the move to sign Bojorquez is a head-scratcher at the very least, it doesn’t mean that it won’t prove fruitful in the long-run. The Rams put a premium on quality special teams play, and although it might not make much immediate sense on the surface, fans should have trust that this unexpected move will eventually pay dividends.


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