The tea leaves today portend possible sweeping changes on Bengals special teams. Kicker Shayne Graham’s agent said that there have been no recent talks about a new deal for his client, while Cincinnati special teams coach Darrin Simmons decried punter Kyle Larson’s poor performance last year and said the team would bring in competition at the position.
The Bengals average of 39.1 yards a punt was worst in the league last season. Larson’s average has declined for two straight years from his 2006 high of 44.5 yards per punt. Despite this, he was signed to a fresh five-year deal just last year. Many Bengals fans have a favorite son in mind to replace Larson: University of Cincinnati punter Kevin Huber.
Graham will be a free agent in March. He and the team talked extension last August but couldn’t come to an agreement. Graham has had some injury issues over the last couple of seasons. In 2007, he was limited early in the year after suffering a hip pointer in a preseason game against the Falcons. Last season, a groin injury forced the team to briefly sign kicker Dave Rayner. Coming off a hefty (for a kicker, anyhow) $6.5 million deal, Graham may be too pricey for the budget-conscious Bengals. And he certainly didn’t help his case in November, when he missed a 47-yarder that would have won the game against the Eagles.