FA P Johnny Hekker, waived by LA Rams, signs 3-year deal with Panthers

Mandatory Credit: Michael Chow-Arizona RepublicNfc Wild Card Playoff Cardinals Vs Rams
Mandatory Credit: Michael Chow-Arizona RepublicNfc Wild Card Playoff Cardinals Vs Rams /
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The LA Rams waived veteran punter Johnny Hekker to shave salary cap dollars in time to comply with the NFL deadline at 1:00 pm PDT on March 16, 2022. The Rams succeeded, but any hopes to circle back and pick up Hekker at a more team-friendly price down the road were dashed today.

NFL Insider Adam Schefter reports today that the Carolina Panthers have reached an agreement to sign the veteran punter to a three-year deal that is worth a total of $7.6 million, with $5.0 million in fully guaranteed dollars at signing.

While the LA Rams remain staring at a void at their punter position, last year’s competitor Corey Bojorquez is a free agent. In a bit of a mild surprise, Bojorquez seemed to win the competition but was traded to the Green Bay Packers anyway. Hekker remained with the Rams and as a result, earned a Super Bowl ring this year.

Kicking around some of Hekker’s stats

Hekker’s gross punts averaged just 44.2 yards, with was only 23rd best in the NFL.  He was far better in net punts (after returns) with  42.6 yards average, which was good enough for fourth-best in the NFL. He was able to do so well because half of his punts resulted in fair catches. Another 23 of his 51 punts were downed inside the 20-yard line.  Only nine of his punts were returned, with an average return of just 6.7 yards per return.

Hekker was cut solely as cost savings. He was due to earn $3.2 million in 2022, which was among the Top-three punters in the NFL. Keep in mind that was after he consented to reduce his salary by $1.0 million in 2022 after competing with Bojorquez.

Unless the Rams draft a punter, which will prescribe his rookie salary, the Rams could and should be looking at signing a punter to a one-year deal on or about $1.1 million in value.

ST Coordinator Joe DeCamillis really turned the special teams’ units around in 2021. He inherited P Johnny Hekker and PK Matt Gay. Earlier, the Rams extended a Qualifying Tender Offer to Pro Bowler Matt Gay. Now, DeCamillis will be able to bring in the punter of his choosing to play for the Rams in 2022.

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