Player: Jordan Berry
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2018 Salary Cap Hit: $1,907,000
2018 Season Breakdown:
This time a year ago, we—or at least some of us—were having discussions about Australian punter Jordan Berry and really just how good he actually is, or can be. The truth is that he has put up some of the better numbers in franchise history, but that has to be weighed against the reality of the era in which he plays. The numbers that he puts up are pedestrian in comparison to the rest of the NFL.
2018 was no different, and in fact was a regression, posting the worst net average of his four-year career at 38.8. In 2016, his 40.2 net yards per punt was the first in Steelers history north of 40 yards, and he nearly did again in 2017 with 39.8. He also had a career-high four touchbacks on 63 punts, fewer than he had in either of the past two seasons.
While he saw the fewest of his punts returned—just 16 of them—those returns netted 227 yards. Even factoring in a 60-plus yard touchdown allowed that can be argued should never have been allowed due to an illegal block in the back that wasn’t penalized, that is still a poor average that is reflective of his hangtime, which has always been an issue, and his placement just as much or more as it is on the coverage unit.
The reality is that Berry is at best in the middle of the pack in terms of neutral-grading performance of punters, disqualifying the impact of his coverage units. That isn’t the worst thing in the world with a young player on his rookie contract. But he is an unrestricted free agent now, which is the time that you have to consider whether or not he is a long-term candidate.
Free Agency Outlook:
At this time last year, some of us were debating Berry’s merits and whether or not he was a top-10 punter in the NFL. The Steelers were prepared to pay him nearly $2 million in 2018 as a restricted free agent, but I have a hard time imagining them being willing to offer him that kind of money again.
Especially not after souring on their specialists. Chris Boswell went from being a Pro Bowler to the player who missed the most kicks in the entire league in between one season and the next, with a big new contract falling in the middle.
I’m not sure what kind of market Berry will have, but if he is retained, it will be on a modest deal, and the Steelers will bring in a serious competitor. It’s not like they’re unaccustomed to the punter carousel, something they experienced yearly since the Daniel Sepulveda days. Maybe one of these AAF players will get a look.