Large Question Mark Remains as Jets Release 2-Year Veteran

Sam Ficken

Getty Former New York Jets kicker Sam Ficken looks on at training camp on July 28, 2021.

The New York Jets have released placekicker Sam Ficken.

For many fans, this move seemed like a forgone conclusion. For others, the roster cut may have felt like a fantasy that would never actually come to fruition.

Ficken has only been with the franchise since Joe Douglas took over the general manager role in 2019, but he’s managed to find a way to stick around despite poor results. In two seasons with the Jets, the kicker owns a 76.2 field goal percentage and an 85.4 extra point percentage.

However long it took, Ficken is officially a free agent. That’s justified, but the Jets are still no closer to answering one of the biggest question marks on their roster.

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Next Man up at Kicker

It’s been a revolving door at kicker ever since ex-GM Mike Maccagnan let Pro Bowler Jason Myers walk after the 2018 season. The Seattle Seahawks were happy to snag the former Jet and he’s been relatively consistent for them ever since.

Gang Green on the other hand has been anything but. After a disastrous Kaare Vedvik experiment, the Jets stuck with Ficken in 2019 but had several more kickers enter the fold in 2020. Sergio Castillo and Chase McLaughlin both appeared in games last season before being cut by the organization this spring.

Castillo remains unsigned while McLaughlin was picked up by the Cleveland Browns. As for the Jets, they’ll replace Ficken with Matt Ammendola for the moment.

The Oklahoma State product must have impressed the most of the three kickers to work out with the Green and White on July 27, 2021. He held a 76.9 field goal percentage and a 97.8 PAT percentage in college according to team reporter Ethan Greenberg.

A former undrafted prospect, Ammendola is known for his big leg on kickoffs, a trait Douglas has looked for in all his acquisitions at the position. He actually helped OSU lead the nation in opponent starting field position his freshman year with an average of 63.1 yards per kickoff, including 41 touchbacks.

More importantly, the former Cowboy tied for first amongst all kickers in points scored his 2019 senior campaign, but this was mostly due to a large number of opportunities. Ammendola hit 20 of 26 field goals that season (76.9%) and seven of 11 from 40-plus yards (63.6%) — not exactly NFL-ready numbers. His longest made field goal was from 53 yards out at OSU.

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Help Wanted: New York Jets Kicker

No offense to Ammendola, but it’s he’s not exactly a sure thing. In fact, he’s never attempted a kick in the NFL and neither has his competition, 2021 UDFA Chris Naggar.

I’m not sure if I’m more shocked or horrified when I say this based on his subpar OTAs and one year of college kicking experience, but this is now Naggar’s job to lose. What’s worse, this kicking battle or the pitiful competition behind Zach Wilson?

Jets fans have seen their team fall victim to crucial early-season losses in the past because of an unresolved kicker situation come Week 1. Credit Douglas for cutting bait with Ficken early and trying to get ahead of the situation but the utter confusion and criticism comes in his replacement.

Why Ammendola? Better yet, why did the Jets choose to work out Matthew McCrane and Haidar Zaidan (these are real people) alongside Ammendola?

The answer cannot be that these are the best options available when veteran free agents like Zane Gonzalez, Dan Bailey and Stephen Gostkowski are looking for work. I personally advocated for Gonzalez earlier this summer, being that he’s only 26 years old with a strong boot.

Now, are these three perfect kickers at this point in their respective careers? Not a chance. Are they more trustworthy than two players that have never played an NFL snap? Most likely, yes.

Another option is the wait-and-see who gets cut route. This is a risky strategy that tends to burn teams when it goes wrong. In another article this summer, I compiled a list of potential waiver candidates at kicker who may not make it through training camp based on their current situation.

My favorite team to watch was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are currently rostering Ryan Succop and promising UDFA Jose Borregales. An alternative choice that I had listed actually just became available on July 26, 2021, former Las Vegas Raiders backup Dominik Eberle.

Douglas may have just opened Pandora’s box at kicker. The question is, can New York close it before Week 1 at Carolina?

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