Bills Rumors: Training Camp Battle Brewing at Key Position

Matt Haack Tyler Bass

Getty Matt Haack and Tyler Bass celebrate a field goal in a game against the Tennessee Titans.

The Buffalo Bills could have a battle of the Matts brewing for training camp.

After punter Matt Haack struggled last season, the Bills invested a sixth-round draft pick to take San Diego St. legend Matt Araiza, who earned the nickname “Punt God” for his booming kicks in college. New special teams coordinator Matthew Smiley said the pair are getting equal reps in minicamp, and insiders believe it will be an open competition for the spot.

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Haack Could Be in Trouble

Haack appears to be on the hot seat after struggling in 2021. His 42.9-yard average on punts and 38.3-yard net average were both near the bottom of the league, and he came up short in a number of key spots. In the season finale, as the Bills were trying to wrap up the division against the New York Jets, he shanked a series of punts that allowed the Jets to hang around. The Bills would go on to win the game, but Haack’s standing took a hit.

This offseason, the Bills fired what many insiders took to be a warning shot to Haack, restructuring his contract to remove the final year and give him a pay cut. Sal Capaccio of WGR 500 predicted that the move could be a prelude to releasing Haack before next season if he loses the punting competition.

“Given Brandon Beane’s comments at the end of the season, saying they’d be looking at punters this offseason, I’m surprised they didn’t outright move on from Haack,” Capaccio tweeted before Araiza was drafted. “But he will stick….for now. Maybe until they find someone else, or he has a chance to win the job again at camp.”

That competition now appears to be on. Special teams coordinator Matthew Smiley said this week that the two will be competing for the final spot — though added that every position is also up for grabs.

“I try to remind the guys, whether it’s punter or any position, even if you’re the only guy at your position, that doesn’t mean there’s not competition at that position,” Smiley said. “There are obviously 31 other teams that may have doubles at spots. And as rosters start to get pared down, as different guys free up, there may be a guy on the street that you’re competing with that you don’t know about.”

Position Could Come Down to One Important Skill

Though Araiza may have an advantage in punting ability — averaging 51.2 yards per kick his senior season — and also has the versatility of serving as the team’s placekicker, there could be another important factor that ultimately decides the competition. Haack excelled while serving as the holder for kicker Tyler Bass, who made all 51 extra points and 28 of his 32 field goal attempts. As The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia noted, Bills general manager Brandon Beane praised Haack for his contribution to the kicking game, calling him an “elite holder.”

That’s an important factor for the Bills, who parted ways with punter Corey Bojorquez largely because of his struggles as a holder. As Buscaglia noted, the skill could come into play again this summer as the team is choosing which Matt to keep.

“This offseason the Bills might need to weigh the value of one role over the other,” he wrote. “In a play-to-play comparison, a punt might mean more than a hold, but the high-flying Super Bowl contenders kick for points significantly more often than they punt.”

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