Undrafted Free Agent Could Grab Starting Spot for Bengals

Austin McNamara

Getty Texas Tech punter Austin McNamara.

The Cincinnati Bengals might have found the solution to a special teams liability.

The Athletic’s Nick Baumgardner and Scott Dochterman tabbed undrafted free agent punter Austin McNamara as the most likely UDFA to make Cincinnati’s roster — just one year after the Bengals spent a sixth-round draft pick on Michigan punter Brad Robbins.

“The Bengals ranked 30th in punting average last year, while McNamara was one of college football’s best, averaging 46.3 yards per punt in his final season,” Baumgardner and Dochterman wrote. “Of his 55 punts in 2023, McNamara parked 24 of them inside the 20, boomed 21 more than 50 yards and forced 27 fair catches. Look for a quality competition between McNamara and incumbent Brad Robbins.”

The Bengals haven’t had a punter make the Pro Bowl since 2014, when Kevin Huber averaged 46.8 yards per punt.

McNamara vs. Robbins: Tale of the Tape

Robbins wasn’t the worst punter in the NFL in 2023, but he was pretty close.

Robbins, one of three punters taken in the 2023 NFL draft, was ranked 31st in the NFL with 44.3 average yards per punt on 76 punts. He was tied for 23rd in the NFL in punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line with 20.

In 2024, only one punter was drafted — the Chicago Bears selected Iowa’s Tory Taylor in the 4th round (No. 122 overall).

McNamara, 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, was one of college football best punters during his time at Texas Tech, where he was a four-time All-Big 12 selection and became the first Red Raider to earn Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year honors in 2023.

In 2020, McNamara set a Big 12 record with an 87-yard punt against West Virginia.

In 2021, McNamara set a Big 12 record by averaging 48.2 yards per punt.

“McNamara has the body type and leg teams look for in an NFL punter,” wrote NFL analyst Lance Zierlein, who projected McNamara as a possible 7th round draft pick. “He can long-lever punts with good hang time but has occasionally outpunted his coverage, leading to excessive return yardage. While he has field-flipping power, his touch was a little erratic in 2023 and will need to be corrected for important field position battles.

“McNamara is a draftable talent and has a legitimate shot to make an NFL roster.”

Only One All-Pro Punter in Bengals Franchise History

The Cincinnati Bengals have only had one punter make the NFL All-Pro Team in franchise history — and he’s one of the more unique players in league history.

The Bengals drafted Harvard wide receiver/punter Pat McInally in the fifth round of the 1975 NFL draft. McInally played in the NFL from 1975-1985 and played both positions for the first part of his career and was the Bengals’ full-time punter from 1976 to 1985.

McInally, 6-foot-6 and 210 pounds, became the first Harvard player to play in the Super Bowl and the Pro Bowl in 1981 — the same year he became the only NFL All-Pro punter in Bengals history.

While McInally led the NFL in punting average three times and in net punt yards once, he’s more known for being the only NFL player to register a verified perfect score on the Wonderlic test.

As part of a promotion for Wonderlic in 2007, McInally took the test again and scored a 49 out of 50.

“Missed one,” McInally said. “Not bad after six concussions.”

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