One of the most underrated aspects to football is special teams and the importance of field position. Where a punter sets up the opposing team’s offense sets the tone for how the drive will go. That’s why fans should never overlook how critical special teams is.
The XFL saw punters like St. Louis BattleHawks punter Marquette King dominate the distance game with averaging a league high 45.7 yards per punt. New York Guardians punter Justin Vogel led the XFL with pinning teams inside the 20 yard line 12 times. These are the type of dominate punters the league needs to continue adding.
While some were released by NFL teams during cut day, some punters are still available who have plenty of NFL experience. Here is a list of four punters who have proven track records who the XFL could target for their next season.
Potential XFL Targets: Punters
Jon Ryan is the most well known name of the list due in part to his success with the Seattle Seahawks. Before the NFL, Canadian-born Ryan played his first two seasons in the CFL with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. He found his way to the Green Bay Packers punting for them in 2007 before getting cut just before the 2008 season started.
Ryan found his footing shortly afterwards in Seattle spending ten seasons with the team. He was a key piece to their Super Bowl title in 2014. Ryan was cut by Seattle during the 2018 training camp as at the time was the longest-tenured Seahawk on the roster.
After getting cut by the Buffalo Bills prior to the 2018 season, he would sit out the season and join the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2019. He had a strong 2019 season that earned him a CFL West All-Star selection. Ryan decided to opt out of his contract with the Roughriders last month for a shot at making the NFL.
This could be a longshot for the XFL to land an established punter like Ryan, but he’s worth it. Ryan has consistently had one of the strongest legs and can really boom the ball. He’s most likely shooting for an opportunity in the NFL, but a compelling argument could be made that the 38 year old might benefit with a biggest audience in the XFL than CFL.
While still being young, Ryan Winslow has had an interesting professional football journey. Winslow was an undrafted rookie in 2018 signing with the Chicago Bears before being cut in training camp. He wouldn’t play in the 2018 NFL season, but found a home with the AAF for their 2019 season.
Winslow started with the San Diego Fleet for just one game after their starting punter Sam Irwin-Hill had a visa issue coming from Australia. After the first game of the season, Irwin-Hill eventually came to America and Winslow was cut. Winslow would return shortly afterwards with the Memphis Express replacing Brad Wing. He finished the AAF season averaging 47.8 yards per punt.
Winslow found his way into the NFL on the practice squad for the Arizona Cardinals last season. He appeared in just two games before being waived in October and resigned with the team at the end of the season. Winslow was apart of the cut day list being let go from the Cardinals earlier in the month.
Winslow proved to have a strong leg who found great success in the AAF. His numbers from the AAF would have made him the best punter in the XFL in terms of average yards per punt. The XFL would be able to find a spot for the 26 year old with a ton of potential.
Another young punter who hasn’t had a ton of experience, but Johnny Townsend does have a full NFL season under his belt. Townsend was drafted by the Raiders in the fifth-round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He was the team’s starting punter in the 2018 season finishing with 70 punts for 3,022 net yards for a 43.17 average per punt in his rookie season.
2019 was not as ideal of a season for Townsend as he was cut by the Raiders during training camp. The New York Giants had him on their roster in training camp for about two weeks before being cut once again. This year, he spent one week with the Baltimore Ravens before being apart of cut day along with other players.
Townsend won’t blow fans away with his leg, but has played in the NFL and proved to be a good punter. The XFL needs to take a look at their punters and Townsend could provide an upgrade. He could be an underrated prospect for the XFL and one that give the league an experienced, young punter.
While he might be more well known for his play in college, Brad Wing established a solid NFL career mainly punting for the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants. Wing made a name for himself as one of the top punters in college football after being named second-team All-SEC at LSU in 2011.
He started his NFL career spending a short time with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013. He got playing time from 2014 until 2018 with the Steelers and Giants. During that time, he pined the ball inside the 20 yard line 100 times and averaged 44.7 yards per punt.
Wing found himself in the AAF playing for the Memphis Express at the beginning of the season. He would be replaced by another punter on this list Ryan Winslow as Wing was cut by Memphis. The Australian punter was a member of the XFL Draft pool last season, but was not among those drafted.
At 29, Wing may not have the strongest leg, but can do a good job with placing the ball where it needs to land on the field. He has plenty of experience in professional football and could use another shot at making the NFL. While not many of the punters from the XFL are getting looks from the NFL, Wing could compete for a job.
REMINDER: The XFL draft has not yet been announced for the 2021 season or whether there will be an XFL season in 2021.
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