The Dallas Cowboys are hard at work finalizing their 53-man roster (we have put together a variety of roster predictions ourselves here at Blogging The Boys) and obviously have a number of decisions to make.
One of the places that could potentially be under construction for the Cowboys is on special teams. We know that kicker Greg Zuerlein and long snapper Jake McQuaide are safe because, well, they are special teams coordinator John Fassel’s guys.
Upon arriving with the Cowboys last year, Fassel brought Zuerlein in with him and stabilized a Cowboys kicking situation that had been in flux for a few years. This offseason the team chose not to bring back longtime long snapper L.P. Ladouceur in favor of another Fassel disciple in McQuaide. If it isn’t clear here, John Fassel likes his guys.
None of that is to say or imply that Fassel shouldn’t like his guy. Bones is one of the more respected and revered special teams coordinators in the NFL and last year significantly helped improve the Cowboys in that department.
Could another John Fassel guy soon be on his way at punter, though?
Johnny Hekker is a rumored player to wind up with the Cowboys after roster cuts
With a flick of salary cap wizardry, the Dallas Cowboys created just under $7M in cap space last week by converting part of Ezekiel Elliott’s signing bonus into base salary. Many people wondered what this could mean while Yahoo’s Charles Robinson pontificated that Dallas could be readying the checkbook to bring in Los Angeles Rams punter Johnny Hekker.
Obviously Los Angeles Rams punter Johnny Hekker plays for the Los Angeles Rams. He is currently on a team which means that he is not available at the moment, however, rosters will be “finalized” by 4pm ET on Tuesday which means that any time between now and then could see the Rams release their longtime punter.
This offseason the Rams signed Corey Bojorquez who has provided some stiff competition for Hekker, so much so that he might wind up winning the job.
In the event that Hekker gets beat out by Bojorquez, which is very possible – especially considering Hekker is still on the reserve/COVID-19 list – the Rams might look to trade him instead of outright cutting him. A punter of his caliber carries value, even if it’s just a late-round pick. The Giants got a conditional seventh-rounder from the Panthers for kicker Ryan Santoso, for example, and he’s not nearly as proven as Hekker.
Sean McVay wouldn’t commit to Hekker as the Rams’ punter during his press conference Thursday, saying it’s a situation the team will continue to evaluate.
“Everybody knows what Johnny has meant to this team, to me, really to our organization, and this goes a long (way) back before I even got here,” McVay said. “But, Corey has come in and he’s done a nice job. We’re going to continue to evaluate that. There’s obviously a lot of complications that have kind of added to that situation just based on COVID and things of that nature that even convolute it a little bit more.”
Hekker has been a part of the Rams for a long time. He joined the organization after going undrafted in 2012. This just so happened to be the same season that Greg Zuerlein and John Fassel also both became Rams (Jake McQuaide became one in 2011 so he predates the group by a season). Needless to say the entire group has a long history together.
It almost makes too much sense for Hekker to become a Cowboy. Just because people spent time together in one organization does not automatically mean that they should/could end up together in a different one, despite how notable the Rams were on special teams over the last decade. This season partly hinges on special teams for the Cowboys and running back the old school Rams isn’t a guaranteed formula for success.
The idea seems to be picking up at least some steam, though.
Whispers you hear. LAR Punter Johnny Hekker might get released and head to Dallas to reunite with Fassel. This is worth a watch.— BryanBroaddus (@BryanBroaddus) August 30, 2021
Johnny Hekker finished tied for 21st in PFF’s punting grades in 2020. This is hardly the end-all-be-all in terms of evaluation, but for what it’s worth Bryan Anger (you know, the Cowboys current punter) finished ninth.
Hekker finished with a career low yards per punt average in 2020 with 45.6, the lowest since his rookie year of 2012. There is a reason that the Rams are seemingly willing to move on. His truly elite days do seem to be behind him.
One thing that Fassel has always loved about Hekker has been his ability to throw the football on trick plays (something we learned last year that he still loves) given that Hekker was a quarterback in high school. Hekker attempted at least one pass in every single season that he worked with Fassel during their time together in both St. Louis and Los Angeles. In fact the only season in Hekker’s career where he did not attempt a single pass as part of a trick play is 2020, the first year that he was separated from John Fassel.
Reunited and it feels so good pic.twitter.com/c7iAvU3FxN— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) August 8, 2021
Again, this feels almost too predictable for it to actually happen. But we have learned over the course of the last year and a half that John Fassel really likes his guys.
Perhaps he is wanting his final infinity stone, so to speak.