Full Disclosure: This is Kyle's story, so give him the credit/kudos. His story editor isn't working, for whatever reason--Ted
There were previously some questions about this, and it's been something that was somewhat ignored- foolishly so, in my opinion. The truth is, a solid kicker can in fact be one of the most important players on a football team. For all the flack they get for their largely non-contact duties and goofy pads, it's the kickers who are often the highest scorer on a team- and that's despite the fact that what they score is (usually) half of what other players get when they score. It's the kickers who seal games one way or another, who finish last-second desperation drives- for good or for bad. Keep in mind, the primary difference between the nearly-Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts and the Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts wasn't uber-quarterback Peyton Manning... it was a switch in kicker.
That said, Ryan Longwell... well, he's the man when it comes to kicking duties, and that's no secret. Yes, his kickoffs can leave something to be desired; however, recent rule changes in that department seem to ease this problem some. But when it comes to field goals, they guy is accurate and clutch, and he's an experienced vet who undoubtedly does provide a level of calm and leadership to the team in desperate moments.
And yet, it's gone largely unnoticed that Longwell is heading to FA, one way or another, once the lockout ends. It's also largely gone unnoticed that he's been more than dabbling in golf, and there was always the slight possibility that he simply hung up his pads and went that route instead.
Longwell put many of those concerns to rest recently. "Our (his and his wife Sarah's) full intention [is] to go back to Minnesota and put together another good stretch of years up there," Longwell recently told the media. "It does seem like a really good fit. I am a firm believer in the way Coach Frazier approaches coaching and life and approaches people."
Chances are, Longwell's impressive resume and impressive kicking skills will likely make him a target of a few other teams, especially with the recent rule changes that diminish his one weakness (kickoffs). So let's just hope Wilf and co. have the good sense to not blink in any bidding war and make sure we keep this highly valuable, yet often underrated, piece of our team.