Where do the Detroit Lions turn now at kicker?

Posted Apr 4, 2013

With Jason Hanson announcing his retirement after 21 seasons the Detroit Lions have found themselves in unfamiliar territory

David AkersK David Akers (AP Images)

The Lions have relied primarily on two place kickers over the last 32 years – Eddie Murray from 1980 to 1991 and Jason Hanson from 1992 to 2012.

The Lions announced Thursday that Hanson, 42, has retired from the NFL after 21 terrific seasons.

That announcement leaves the Lions in somewhat uncharted waters. For so long it’s been a given who would be handling the kicking duties. Hanson was a steady as they come. Now there’s some uncertainty.

The team brought in free agent kicker David Akers for a visit earlier this week, but he left without a contract, and his status as a potential replacement to Hanson is still somewhat in doubt.

The left-footed Akers appeared in all 37 games (regular season and playoffs) for the 49ers the past two seasons and connected on 73-of-94 field goal attempts and all 78 extra points.

In 2011, he set an NFL record with 44 field goals made on 52 attempts. However, he struggled some last year and made just 29-of-44 attempts, his lowest percentage since 1999.

Akers, 38, is a six-time Pro Bowler with a strong leg – he tied an NFL record with 63-yarder last year -- who could fill the void left by Hanson’s retirement.

The Lions have also worked out kickers Havard Rugland and Justin Medlock over the offseason, but did not sign either one at the time of their workouts.

The draft is certainly another option for the Lions.

The team drafted both Murray (seventh round in 1980) and Hanson (second round in 1992) and developed both players as the franchise's all-time best kickers. That's a proven model of success.

Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said at the scouting combine in February that no position is off the Lions' draft board.

"Minnesota drafted a kicker in the sixth round last year (Blair Walsh),” he said. “I’m sure there were players on the board at positions that they liked, but they also got a guy that went to the Pro Bowl and set a record for 50-yard field goals last year.

Caleb SturgisK Caleb Sturgis (AP Images)

"The idea is to pick a good player, and they did in that position. Whether that guy’s a long snapper, a kicker, a punter, a quarterback, an offensive lineman, pick good players and you’ll be happy. Don’t and you’re not going to be happy."

Dustin Hopkins (Florida State), Caleb Sturgis (Florida), Sam Martin (Appalachian State) and Brett Maher (Nebraska) are all candidates in the middle-to-late rounds for the Lions.

Suddenly, the Lions have another position of need to add to the list this offseason.