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How Important Is Neil Rackers To The Arizona Cardinals?

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There's been plenty of discussion lately among fans about what the Cardinals should do with kicker Neil Rackers. He'll be entering free agency in March and the Cardinals must decide if they'll resign the 34 year old, or risk letting him walk. Although he's experienced his share of heart-breaking misses, he's been a valuable asset to the Cardinals special teams unit the past two seasons. Let's take a look at some of the positives and negatives from the former pro bowl kicker.

The Positives

He has a boot - Ever since Rackers shoes were sent to the Hall of Fame(twice) for nailing three kicks in one game from beyond 50 yards in 2004, and making 40 field goals in 2005, he's been known for his heavy leg. Rackers can consistently land kickoffs in opponents endzones(we saw the difference with Nugent), and has the leg to make even the deepest of field goals. That alone will be a determining factor for the Cardinals organization to consider.

He's the 11th man in coverage - We've seen it before - Rackers sacrificing his body on kickoff duties. He's not scared to do the dirty work and make a special teams tackle if needed. We'll rarely see him shy away from contact like Jeff Reed in Pittsburgh, and there's been countless times when Rackers has kept an opposing teams' return man from breaking a big run. This could be a testament to the Cardinals very good coverage unit this past year.

His technique - Rackers takes the time and effort to tweak each and every one of his kicks to the point that they look flawless(yes, flawless). For the last two years his "pooch" kicks have been admirable, catching opponents off guard and landing in the right place at the right time. His onside kicks have worked wonders for the Cardinals too - even Rackers has recovered his own kick before.

But with every positive, comes a negative...

Field Goals PAT
G 0-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50+ FGM FGA PCT XPM XPA PCT pts
2009 - Neil Rackers 14 0 - 0 4 - 4 6 - 6 6 - 7 0 - 0 16 17 90.0% 37 38 100.0% 85

The Negatives

Pressure gets to Neil - Cardinal fans may shudder when they think of Neil Rackers knocking kicks wide left against the Bears, Chiefs, 49ers, [and now the Packers], especially when the game is on the line. We can speculate all we want as to why he botched the chip shot against the Packers two weeks ago, but the reality is that he missed a relatively easy kick in that situation. Either way, this is something that may cloud the Cardinals judgement on whether or not they should keep him as a member of the team next year.

Injury problems - His fearlessness on kickoff coverage is certainly commemorable, but it can plague the kicker at times. He's suffered injuries as a result of his tough-nosed style, that have forced him to miss action(and kicks) the last few years. We saw how ineffective Rackers could be the last two weeks when he's unhealthy and it's not a sight many Cardinal fans are ready to witness again. If Rackers returns, his health needs to be a primary focus.

When it all comes down to it, there are more positives supporting the cause for Neil Rackers then negatives. I love his bravery on kick coverage, I love the work he puts into his technique, and I hope that he can prove the us all wrong and make some game-winning field goals if he stays with the organization. What are your thoughts and why should the Cardinals sign or not sign Neil Rackers?