According to a tweet from the team’s official account, the Ravens have signed veteran kicker Shayne Graham. The Ravens had Graham “on call” for the last several weeks, as regular kicker Billy Cundiff dealt with a left calf injury. Cundiff played both games, going 1/2 on field goal attempts against Indy and San Diego.
Cundiff, while perfect a perfect 26/26 kicking field goals at home since last November, has been dreadful on the road here in 2011, going 10/19 (53%). His miss early in the first quarter Sunday night sapped any momentum the Ravens may have had after a decent opening drive.
With the Ravens losing their inside track to the AFC’s #1 seed, they now face the very real prospect of playing at least one playoff game on the road. They can’t afford to have Cundiff and his 50% success rate going out there attempting a critical postseason field goal, so bringing in Graham is a very wise move.
Graham is also perfect because he is very familiar with the stadiums the Ravens could be playing in over the coming weeks. First off, their last road game of the regular season is in Cincinnati – the game will almost assuredly be a must-win for both clubs. Graham spent seven seasons in Cincy, so he’s used to kicking in “the jungle.”
If the current playoff seedings hold, the Ravens would have to travel to Foxboro if both of those teams win their Divisional Round matches. Not that kicking field goals is the way to beat Tom Brady, but you still have to have faith in your guy. Graham is also a bit familiar with New England; he kicked for the Patriots for eight games in 2010, going a perfect 5/5 in games played in Massachusetts (12/12 overall in 2010).
This year, Graham appeared in two games for the Miami Dolphins, going 4/5 on field goal attempts.
Graham lost out in the kicking competition to Billy Cundiff at Ravens’ training camp prior to the 2010 season.
Cundiff’s feel good story (the guy was selling insurance a couple years ago) could be coming to an end in the NFL. Though he signed a 5-year, $15 million contract with B’More last offseason, the new NFL kickoff rules make his strong touchback leg a bit less valuable. If he can’t rebound from this calf injury and figure out a way to start making field goals consistently (on the road as well as at home), the Ravens could very well move on from him permanently.
Of course, his leg could heal up this week, allowing him to practice and show the coaches that he is indeed fine. In that case, Graham would likely be inactive against Cleveland, and maybe even Cincinnati. For now though, the former Bengal and Patriot is waiting in the wings as a valuable insurance policy to Cundiff.