It looks like St. Louis Rams punter Donnie Jones will walk away in free agency.
Five kickers and a punter received franchise tags from their teams ahead of Monday's franchise tag deadline. Specialty players are important and relatively inexpensive to retain using the franchise tag, around $2.5 million. The St. Louis Rams did not use the franchise tag on any of their players, though they certainly could have joined the crowd and given it to punter Donnie Jones.
Such a move likely indicates that the Rams will be looking for a new punter in 2012.
Jones has been one of the Rams more effective players over the last five years. Being a punter for some of the most pathetic offenses in league history took its toll.
Jones' effectiveness was compromised last season. He averaged 44.3 yards per punt last season, the lowest of his time time with the Rams, and led the league with 105 punts in Steve Spagnuolo's take-no-chances offense. Jones dealt with injuries throughout the season last year, which was partly to blame for a punt that was never supposed to go right into the hands of Patrick Peterson.
In January, the Rams signed punter Tom Malone to a reserve/futures contract. Malone has bounced around the league, with a few short stops since being signed as an undrafted rookie by the 49ers in 2006.
They could always re-sign Jones, who made $1.1 million in salary last year. Another name in the free agent market is Dallas punter Mat McBriar.
The best route might be the draft. Cal punter Bryan Anger is considered an elite prospect at the position. He has fourth- or fifth-round potential according to NFL Draft Scout and CBS. Teams usually find punters in the last round or as undrafted players too.