The Los Angeles Rams are expected to release veteran punter Johnny Hekker, according to former NFL punter and now podcaster Pat McAfee.
BREAKING: According to my source(s).— ️at McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) March 15, 2022
4X First Team All Pro and the NFL’s 2010’s All Decade Punter, @JHekker, is set to be released from the LA Rams
He’s only 32 & excited to continue to bomb balls in a new home next year.
A freak athlete will hit the market #ForTheBrand. pic.twitter.com/NTGwcCPf0g
Hekker was signed as an undrafted free agent by the then St. Louis Rams ahead of the 2012 season. He joined the Rams at the same time as kicker Greg Zuerlein and a year after long snapper Jake McQuaide. The trio formed a reliable special teams unit that was among the best in the NFL for years under special teams coordinator John Fassel.
But the trio began to separate in 2020 when Fassel left the Rams to join newly hired head coach Mike McCarthy with the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas signed Zuerlein the same offseason, and then they also acquired McQuaide ahead of the 2021 season.
Zuerlein was released this week by the Cowboys, so Hekker will join him on the open market.
The veteran punter earned four first-team All-Pro nods in his time with the Rams, and he could have a case to become only the second punter in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In 2016 Hekker set the NFL record for punts downed inside the 20-yard line with 51, and he broke his own record for net average punting yardage at 46.0.
While Hekker was not at the top of his game in recent seasons, he was a dominant punter in the NFL for the better part of a decade. One of the best coaches in the history of the league, Bill Belichick, even went as far to call the veteran punter “a weapon”:
Hekker’s a tremendous player, - great athlete. He’s a weapon. Every kicking play is an explosive play, potentially for the Rams.”
In addition to explosive punts, Hekker was also feared by opposing special teams unit for his ability to throw the football and steal possessions for his offense. Over the course of his career Hekker has completed 14 of 23 pass attempts (61%) for 186 yards and 1 touchdown.
While punter may not be the most valuable position on an NFL roster, Hekker will not be easy to replace - the veteran was an important part of the locker room and one of the team’s emotional leaders. A new punter likely will not fill the void, and the true loss of Hekker is probably not measurable in terms of statistics.
Thank you for the memories over the last decade, Johnny Hekker - and best of luck to you moving forward (except when you’re punting against the Rams).