There were a lot of standout performances by first and second-year players on both sides of the ball in the Baltimore Ravens narrow 17-14 victory over the New Orleans Saints in Week 1 of the preseason. However, one of the most impressive players on Saturday night didn’t take a single snap on either offense or defense but he did dominate on special teams.
That player was rookie kicker Jake Verity, who the Ravens signed as an undrafted free agent out of East Carolina University. In his first taste of live NFL action, he drilled a pair of long kicks that looked like they would’ve been good from even further back. While his 42-yarder nor his 53-yarder just before halftime weren’t longer than the 56-yarder that veteran Justin Tucker nailed to give Baltimore their first points of the game, they were still very impressive.
The Ravens are already set at the position with a future Hall of Famer, perianal All-Pro, and the most accurate kicker in league history in Tucker and he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. That means that General Manager Eric DeCosta has a surplus that he could once again convert into future draft capital via trade and after what Verity put on tape against the Saints, his phone should be ringing.
He was able to finesse a 2020 fifth-round pick out of the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for 2018 undrafted free agent kicker/punter Kaare Vedvik after just one week into the 2019 preseason. Vedvik converted all four of his field goal attempts, both of his extra points, and averaged 55.5 yards per punt in a 29-0 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars and was dealt three days later.
Teams with ongoing competitions between inconsistent and underwhelming young pros, or those with a veteran in place who doesn’t inspire confidence, should have Verity on their radar. If they are looking for someone that can consistently make kicks under 50 yards or covert from beyond that range, the Ravens are the ideal team to monitor around this time of year because their camp legs are usually better than what a lot of teams have on their rosters heading into any given season.
While Vedvik’s career has yet to take off since he was traded away, there are far more success stories of former undrafted free agent kickers and punters that spent time with the Ravens during training camp and the preseason.
Look no further than the Saints for a prime example of that. Their starting kicker, Will Lutz, began his career in Baltimore where he signed as an undrafted free agent out of Georgia State University. After an impressive four-game showing in the 2016 preseason, New Orleans claimed him off waivers after he was released. There have been others, too, such as Graham Gano of the New York Giants and Steven Hauschka — who retired last year after a 13-year career in the league.
The expediency in which the Vikings were willing to trade for a backup kicker might not happen again this time around with Verity. However, if he can churn out another performance or two over the final two games of the preseason that he did in its first, he could still net the DeCosta and the Ravens a pick on the third day of the 2022 NFL Draft.