Eagles selection of kicker Henery is message to Akers

Nebraska's Alex Henery is the most accurate field-goal kicker in NCAA history.
Nebraska's Alex Henery is the most accurate field-goal kicker in NCAA history. (TOM PENNINGTON / Getty Images)
Posted: May 01, 2011

After the unceremonious end to his season in January, David Akers spoke as if he had played his last game for the Eagles.

Guess he was right.

The team took the first step toward ending Akers' 12-year run as the franchise's greatest kicker when they selected Nebraska's Alex Henery in the fourth round of the NFL draft on Saturday.

In most cases, there's room for only one kicker on a roster. And with Akers a free agent and the league in a work stoppage, the Eagles used this opportunity to add a record-holding kicker even though teams don't normally expend picks on specialists.

"It's more about this kid being a good kicker," Reid said when asked if Akers' days were numbered. "I really haven't gone there. It's a little different right now with where we stand with this football today as we talk. Right now, David's with us."

Technically, Akers is. But he, in essence, became an unrestricted free agent when he declined to sign the Eagles' transition tender in March just before the start of the lockout. If he had signed it, the Eagles would have had the right of first refusal had another team tried to sign him.

"I think we're going to probably skip Akers right now and just kind of move on with it," Reid said when pressed on Akers' future. "I want to concentrate on this and I'm not going to get too much into David Akers right now."

Akers found out about the Henery draft pick almost immediately after it occurred, according to his agent Jerrold Colton.

"He's taking it in stride," Colton said.

A message left with Akers was not returned.

In February, after the Eagles tendered the kicker, Colton said Akers was disappointed by the designation. Two months earlier, both sides tried to negotiate a contract extension, but talks broke off.

Akers, though, had one of his finest seasons - connecting on 32 of 38 field goals and scoring 143 points - and was voted to his fifth Pro Bowl. But he was wide right on 41- and 34-yard field goals in the Eagles' 21-16 playoff loss to Green Bay, two misses that did not escape Reid's notice.

"We can all count," the coach said after the game. "Those points would have helped."

Akers was despondent after the game and spoke as if it was his final appearance in an Eagles uniform. Later it was learned that Akers played a few days before his daughter was to undergo cancer surgery.

"The Eagles may just be taking precautions," Colton said after Henery was drafted. "With the labor situation, they don't know when free agency will begin. And David is a free agent and he's not under contract."

When the Eagles brought Akers aboard in 1999 he mostly handled kickoff duties as Norm Johnson kicked field goals and extra points. As accurate as Akers is - he made 81.9 percent of his field goal-attempts in his career - Henery will likely handle both jobs for the Eagles next season.

"He's a very good kicker," Henery said of Akers. "It's not coming into replace him, it's coming in to do my job this upcoming year is really how I look at it."

A $450,000 roster bonus the Eagles would have to pay if they cut Henery is one reason the 23-year-old will probably be the lone kicker on the roster. Akers' contract demands are another. And Henery's undeniable talent is a third.

He finished his collegiate career as the most accurate kicker in NCAA history, connecting on 68 of 76 field goals (.895) and became the first kicker taken as high as the fourth round since the Patriots selected Stephen Gostkowski in 2006.

Henery is the first kicker the Eagles have drafted since they grabbed both Manny Matsakis and Paul McFadden in 1984 and the highest they took since Tony Franklin was taken in the third round in 1979.


Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745 or jmclane@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Jeff_McLane

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