Here's the kicker: Nothing's settled for Akers

Foot soldier after a battle lost: David Akers walks off the field alone after missing two field goals in the Birds' season-ending defeat by Green Bay in January.
Foot soldier after a battle lost: David Akers walks off the field alone after missing two field goals in the Birds' season-ending defeat by Green Bay in January. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer)
Posted: May 10, 2011

About a month before the Eagles selected Nebraska's Alex Henery in the fourth round of the NFL draft - likely signaling the end of David Akers' 12-year run with the franchise - the Pro Bowl performer dreamed that the team would take a kicker.

A friend already had told him about a similar premonition. Moments after last season ended, Akers predicted that he had played his last game with the Eagles. But the dream seemed all too real.

Akers told his wife, Erika, who found it amusing. But on April 30, the Eagles made his dream come true. Akers was coaching his son's youth football team when his agent, Jerrold Colton, called with the news.

"My wife wasn't at the game, so I called her and said, 'Eagles drafted a kicker,' " Akers said Monday after a workout at Power Train Sports in Cherry Hill. These were his first public comments since the draft.

"And she said, 'That's an answer to a prayer.' But I don't have an answer as to what it means."

He has a pretty good idea.

"Right now, I don't think I'm going to be back," Akers said. "It's pretty much that when you see a kicker drafted high. The writing's on the wall."

Eagles coach Andy Reid declined to address Akers' future with the team after the draft. Reid had never drafted a kicker, mainly because Akers made it unnecessary. But the 36-year-old Akers is a free agent, and because of the NFL lockout, the free-agent market has yet to open. So the Eagles decided that it was time to add a young kicker.

They had placed the transition tag on the kicker in February. That provision would have given the Eagles the right of first refusal if other teams tried to sign Akers. But he declined to sign the tag.

"There's more to it than just the simplicity of 'signed it or didn't sign it,' " Akers said. "We don't know if there's even going to be a tag" in the new collective bargaining agreement."

Michael Vick signed the Eagles' franchise tag, but the quarterback is guaranteed a one-year contract if the league retains the same rules in a new agreement.

In December, the Eagles and Akers talked about a contract extension. The team offered a deal that would have made him one of the five highest-paid kickers in the NFL, but Akers passed, according to league sources.

He went on to have one the best regular seasons of his career. Akers connected on 32 of 38 field-goal attempts, booted a career-best 23 touchbacks on kickoffs, and was voted to the Pro Bowl for the fifth time. But he missed two makeable field-goal tries in the Eagles' 21-16 playoff loss to the Packers.

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

Later it was learned that Akers had more than football on his mind. His daughter, Halley, was about to have a cancerous ovary removed in surgery. On Monday, Akers said that his daughter is fine and now cancer-free.

Still, he does not know where his future lies. There are a number of teams that could use a kicking upgrade, including the NFC East's Cowboys, Redskins, and Giants. Akers did not rule out the possibility of staying in Philadelphia.

"Whether it's time to get out of here and get into a new setting, I'm open to anything," Akers said. "My ego is not like, 'OK, I can't be here with somebody.' If they want me and we can work everything out, then absolutely."

Henery, who handled placekicking and punting, did not kick off in college. When Akers first came to the Eagles, he kicked off and attempted long field-goal tries while Norm Johnson took care of most of the placekicking duties. But Akers believes he has a number of good years left as a team's primary kicker, especially after the NFL moved kickoffs up to the 35-yard line.

Akers is the franchise leader in games played (189) and the only player left on the Eagles' roster to arrive before Reid - he was signed days before the coach was hired in January 1999. The kicker said he did not talk with Reid when the lockout was briefly lifted during the draft. Akers said he did speak with special teams coordinator Bobby April that Friday.

April gave no indication that the Eagles were thinking about drafting a kicker the next day, Akers said.

"I have nothing but good things to say about the Eagles organization," said Akers, who has seen his share of other longtime Eagles, such as Brian Dawkins, leave the team. "I've seen it happen. But I can't hold it against them. It's their company, their decision."


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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