Much has happened with the Oakland Raiders since the 2000 NFL Draft.
Al Davis is gone, the team has suffered through 10 non-winning seasons, the quarterback position has been like a roulette wheel and the team’s draft picks have been more bust than boom.
Yet one thing has remained constant: place-kicker Sebastian Janikowski.
Even as the team’s prognosis for 2013 hardly looks bright, the Raiders will go into their summer training camp with one of the best kickers in the history of the league.
Now 35, Janikowski – a first-round pick from Florida State in 2000 – has been a standard of excellence on the field, still booming kickoffs out of end zones and making field goals from long distance.
He’s played 204 games for Oakland and has scored 1,389 points, which ranks 24th all-time in the NFL and No. 1 with the Raiders, more than 500 points more than No. 2 George Blanda (863). He ranks 19th in career field goals made (324), 26th in field goals attempted (402) and has made 80.597 percent of his kicks, which ranks 33rd all-time. Plus, he’s made 42 of 75 kicks from 50 yards or more, including a 63-yarder, tied for the best ever.
Last season he had his best season in terms of accuracy, making 31 of 34 kicks (91.2 percent), with six field goals of 50 or more yards. His only misses came from 51, 61 and 64 yards.
Imagine what Janikowski’s resume would look like if the Raiders had been a winning franchise all these years? How many late-game, game-on-the-line, playoff-winning kicks might he have made?
Yet Janikowski isn’t done. As the Raiders try to rebuild and establish a solid foundation, Janikowski wants to remain with the team for several more years. He enters the final year of his contract with the team, has lost about 10 pounds this offseason and recently said he wants to stay with the team beyond age 40.
“I would love to stay here and finish my career,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Vic Tafur. “This is where I started and where I would like to finish. … I can go seven or eight years. If I stay healthy, I can keep going. I want to play as long as I can and win a Super Bowl. That’s the ultimate goal.”
Of course, the Raiders could decide to part ways with Janikowski after this season, the way they did with longtime punter Shane Lechler. As general manager Reggie McKenzie looks to reshape the roster and control costs, he may decide not to invest heavily in a kicker in his late 30s. The deal Janikowski signed in 2010 was a four-year contract for $16 million, which made him the richest kicker in NFL history.
If the Raiders prove in 2013 that they’re headed in the right direction and a kicker as valuable as Janikowski might be the difference in meaningful games in 2014 and beyond, perhaps the Raiders and Janikowski will indeed stick together. But if the Raiders suffer another horrible year, it’s also possible this coming season could be Janikowski’s last in Oakland – even if he’d like to stay.