It’s interesting to think that one of the most important players on a football team is the man responsible for giving possession over to the opposing team, but the St. Louis Rams displayed clear recognition of that fact, signing punter Johnny Hekker to a six-year, $18 million extension Friday.
The extension includes the largest guarantee in NFL history for a punter, at $9 million, topping the $8.9 million guaranteed that Kansas City Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt received as part of the 5-year deal he signed in March 2013.
Hekker, 24, signed with the Rams as an undrafted free agent in 2012, after being a four-year starter at Oregon State University.
A Pro-Bowl selection in 2013, Hekker is averaging 45.7 yards per punt this season, with an average net yardage of 41.4 yards, ranking him sixth in the league.
A perhaps even more important statistic, Hekker has already set a new career-high for punts inside the 20 this season with 23 through 12 games, and is downing punts inside the 20 yard line 39.0% of the time.
The extension will keep Hekker in St. Louis through 2020.