Raiders owner Al Davis made an odd move drafting Sebastian Janikowski No. 17 overall in the 2000 NFL Draft. Kickers aren’t taken that high by unwritten rule. Davis, as we all know, didn’t care for conventional mores.
He took the player he wanted, when he wanted him. The result, worked out pretty well. Janikowski kicked 17 straight seasons for the Silver and Black, and was recognized as one of his generation’s best. His power and accuracy from distance was top flight, as was his consistency from shorter range.
Those traits earned stability and three contract extensions during his Raiders tenure -- the last made him the NFL's highest-paid kicker -- which has reportedly come to an end. ESPN stated Thursday the Raiders have informed Janikowski he’s no longer in their plans.
That's news, but zero surprise. The end of a long era seemed obvious after Janikowski was asked to take a pay cut and placed on injured reserve shortly after with a disc issue in his back. Replacement Giorgio Tavecchio fared well in Janikowski’s stead and the Raiders never looked back.
Tavecchio made $4 million less for roughly equal production, and is an exclusive rights free agent heading into this offseason. That means he isn’t due much of a raise. The Raiders will surely import competition this offseason.
Janikowski must find employment elsewhere to continue an illustrious career. He spoke last season about playing a few more seasons, possibly becoming a Las Vegas Raider, before suffering a back injury.
Last year’s head coach Jack Del Rio said in late November, when it became clear Janikowski would remain on IR all season, that the kicker was still mending.
Janikowski’s current plans for the future are unknown. Allowing Janikowski to walk away, as expected as it may be, will be a shock to Raider Nation’s system.
He spent 18 years with one team, and was the only active tie to the early 2000s glory days. Jon Gruden was head coach when Janikowski was first drafted, and was at the helm when he was informed of the club’s new direction.
Janikowski leaves as the Raiders leading’ all-time scorer with 1,574 points, and led his team in scoring in 15 seasons. He also has the highest field goal percentage (80.2) in Raiders history. He tied a then NFL record in 2011 with a 63-yard field goal.