By Mark Gaughan
The Buffalo Bills today are releasing punter Brian Moorman, the longest tenured player on the team, according to a source close to the team.
The move reflects the team’s dissatisfaction with Moorman’s punting. He ranks 30th in net punting average at 32.7 yards per kick through three games. However, the Bills had Moorman boot directional punts toward the sideline on almost all his six kicks against Cleveland in order to keep the ball away from Browns return man Josh Cribbs.
Moorman has 15 punts on the year and ranks 20th in gross punting yards, at 45.5 yards per punt.
Making a change at punter has been a consideration for the Bills for awhile. The team signed arguably the top-ranked college punter in the country, Shawn Powell, in April to compete with Moorman in training camp.
Powell, an All-America from Florida State, had a good camp. But Moorman had an outstanding camp and preseason and won the job. Powell, a 6-foot-4, 245-pounder, is the choice to replace Moorman, starting with this week’s game against New England.
Moorman, 36, has served as the team’s punter since the start of the 2001 season. He holds virtually every team punting record, including most career punts, highest punting average for a career and season, and most punts inside the 20 for a season and career.
Moorman was a second-team choice on the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 2000s. He was a Pro Bowler in 2006 and 2007 and made first-team All-Pro in 2005 and 2006.
Last season, Moorman ranked fifth in gross punting and 21st in net punting, as the Bills again turned to more directional kicking to try to prevent big returns. In 2010 he was 24th in gross punting and tied for 21st in net punting.
Net punting is more important than gross punting, and it also reflects the quality of the team’s coverage unit and often is impacted by the amount of directional kicking done. In 2009, Moorman was sixth in gross punting and fifth in net average. His net average of 40.2 that year is a Bills record and it’s the first time a Buffalo punter cracked the 40-yard plateau.
Moorman ranked among the top 11 in net punting eight straight seasons from 2002 through 2009.
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