Kicker Jason Hanson is planning to return for his 22nd season in the NFL. The first 21 season of his career were spent with the Detroit Lions, and his return is contingent on the 22nd season being with the Lions as well. He only has interest in playing for the Lions, so it seemed like negotiations on a new deal wouldn't be too complicated.
As it turns out, negotiations between the Lions and Hanson are starting to get a bit interesting. Based on what Lions president Tom Lewand and Hanson's agent had to say on Tuesday, it seems that working out a deal may not be a simple process after all.
Lions pres. Tom Lewand said team and Hanson working on contract but even though he's been a Lion for life there's no sentiment in cap era.— Tim Twentyman (@ttwentyman) March 19, 2013
Agent for Jason Hanson: "(Lions) haven't made an offer that's interesting to us. So we don't see any urgency about trying to make a deal."— Chris McCosky (@cmccosky) March 19, 2013
Lewand is basically saying that the Lions aren't going to go beyond their value of Hanson simply because he's been with the team for so long. They will pay him what they think he's worth, and given that they have a salary cap to worry about, they aren't going to overpay Hanson to ensure he is back with the team. Hanson may have spent the last two decades with the Lions, but it's a business at the end of the day, so the Lions aren't going to go out of their way to re-sign him.
Hanson's agent seems to be indicating that, in his side's view, the Lions are low-balling Hanson. There's a disagreement on his worth to the franchise, and Hanson's side of the table feels that the Lions' offer isn't good enough. They don't feel any pressure to agree to the offer that's currently out there, and they aren't interested in taking a deal that undervalues Hanson.
Given that Hanson had one of the best seasons of his career last year, what might be the source of this disagreement over his value? My guess is kickoffs. There has been some talk that the Lions want a punter who can also kick off, and Hanson himself talked about this possibility last week. From MLive:
"I know there’s that question out there, even inside the organization," Hanson said. "They’re talking about getting a punter who can kick off into the end zone, maybe save some wear and tear on my leg so I can concentrate on field goals.
"But I battled plantar fasciitis last season, and that hurt my distance. I believe that I have the strength to put it in the end zone. It's not a concern of mine."
Perhaps the Lions see Hanson as someone who would only kick field goals, and perhaps his value is lower in their mind as a result. Hanson, meanwhile, does think he can still kick off effectively, so his value doesn't line up with the Lions' view.
While I am surprised that the negotiations on a new deal have spilled over into the public with the comments from Lewand and Hanson's agent, I'd still be pretty shocked if a deal isn't worked out at some point. It is a business at the end of the day, but it's not like Hanson's skills as a kicker have greatly deteriorated. He went 32-of-36 on field goals last season. Kickoffs aside, he's still a very dependable kicker. The Lions will need to get younger at this position sooner rather than later, but it's not time to move on from Hanson just yet.