GREEN BAY - Tim Masthay was “in the driver’s seat” as Green Bay's punter; now he's out of a job.
The Packers were granted a waiver claim on punter Jacob Schum, who was Tampa Bay’s punter last year but lost a competition with Bryan Anger in training camp this summer and was released.
Schum, 27, had a gross average of 41.9 yards per punt and net average of 38.0 in his first season as a full-time punter. He landed 15 of his 56 punt attempts inside the 20-yard line.
On Monday morning, the Packers informed rookie Peter Mortell that he was being released, leaving Masthay as the Packers' lone punter. In a news conference later that morning, coach Mike McCarthy indicated that it was Masthay's job to lose.
"Tim Masthay, he’s in the driver’s seat," McCarthy said. "It’s important to have a good week of practice and perform in Kansas City, just like everybody. It’s a competition to make your team. It’s really available for all of those guys fighting for spots as you go through each position. Tim, we have great history with here and he’ll just continue to work and get better."
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Masthay had a very good day punting with the wind in practice Monday. He did not punt on Tuesday, so it's doubtful anything changed except that Schum became available. The Packers undoubtedly were scouting other punters during training camp and felt that Schum was a better option than Masthay.
Cut for a third time by the Buccaneers over a 2½-year period, Schum joined the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Buffalo in 2013. He was in Cleveland's camp as a rookie, the New York Jets' camp his second year and the Jets' and Buccaneers' camps last year.
The Buccaneers signed him to a futures contract in '14, cut him in May of that year, signed him to the practice squad in November and then cut him a week after that. After the Jets released him, Schum returned to Tampa Bay in August of 2015 to win the punting job.
At 5-11, 211 pounds, the muscular Schum resembles a safety more than a punter.
By claiming Schum, the Packers get to see him in a game atmosphere rather than just in a workout setting. Schum was scheduled to arrive in town Tuesday night and is expected to punt Thursday against the Chiefs.
However, this appears to be more than just a tryout. If Schum bombs out, the Packers will have an opportunity to sign or claim another punter, but if they weren't sure Schum was their guy they wouldn't have let Masthay go. Schum's base salary of $525,000 is nearly $700,000 less than Masthay's $1.2 million.
In three exhibition games this year, Schum averaged 41.0 gross and 39.5 net. Masthay averaged 42.8 and 31.6.
"He's really excited about playing in Green Bay," Schum's agent, Corey Williams said. "He's very, very excited about this opportunity."
One person who can't be happy with the move is kicker Mason Crosby. Besides Masthay being his close friend, he was also his holder on place kicks. Crosby had praised Masthay for his holding over the years, but will now have to get used to someone new with the regular season less than two weeks away.
An option the Packers could have explored was trading for Cleveland's Andy Lee, a three-time Pro Bowl veteran. On Monday, Cleveland traded him and a 2017 seventh-round pick to Carolina for a 2018 fourth-round pick and a young punter they had in camp to provide competition for incumbent Mike Scrifres.
General manager Ted Thompson doesn't like trading away draft picks and may not have pursued Lee.
This isn't the first time the Packers have made a dramatic punting change this late in training camp, but if this one is anything like the last, they'll regret it. Prior to the start of the 2008 regular season, the Packers released Jon Ryan, thinking they could do better with a punter, who like Schum, had been released.
Derrick Frost was signed after Washington cut him and was given the punting job. He bombed out and the Packers were eventually forced to go with little-known Jeremy Kapinos, who survived the rest of the season and one more before Masthay was given the job. Ryan has gone on to have great success in Seattle and remains the team's punter.
Overall, Masthay, the Packers' punter the past six seasons, was solid in camp but far from the guy the Packers had come to trust during his first five years. Coming off an inconsistent 2015 season in which he seemed to lose confidence, Masthay worked all through camp at improving his hang time.
In three games, Masthay punted nine times, posting an average hang time of 4.37 seconds. By comparison, Mortell punted nine times with an average hang time of 4.08 seconds.
In punt team drills during training camp practice, Masthay punted 46 times with an average hang of 4.43 seconds while Mortell punted 43 times with an average hang of 4.04 seconds.
Masthay set a career mark in net average (40.2) last season, but much of the credit belonged to coverage ace Jeff Janis, who became a force at shutting down opposing returners. The veteran punter's gross average of 43.9 ranked 25th among qualifying punters and his total of 18 punts inside the 20 ranked 30th.
In six seasons, Masthay punted 390 times and averaged 44.2 gross and 39.0 net.
Because he is a vested veteran, Masthay is not subject to waivers and automatically becomes a free agent.