Miami's Justin Vogel to compete for Packers' punting job

Bob McGinn
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers on Saturday set up a punting competition in the months ahead by signing rookie free agent Justin Vogel of Miami.

Vogel, 6-foot-4½ and 218 pounds, will challenge Jacob Schum (5-10, 211), who held the job last season after replacing Tim Masthay.

Vogel, a three-year starter for the Hurricanes, cited opportunity for selecting the Packers over late interest from Minnesota, Philadelphia, Kansas City and Tennessee.

“I think the situation in Green Bay provides one of the best opportunities for me out there,” Vogel said Saturday night. “I know the guy they have now has only been there a year, and he doesn’t have a super long-term deal.

“A lot of other teams have five-year commitments, four-year commitments, with their guys. It’s obviously tough to overthrow a veteran who’s getting paid a lot of money.”

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On March 8, the Packers signed Schum to a one-year contract for the $615,000 minimum. Vogel’s base salary will be $465,000, and he also received a minimal signing bonus.

Schum ranked 27th in gross average (43.2) and 24th in net (39.1). His inside-the-20 rate of 33.9 percent ranked 19th; his touchback rate of 7.1 percent tied for 18th.

However, Schum’s average hang time of 4.25 seconds in 67 punts easily surpassed Masthay’s 4.09 in 2015.

Vogel, who hails from sunny Tampa, has seen what happens to the weather in Green Bay after Nov. 1.

“Obviously, I’m not moving to another place like Miami,” said Vogel. “Wisconsin is a different animal than that. But I think I can handle the challenge and be a great asset to them.”

Earlier in the month, three NFL special-teams coaches called this a below-average year for punters. As it turned out, it was the first draft since 1998 that no punter was selected.

Vogel spent the 2012 and ’13 seasons at Florida but didn’t see the field behind Kyle Christy and Johnny Townsend. So, he transferred, won the job immediately at Miami and posted a 43.0-yard average in 183 career punts.

One of the coaches said he downgraded Vogel after what he called his disappointing performance at the combine. Off tape, he had Vogel rated No. 1.

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“I could have been stronger but I thought I did well enough,” said Vogel. “Maybe I didn’t perform to the standards that were expected but the combine is a tough situation. Especially it was the first high-stress situation that I had been in like that.”

Miami employed a pro-style punting scheme on 95 percent of its punts. Chicago’s Pat O’Donnell and Atlanta’s Matt Bosher are other products of Miami.

“Honestly, before today, I didn’t really think the Packers were looking for someone,” said Vogel. “But after talking to the staff and some (Green Bay) guys that called me, it sounds like there’s equal chance and equal opportunity to compete.”

Here are 13 other rookie free agents who have signed or agreed with the Packers. All have been confirmed through sources.

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Montay Crockett, WR, Georgia Southern: 5-11½, 190, 4.40 time in the 40-yard dash. Finished with 32 receptions for 535 yards (16.7) and 3 touchdowns. Averaged 10.4 returning punts as a senior and 21.3 as a kickoff returner over several seasons.

Aaron Peck, WR-TE, Fresno State: 6-2½, 239, 4.65. Hauled in 46 passes for 630 (13.7) as a senior after sitting out 2015 with a foot injury. A tweener with multiple-position possibilities. Highly intelligent. Visited Green Bay before the draft.

Thomas Evans, C, Richmond: 6-3, 305, 5.16. Bench-pressed 30 times.

Geoff Gray, G, Manitoba: 6-5½, 315, 5.32. Made a pre-draft visit to Green Bay. One of two Canadians in the East-West Game. Scored 29 on the Wonderlic intelligence test.

Adam Pankey, G, West Virginia: 6-4½, 307, 5.29. Long arms (34 inches), large hands (10⅝ inches).

Christian Schneider, T, California-Davis: 6-5½, 301, 5.11. Wonderlic of 27. Short arms (32⅜).

Taysom Hill, QB, Brigham Young: 6-2, 221, 4.46. Played QB for Cougars but an AFC personnel man labeled him as an “athlete” capable of playing a number of positions. Turns 27 on Aug. 23. Career was abbreviated by major injuries. Visited Green Bay.

Izaah Lunsford, DT, Bowling Green: 6-3, 310, 5.11. Bench-pressed 28 times.

Cody Heiman, FB-ILB, Washburn: 6-1½, 229, 4.53. Played ILB but was graded as a fullback by one team. Has tremendous speed, a vertical jump of 36, bench press of 31 and Wonderlic of 33.

Johnathan Calvin, OLB, Mississippi State: 6-3, 266, 4.92. Projected as a DE by 4-3 teams and an OLB by 3-4 teams. Long arms (33½). Seven sacks in 2016.

Donatello Brown, CB, Valdosta State: 5-11½, 189, 4.6 estimated. Division II prospect.

Lenzy Pipkins, CB, Oklahoma State: 6-0, 196, 4.45. Big and fast.

David Rivers, CB, Youngstown State: 6-1, 186, 4.55. Fits the size profile the Packers seek at the position.

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