The average NFL career lasts a little over three years, but kickers and punters are fortunate enough to have careers that last just under five years on average.
Thomas Morstead has just about tripled the average career length for kickers and punters, as he’s now preparing for his 15th NFL season.
Despite the miles on his body, he’s shown no signs of slowing down or wanting to hang up his cleats. Truth be told, he seems to be getting better with age. Not many players across the league can say that.
The one-time Pro Bowler had one of the best seasons of his career during the 2022 campaign with the Miami Dolphins, with 45.9 percent of his punts dropping inside the 20-yard line, a rate that was good enough for fifth in the league.
“My expectation was to have a better year than I had the year before, and I did that,” Morstead told Dolphin Nation. “I was very consistent. I was far from perfect, but I thought I did a really nice job. I thought I helped stabilize a lot of things.”
According to Morstead, he finished in the top 10 of Pro Football Focus’ grading scale for punters last season. He also revealed that PFF has him rated as the fourth-best punter over the past two years.
That shows that the former fifth-round pick from the 2009 NFL Draft still has plenty of leg left in him.
“To be grading out top five is pretty badass,” he said. “It’s a testament to consistency and showing up every day and just playing at a level of consistency that is required to still be playing in this league.”
Joining a new team can be difficult for any player, no matter if he is a veteran or youngster. After splitting time during the 2021 season with the Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets, Morstead signed a one-year deal with the Dolphins in April of 2022.
With a pretty new coaching staff led by Mike McDaniel and plenty of new faces on the roster, it wouldn’t have been a surprise if it had taken Morstead a while to really cement himself as a key part of the team. However, it didn’t take long for him to become a mentor to younger and older players on the team.
“I don’t go in with the goal of wearing a captain’s patch or anything like that, but I know what I bring,” he said. “And it’s what I’m called to do. I feel like I’m called to these locker rooms to be a mentor for young men. I have a lot of guys that did that for me, and I love that as part of my job.”
With how easy he assimilated himself into the Dolphins organization, one would imagine the team is planning on bringing him back for another season. Fans of the team have been clamoring for the organization to re-sign him.
That’s something that very much interests Morstead, though he didn’t reveal whether or not he’s already had conversations with the team about coming back for another season.
According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, the team conveyed to some players during exit interviews that it wants them back, but it seems like negotiations with those players have yet to begin.
It would be hard to envision a situation in which Morstead isn’t with the team for the 2023 campaign.
The Texas native highlighted two things that need to happen in order for teams to bring back a player his age at his position. The first is that the player in question needs to be playing “really, really well” since teams are always looking for long-term options. The second is that the team in question needs to be looking to win in the coming season, if not it might look to sign someone young to develop.
Luckily for Morstead, both of those work in his favor. As mentioned before, he was one of the best punters in the league this past season. Furthermore, the Dolphins are definitely looking to make it deeper into the playoffs this season behind Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill and others after narrowly losing their wild-card game to the Buffalo Bills.
Morstead thinks the roster has the talent to make it to the Super Bowl, but he highlighted that a new season comes with new challenges. Teams like the Dolphins know that they need to make some tweaks to dethrone the Kansas City Chiefs in the upcoming campaign.
“At the end of the day, you gotta go out and do it again,” he said. “You gotta go earn it again. Individually you may build off of a year and get better, but each team is a brand-new building every year.”
The Southern Methodist University product believes that the 2023 draft class might not have as many strong options at punter as other recent draft classes. With a number of teams likely looking to make changes at that position, the Dolphins might have some competition to retain Morstead.
“I think it’s a different market this year, which is exciting,” the veteran stated. “I think economics can play a part in contracts for players that are veterans. So, we’ll see what happens. I have no idea what the crystal ball looks like, but I’m certainly hopeful to be back in Miami.”
Having acted as the Dolphins’ holder on field goals and extra points last season, Morstead naturally became close with Blake Ferguson, the team’s long snapper, and Jason Sanders, the team’s kicker. He also got along well with McDaniel, and Morstead said that those things “matter and are important.” He emphasized that there’s also “certainty” in those aspects for him and the team, who knows what it is getting with the 36-year-old.
In what seemed to be a bit of an unofficial pitch to the team’s front office, Morstead explained why it might be better off re-signing him instead of bringing in someone new, whether it be a rookie or some other player that already has NFL experience.
“You can always test the waters with a young person in the draft or in free agency with somebody that’s coming from somewhere else, but maybe the synergy is not as good or it’s not as good of a fit personality wise,” he said.
Plenty of Dolphins fans showed Morstead lots of love all season long, and that’s something the veteran is very thankful for. To end things off, he left Dolphins fans a special message.
“I was blown away by all the support from everyone this year, and I loved my time in Miami,” he said. “And I hope I get another crack at the whip this season.”
I must say, I’m absolutely blown away at #Dolphins Fans response to my last post. I loved every minute in Miami. I don’t pretend to know what the future holds. Thanks for all your love and support.
— Thomas Morstead (@thomasmorstead) January 17, 2023
No one knows for sure what the future holds, but it feels like the partnership between Morstead and the Dolphins is destined to continue for at least one more season.