Thursday, September 21, 2023
Thursday, September 21, 2023

Who is the Saints kicker? Meet Blake Grupe, the undrafted rookie replacing Wil Lutz

by admin

The kicker carousel was set in motion late this summer, with a handful of trades shuffling veteran kickers around the NFL. The Saints were one of a few teams to go with an unproven option, taking a risk at a position that always seems to prove vital in big moments. 

Wil Lutz had spent the bulk of the last seven seasons as the Saints’ kicker, though he missed the entire 2021 season with an injury. New Orleans learned the importance of the kicker role during that campaign, using four different players at the position to fill the void.

As the Saints try to win the NFC South and return to the playoffs for the first time since 2020, there will be a new name kicking field goals in New Orleans.

MORE: Get to know new Cowboys kicker Brandon Aubrey

Here’s what you need to know about the Saints’ new kicker for 2023.

Who is the Saints kicker?

The Saints chose undrafted rookie Blake Grupe over Lutz at the end of the preseason, rolling with a younger, cheaper option. 

The 24-year-old Grupe had a six-year college career, spending five seasons at Arkansas State before transferring to Notre Dame in 2022. A strong season with the Fighting Irish wasn’t enough to get him drafted, but it was enough to put Grupe on an NFL roster in the spring. 

Grupe made an impression with a game-winning field goal against the Chiefs in the Saints’ preseason opener.

If Grupe succeeds in New Orleans, he will be far from the first undrafted kicker to carve out a long NFL career. Justin Tucker and Adam Vinatieri are just two of the greats who went undrafted. 

Blake Grupe stats

Grupe as a perfect 3-for-3 in his NFL debut, a 16-15 Saints win over the Titans. He had a 52-yard field goal and a successful extra point.

Here’s a look at Grupe’s college stats between Arkansas State and Notre Dame.

2018Arkansas State142166.7
2019Arkansas State192286.4
2020Arkansas State111861.1
2021Arkansas State202580.0
2022Notre Dame141973.7
Total 7810574.3

MORE: Revisiting Steve Gleason’s legendary blocked punt

Grupe was extremely efficient at Arkansas State in 2019, and he rebounded from a tough 2020 with a much stronger campaign in 2021. That was enough to draw interest from Notre Dame, where Grupe made 14 of 19 attempts in 2022.

Grupe was also perfect on extra point attempts for the first time in his career with the Irish in 2022.

What happened to Wil Lutz?

The Saints traded Lutz to the Broncos near the end of training camp, landing a 2024 seventh-round pick in return.

Lutz didn’t show the same effectiveness after missing all of 2021, making a career-low 74.2 percent of field goal attempts in 2022. That set the stage for the Saints to pursue alternatives.

While Grupe earned his way onto the roster with a strong summer, Lutz was able to land on his feet partly because of his close connection to Sean Payton. Payton, now coaching the Broncos, coached Lutz for six seasons in New Orleans and chose him over Brett Maher in Denver.

Lutz’s agent, John Perla, didn’t mince words after Lutz lost the competition, telling the Denver Gazette, “He didn’t lose his job. The Saints just made a poor decision. The better player is not the one who is left on the Saints’ roster, I’ll tell you that.”

So far, Perla’s claim isn’t lining up with reality. Lutz missed a field goal and an extra point in his Broncos debut, two kicks that proved to be the difference in a 17-16 loss to the Raiders.

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