Last week, the Jets announced that they had signed former Chiefs and Bears placekicker Cairo Santos. After losing last year's kicker, Chandler Catanzaro, in free agency, they moved quickly to pick up one of the more experienced young kickers on the open market.
The 26-year-old Santos is listed at 5-foot-8, 160 pounds, and was an undrafted free agent out of Tulane in 2014. He spent his first three seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, but last year ended up being placed on injured reserve early in the season due to an injury. The Bears picked him up after he was released from the injured list but he was injured again shortly after.
The Brazilian-born Santos was recruited to Tulane in 2010 and was their kicker for four years. His career was highlighted by his 2012 season, which saw him make all 21 of his field goal attempts on the way to winning the Lou Groza award.
He was less consistent in his other three seasons, though, missing 17 of 57 field goal attempts. He ended his college career with a 98% success rating on extra points and 78% on field goals.
Santos won the Chiefs job as a rookie and, after a shaky start saw him miss a field goal in each of his first two games, he hit his next 14 in a row, including this clutch game-winner against the Chargers:
Santos managed to hold onto the role in each of the next three seasons. He made at least 80% of his field goals in each season, with a best of 89%. He also made 96% of his extra point attempts and was perfect on six field goals and six extra points in postseason play. He's also made 18 of 19 field goals in preseason.
In 2017, Santos made his first three field goals with the Chiefs before his injury, but then after the Bears picked him up, he missed a 54-yarder on his first attempt. He made his only other attempt with them before getting injured again.
Let's look in detail at how his numbers compare:
Santos has made 84% of his field goals in the NFL, which is equivalent to the league average. As noted, he's been pretty consistent from season-to-season, making at least 80% in each year.
He has only missed two field goals in an NFL game once at the end of his rookie year (although he did miss a field goal and an extra point in a game in late 2016).
After missing a field goal in each of his first two games, Santos only missed field goals in consecutive games one other time. However, if you also include extra points, he had one other occasion where he missed kicks in consecutive games and a string of four games where he missed at least one kick in 2015. That's as close as he's been to an extended slump (although he made 10 of 12 field goals and six of eight extra points in that span, which arguably isn't too bad).
He is obviously capable of getting into a nice rhythm where he is basically automatic, as evidenced by his perfect record in 2012. He also had seven field goals in one game back in 2015 and, in November 2016, he was the AFC Special Teams Player of the Month when he made all 16 of his kicks, including 11 field goals.
Santos has had two kicks blocked in his career, one of which was an extra point.
Santos has made seven of 13 field goals from beyond 50 yards in his NFL career, although he only attempted three since 2015. He was 2-for-2 in 2016 and his only attempt from beyond 50 was the missed 54-yarder in his first game with the Bears (which was not close).
His longest field goal in an NFL game is a 54-yarder but there are videos on YouTube of him making kicks from 60 and beyond and he also made a 58-yarder in a preseason game:
The Chiefs had enough confidence in his leg to attempt a 66-yard field goal as time expired in an 18-17 loss to the Bears. This was nowhere near though:
Despite coming from a South American country, Santos has not been bothered by cold weather, making 15 of 17 field goals and 100% of his extra point attempts when the temperature is below 40 degrees.
He's only played one game in a dome and four in an outdoor stadium with a retractable roof but his regular numbers are about the same.
His numbers towards the end of the season are slightly worse, but not significantly. Taking into account the weather conditions, that's probably true for most kickers.
Santos made all of his extra points as a rookie but missed two in 2015 and three in 2016. 2015 was when they moved the extra point back to the 15-yard line and percentages dropped league-wide.
In his four-year career, Santos has made three game-winning kicks, all with the score tied. After the aforementioned game-winner against the Chargers in his rookie year, he didn't get another chance at a game-deciding kick until 2016 when he hit a 37-yard game-winner against the Panthers and a 38-yard overtime game-winner (which he banked in off the goalpost) against Denver:
Apparently one of Santos' best traits is his ability to stay calm under pressure and the only time he's missed a game-winning kick was the 66-yarder in Chicago mentioned earlier.
Santos has improved in terms of his kickoffs. He only had a touchback on 33% of his kicks as a rookie but has improved that percentage every year since then, to 44% in 2015, 56% in 2016 and 60% last year.
Last year was also his best year in terms of opponents' average start position (21 yard line) albeit on a smaller sample size, which would be among the league leaders. He'd been around the 24-25 yard line in his first three years, which is below average.
Santos punted 15 times for a 41.0 average during the 2011 season at Tulane so could potentially handle that role in an emergency. He also threw (and completed) one pass in an NFL game after a botched snap:
Since he's so small, Santos is not likely to make much of an impact as a tackler in kick coverage, he has been credited with four tackles at the NFL level and had two more in college. He had one missed tackle on a 54-yard return by Quincy Enunwa in garbage time of the Chiefs big 2016 win over the Jets. However, there was also this controversial trip of Percy Harvin in his rookie year, which is the only time he's been flagged for a penalty:
Santos dedicates his career to his father, who died in a plane crash in 2013.
Santos has been a decent kicker so far in his career, but it will depend on whether he is fully recovered from groin injury as to how successful he can be in 2018.
It seems unlikely the Jets will hand him the job on a plate, so expect them to bring in some competition for him, either in the shape of a rookie or by bringing back Ross Martin, who almost won the role last year, for another shot.
Catanzaro won the job last year in large part due to his big leg. Santos doesn't quite seem to have as big of a leg, but he's been a consistent performer and seems to be capable of handling pressure, so hopefully he'll be an adequate replacement if he can indeed win the job.