Posted: 9:45 p.m.
Jim Breech, the Bengals' all-time scorer, never came close to making $2.5 million in a 13-year career that came up just short and slightly wide right of free agency.
But he's happy not only for Shayne Graham, but for the many civic groups that Graham has helped during his six seasons in Cincinnati that includes the ubiquitous Kicks for Kids.
While the one-year, $2.48 million franchise tag may have irked Graham some in his efforts to get a long-term deal, he acknowledged the community in a statement released through his representative.
"I appreciate the Bengals' recognition of my value to the team," Graham's statement read in part. "I would have preferred to enter a long-term market value contract, either with the Bengals or through free agency.
Graham "I will be committed to helping the Bengals win football games in the 2009 season. I truly appreciate the support of my teammates and the great fans of Cincinnati."
Started by Breech's successor, Doug Pelfrey, Kicks for Kids has become a team effort by the three greatest Bengals kickers as they help at-risk children in the Greater Cincinnati area. When Breech was kicking the Bengals into Super Bowls in the '80s, he was always one of the most visible players.
"I don't think it's because we're kickers; I think we just happened to be kickers," he said. "I always thought it was important to get involved and Shayne has been great at doing that."
Now Graham is one of the most high-profile Bengals in the Cincinnati community, particularly with current and former military personnel, as well as children.
He has been a board member of the Cincinnati FreestoreFoodbank and in 2008 at Paul Brown Stadium he helped organize the nation's most successful Taste of the NFL event on a night $170,000 was raised for meals for the hungry.
Breech scored 1,151 points for the Bengals from 1980 to 1992, never missed a kick in overtime, and came within a dropped interception of being a Super Bowl MVP.
So it was not without a little pride he heard the news that the Bengals had franchised a kicker for the first time; the man who stands right behind him on the club scoring list with 682.
"I never though it would happen in Cincinnati," Breech said with a laugh. "At least not until a couple of years ago when (Adam) Vinatieri got it. When you think about it, it's not a bad move when you consider that kickers aren't subject to bad injuries like what happened to (right tackle) Stacy Andrews."
Andrews, last year's Bengals franchise player, has seen his free-agency hopes jolted this year with reconstructive knee surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament. But this year franchising kickers is a trend.
Graham joins Atlanta punter Michael Koenen on the franchise list, where kickers Rob Bironas of the Titans and Jason Hanson of the Lions are expected to join him if they don't get long-term deals before the Feb. 27 start of free agency.
The magic number looks to be $3 million per year going off last year's deals. Seattle's Josh Brown leads the way with a $2.84 million average over five years, followed by the Bears' Robbie Gould at $2.7 million over five. The Colts' Vinatieri is at $2.4 million after getting $12 million over five, the Eagles' David Akers at $2.29 million on $16.04 million over seven years, and Atlanta's Jason Elam at $2.25 million on $9 million over four years.
Graham, 31, has top five numbers. He ranks fourth all-time in the NFL in career field goal accuracy (85.6 percent) behind the retired Mike Vanderjagt (86.5), San Diego's Nate Kaeding (86.1), Gould (85.9), and ahead of Bironas (84.5). Graham holds numerous other Bengals career, season and game records:
Points in a season (131). Field goals in a season (31). Field goals in a game (seven). Consecutive field goals made (21). Season field-goal percentage (91.2). Consecutive PATs made (158).
For the second time in five years the Bengals decided to give Graham a number worthy of one of the top five kickers in the league. The $2.5 million is the average of the current top five kicking salaries. When the Bengals matched Jacksonville's five-year, $6.5 million offer to Graham during restricted free agency in March 2004, the $1.3 million average was also top five range.
Graham is coming off an 87.5 percent season on field goals (21-for-24) that mirrors his Bengals' all-time best 87.5 percent (154-for-176) for his career in Cincinnati. The only smears on his resume are two high profile-misses, one of which came this year and cost the Bengals a game and Donovan McNabb his sanity.
A 47-yard miss in the last seconds of overtime gave the Bengals a rare tie against the Eagles back on Nov. 16 on what was his first career try in OT. But it was Graham's 39-yard miss against Pittsburgh in the last seconds of the 2006 finale that turned out to cost the Bengals the playoffs.
Yet his performance under the gun is only slightly under his career numbers. With the chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter, Graham is 7-for-9, and with the chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter he's 3-for-4.
Breech has become an admirer down through the years and Graham has used him as a sounding board at times when he's been looking for some counsel. Special teams coach Darrin Simmons has welcomed Breech and all the other former kickers and punters to stop by.
"He prepares well. He's got a real good handle on the fundamentals," Breech said. "Darrin does a great job with him. I'm happy for him. To even think of you in that way shows how important it is."