Atlanta Falcons: 15 best free agent acquisitions of all-time

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Matt Bryant, Atlanta Falcons
Matt Bryant, Atlanta Falcons. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /

44. . K. (2009-18). Matt Bryant. 3. player

Matt Bryant may not ever earn Canton enshrinement like Morten Andersen did as a kicker, but he is arguably the best kicker in Falcons franchise history. Bryant originally went undrafted out of Baylor in 1999, bouncing around the league until sticking with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2005.

However after four seasons with Tampa Bay, Bryant would be released by the Buccaneers days before the 2009 NFL season. He would sign a contract with the Florida Tuskers of the UFL before landing with the Dirty Birds in December as a replacement for Jason Elam. All Bryant did in the ensuing decade was make big kick after big kick for the Falcons.

In his 10 years with the Falcons, Atlanta made the NFC playoffs five times. Atlanta won the NFC South three times, made it to the NFC Championship twice and Super Bowl LI during the 2016 NFL season. Atlanta won four of its nine playoff games when Bryant was a part of the team. His biggest kick of his career came during the 2012 NFL playoffs versus the Seattle Seahawks.

Though not as memorable nationally as Andersen’s game-winner versus the Minnesota Vikings in the 1998 NFC Championship, Bryant nailed the 49-yard game-winner in the NFC Divisional Round to send Atlanta to its third-ever NFC Championship. While Atlanta would fall at home the following week to the San Francisco 49ers, Bryant still had plenty of great kicks left in that accurate right leg of his.

Bryant made 88.7 percent of his field goal tries in 10 years with the Falcons. He made 99.2 of his point-after tries. He even made 36 of his 46 50-yard tries in his Atlanta career. Bryant led the league in field goal percentage in 2011 with 93.1, as well as point-after makes (56) and tries (57) in that historic 2016 season for the Falcons.

Given that he only had two injuries in Falcons career, resulting in eight missed games, it should not come as a surprise that he is the franchise leader in scoring. He has 1,122 points in his Falcons career, including a league-best 158 during his Pro Bowl season in 2016.

After Bryant does hang up the spikes, he will earn a spot on the Falcons Ring of Honor. However, his days in Atlanta may have very well ended. He was released by the team after the 2018 NFL season due to injury concerns and the size of his contract. Bryant missed three games with a hamstring injury. His replacement Giorgio Tavecchio performed very well in Bryant’s absence last year and is both younger and cheaper.

In his 10 years with the Falcons, he has surpassed Andersen as the most prolific kicker in franchise history, as well as stand as an ever-present reminder of Tampa Bay’s lack in judgement. One could easily argue that the Buccaneers have not appropriately replaced Bryant since cutting him over a decade ago. Maybe he goes back to the Buccaneers to close out his NFL career? They always are in need of kickers in Tampa.