Kicker Prater agrees to 3-year deal with Lions

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Matt Prater was with the Lions in training camp as a rookie in 2006, serving as a leg saver for veteran Jason Hanson.

Now, Prater will be the first man since Hanson retired to be the Lions' long-term kicker.

The Lions announced a three-year deal with Prater Friday morning. The NFL Network reports the deal is worth $9 million.

Prater, 30, said after the season he'd "love" to return to the Lions and finish his career in Detroit. He was glad the team gave him a chance after his time in rehab for alcohol addiction and always considered Hanson one of his best mentors.

The team tried to replace Hanson cheaply the past two years before finding Prater mid-season last year. In 2013, they signed a one-year deal with 38-year-old David Akers, who went 19 of 24. Last year, they drafted Nate Freese in the seventh round, but he was cut after three games and a 3-for-7 start. His replacement, Alex Henery, was cut after two games in which he missed four of five attempts, which led the Lions to Prater.

Prater was one of the top kickers in the NFL with the Broncos from 2008-13, but they cut him while he served a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy in 2014. Four days later, the Lions signed him on Oct. 7 to replace Henery.

Though he went 1-for-3 in his debut for the Lions in Week 6, Prater rediscovered his form shortly thereafter and finished 21 of 26, including a 48-yard game-winner against the Falcons in Week 8 as time expired.

Prater's signing means this will be the first offseason in the last three years that long snapper Don Muhlbach and punter/holder Sam Martin won't have to adjust to a new kicker.

"As Matt got more acclimated with us, especially with Don and Sam, he really became someone we could count on and was a positive contributor to our kicking game last season," coach Jim Caldwell said in a statement on the team's website. "Our field-goal unit made significant improvement with Matt as the season went on."

Prater holds the record for the longest field goal in NFL history, hitting a 64-yarder for the Broncos in 2013. His longest field goal for the Lions in 2014 was from 52 yards.

Prater's deal with the Lions will make him tied with Nick Folk of the New York Jets for the ninth-highest average annual value.

"I am thankful for this opportunity and excited to come back to Detroit," Prater said in a statement on the team's website. "I hope to do my part to help this team win.

"I am also looking forward to returning and working with both Sam and (Mulhbach). We had to adjust quickly to each other in the middle of the season, and this off-season will be valuable in our preparation for the coming year."

In 2013, Prater went 25 of 26 on field goals and made all 75 of his extra points for Denver's record-setting offense.