Jets punter Graham signs six-year extension

Updated: May 21, 2006, 11:15 AM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Second-year punter Ben Graham, who had a standout season for the New York Jets in 2005 as a 32-year-old rookie, has signed a long-term contract extension with the team.

Punter
New York Jets

Profile
2005 SEASON STATISTICS
Punts Avg In 20 In 10 Blk Long
74 43.7 18 7 0 59

The six-year deal runs through the 2011 season. While complete financial details were not yet available, the contract is believed to have a total potential value of more than $5 million.

"It was really a hands-down [decision] for us," Graham told the Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald. "They made an offer and we just said, 'We'll take it.' I'm excited that I'm going to be punting for the New York Jets in the best city in America for the next six years."

Graham signed with the Jets last year after playing 12 season of Australian Rules Football, where he was one of the biggest stars in the game. The former Geelong standout, who also played for Australia in some international competitions, sent a videotape highlight cassette to several NFL teams two years ago. Jets special teams coach Mike Westhoff, realizing the strength of Graham's leg, suggested the team grant him an audition and he was subsequently signed to a minimum contract.

He figures to earn a lot more than a minimum salary over the next six seasons.

Ironically, the Jets were one of several NFL teams that had attempted to lure Graham to America as far back as the late 1990s, but he chose to remain in Australia. But inspired by the success of Darren Bennett, a fellow Australian who had a long and productive career with the San Diego Chargers and was awarded with two Pro Bowl berths, Graham finally made the move.

"It was a little unnerving, because there were no guarantees," Graham said late last season. "But if I was going to do it, time was running out, and I just decided it was worth the chance."

In his first NFL season, Graham punted 74 times for a gross average of 43.7 yards and a net average of 37.9 yards. Both those averages rated sixth-best in the AFC. Graham also registered a 3-to-1 ratio (18-6) of punts inside the 20-yard line to touchbacks. Opponents returned 36 of his punts for an 8.5-yard average, which was slightly higher than the league norm of 8.1 yards.

Graham said near the end of his first season that he wanted to work on improving his hang time and his directional punting skills in the offseason.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.