KC Chiefs: Harrison Butker is under pressure in 2023

Kansas City Chiefs placekicker Harrison Butker (7) kicks the go-ahead field goal against the
Kansas City Chiefs placekicker Harrison Butker (7) kicks the go-ahead field goal against the / Michael Chow/The Republic / USA TODAY

While the Kansas City Chiefs emerged victorious in Super Bowl LVII last year and witnessed a handful of players achieving their personal bests in football, placekicker Harrison Butker did not enjoy a career season in 2022.

It would be unjust to criticize Butker for his inconsistency during the season considering that he sustained an injury in the very first game of the season in Glendale, Arizona, which is also where his season ultimately ended. But more on that later.

To be honest, despite encountering injury issues throughout the year, the 2022 season marked Harrison Butker's least successful year in the NFL. That much is proven statistically. Nevertheless, despite '22 being his most disappointing overall season, there are positives to point to.

First, Butker set a Chiefs franchise record by successfully converting a 62-yard field goal during Week 6 against the Buffalo Bills. Additionally, he secured victory for Kansas City in the AFC Championship Game by drilling a game-winning 45-yard kick against the Bengals, propelling them to Super Bowl LVII. Lastly, he sealed Super Bowl LVII with a 27-yard field goal against Philadelphia, catapulting the Chiefs to another Lombardi Trophy.

In 2022, Butker missed a career-worst six field goals in the regular season, despite attempting a career-low 24 kicks. Consequently, his conversion rate dropped significantly to just 75%, representing his poorest performance to date. His next lowest regular season conversion rate occurred in 2018 at 88.9%. Furthermore, he also set a career low in points per game at just 7.1.

Will Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker bounce back in 2023?

While it is true that the majority of his struggles can be attributed to his injuries, the reality remains that he needs to make a strong comeback in 2023. Although he is undeniably one of the most accomplished players at his position in this generation, the NFL fields true competition year to year. Teams, including the Chiefs, prioritize current and ongoing performance rather than past achievements.

According to Over The Cap, Kansas City will have the option to release or trade Harrison Butker after 2023, incurring a relatively modest dead money cost of around $728K while saving over $3.8M. If he fails to perform at the elite level he was once capable of (or perhaps still is), the Chiefs will likely seek a new placekicker in 2024.

I'm not advocating against Butker or wishing ill upon him, but it's important to acknowledge that the NFL is an unforgiving industry, and kickers are no exception. Considering that prominent players such as Chris Jones and L'Jarius Sneed are due for new contracts soon, Kansas City cannot afford to waste money. If Harrison Butker once again struggles with consistency this season, his final game in 2023 may very well be his final one as a Kansas City Chief.