Last season, the Packers made multiple efforts to motivate an underperforming Mason Crosby.
And it worked.
First they brought in competition during the offseason and training camp. Giorgio Tavecchio made a valiant effort to win the job, but in the end, he couldn't unseat the veteran Packers kicker.
Then the Packers restructured Crosby's contract to a highly-incentivized version, reducing his guaranteed money from $2.4 million all the way down to $800,000 with the opportunity earn it back base upon his performance.
By remaining on the roster for the entire season without being cut and converting on a field goal percentage of 85 percent or higher, Crosby could earn back every penny.
And he did.
Crosby followed up on a horrendous 2012 season when he connected on a league-low 63.6 percent of his field goals to convert a career-high 89.2 percent in 2013.
The turnaround was remarkable. Crosby went from the hot seat, fighting for his job to ending his season on a high note, being named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Month during October along the way.
Perhaps deservedly, Crosby is no longer subject to an incentivized contract. The remaining two years on his deal are unchanged.
The Packers kicker will earn $2.65 million in base salary in 2014 and $2.8 million in 2015. Because of his signing and workout bonuses, Crosby's salary-cap figures will be $3.4 and $3.55 million in each of the next two respective years.
It's back to pre-2013 conditions for Crosby. Despite 90 spots on the offseason roster, the Packers have brought in no competition. Higher-ups within the organization have essentially sent a message to Crosby telling him the job is his.
The question is, can Crosby maintain his high level of performance minus the motivation from a year ago?
Crosby seemed to thrive under pressure last season, be it competitive or monetary. Those pressures, however, are no longer present.
With an offense expected to be particularly potent behind quarterback Aaron Rodgers directing the passing game and running back Eddie Lacy leading the running attack, Crosby will have to internally motivated to be part of a high-scoring squad.
Maybe the prospects of a second Super Bowl ring will be all the motivation Crosby needs. But it's not as if that same incentive hasn't been present every other year he's has been a professional football player.
Like any player, Crosby will likely tell the media before the season starts that he remains intrinsically motivated and is primed for success.
But in the end, all that will matter are Crosby's statistics. In a league that 11 kickers made over 90 percent of their field goals last season, it will be up to Crosby to keep pace.
Regardless of a career-best field goal percentage last season, Crosby has yet to hit 90 percent or better.
Maybe that will be his carrot at the end of a stick.
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].
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