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Kai Forbath is the new Cowboys kicker, but is he an upgrade?

A change had to be made, but was this the right one?

New England Patriots v Houston Texans Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After enduring another round of criticism for a poor kicking performance followed by tryouts for free agents, the Cowboys announced on Monday that Brett Maher has been cut and replaced by Kai Forbath. In his eighth year as a pro, Forbath most recently played for the Patriots but was cut after one game due to missing an extra point.

To Cowboys fans, that’ll likely elicit a strong negative response considering Maher himself had a track record of missing field goals that should’ve been easily made. But who exactly is Forbath, and is he actually an upgrade over Maher or is this more of an empty gesture from the team to signal that they at least made a change?

Well, for starters, Forbath actually began his career in Dallas. After a successful college career at UCLA that saw him win the Lou Groza award in his junior year, Forbath signed in Dallas and competed for the open kicker position with a fellow rookie named Dan Bailey. Due to an injury sustained at UCLA, Forbath was placed on the non-football injury list and sat out all of the 2011 season. After Bailey solidified his role as the team’s kicker, Dallas cut Forbath.

After bouncing around a bit, Forbath landed in the nation’s capitol, where he spent just over three years kicking for the Redskins. During that time, Forbath converted 87% of his field goal attempts and hit on 97.8% of his extra points. That included hitting on 88.8% of all attempts beyond 40 yards. However, Washington cut him after the season opener of the 2015 season after missing a field goal and extra point. He joined the Saints later on and made 69.2% of his attempts and missing one extra point.

After not being retained by the Saints, he spent most of the 2016 season unemployed before the Vikings scooped him up after releasing slumping kicker Blair Walsh in a move very similar to what the Cowboys just did. In seven games with Minnesota, Forbath hit all 15 field goals, including five from beyond 40 yards, although he did miss three extra points. Still, it was enough for Minnesota to re-sign him.

Forbath unexpectedly regressed in 2017, hitting 84.2% of his field goals, with four of his six misses coming from beyond 40 yards, and missing five extra points. This led to the Vikings drafting Daniel Carlson who unseated Forbath as the new kicker but was released himself later that year.

Forbath joined the Jaguars late in the 2018 season to replace the injured Josh Lambo and hit four of his five attempts while making all three extra points. He was unemployed until the Patriots signed him in late November, but of course that didn’t last long.

Over his journeyman career, Forbath has shown enough savvy to be reliable for stretches of time, but likely isn’t a viable long-term option. For his career, Forbath is hitting on 94.6% of field goals under 30 yards, 88.6% between 30 and 39 yards, 85.7% between 40 and 49 yards, and 61.1% beyond 50 yards. He clearly doesn’t have the leg of Maher, who’s hit multiple field goals beyond 60 yards while Forbath has never made anything longer than 57 yards.

However, Forbath is much more reliable inside the 40-yard line, whereas it had become a guessing game with Maher. Forbath does bring more inconsistency to the PAT game, though, as Maher has only missed one extra point in his career. Since the 2015 season, when extra points were moved back to the 15-yard line, Forbath is making just 89.2% of his PAT’s, whereas he was hitting 97.8% before the rule change.

Forbath is likely just a bridge to the offseason as Dallas clearly needed to make a change at the kicker position. However, a strong performance over the three remaining games (and potentially a playoff game or two) could earn him a shot at hanging around next year.

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