Jerry Jones said a few months ago that the Dallas Cowboys were “starting over” at kicker. Hopefully they get started soon, because right now there isn’t a clear plan to replace Brett Maher ahead of the 2023 season.
After his infamous four missed extra points in Dallas’ playoff win over Tampa Bay, Maher seems to have fallen out of the team’s plans for the future. Despite hitting 90.6% of his field goals and going 50-of-53 on extra points in the regular season, Maher’s postseason meltdown appears to have been enough for the Cowboys to move on. He remains a free agent after his contract expired.
Dallas did sign a kicker, journeyman Tristan Viizcaino, to at least put one body at the position going forward. Vizcaino was brought in after Maher’s disastrous day in Tampa as a backup plan for the next playoff game, but Maher did enough in practice that he held onto the job for one more week.
It’s hard to imagine that the Cowboys have simply handed the keys to Vizcaino. He’s bounced around the NFL since going undrafted in 2018, spending time with eight different teams in mostly backup and practice squad capacities. He’s made 11 of his 12 career field goal attempts, the longest being only 47 yards, and made 15 of 20 extra points.
You can’t dismiss Vizcaino entirely. After all, who would’ve fathomed that Brett Maher would come in last year and perform how he did? If John Fassel has seen something in his limited exposure to Vizcaino then that’s worth consideration.
But last year, remember where the Cowboys were at kicker ahead of the draft. They’d signed second-year prospect Chris Naggar after cutting Greg Zuerlein. Nagger was the only kicker on the roster until after the draft, when Dallas signed UDFA Jonathan Garibay. By the time training camp opened, Nagger had been released and veteran Lirim Hajrullahu had been brought in to compete.
Nobody won that competition. On August 9th, Dallas brought in Maher and he quickly took over the position. The Cowboys kicker in 2022 ended up being a guy who they’d only signed a month earlier.
Will we see a similar parade of undrafted free agents and journeymen this year, or will Dallas make a more significant investment at kicker? They haven’t drafted one since David Buehler in 2009, so it’d be easy to dismiss that possibility. But given how the team has sacrificed it’s fifth-round picks lately in trades for WR Brandin Cooks and CB Stephon Gilmore, maybe they’d be more willing now to spend one on a young kicker? It could provide better value in the long run than another random prospect on offense or defense.
There are also some bigger names still available in free agency. Long-timers like Robbie Gould, Randy Bullock, and Ryan Succop remain possibilities. There’s also Mason Crosby, who Mike McCarthy knows a thing or two about.
Brett Maher is another guy who’s still available. While Dallas hasn’t re-signed him yet, who saw the 2022 reunion coming? If the next series of moves don’t pan out, who can say for certain that Maher won’t get another chance with the Cowboys?
If last year is any indication, Dallas still has plenty of work to come at filling the kicker position for 2023. Even after the draft and signing rookie free agents, their guy may not be on the roster yet. But with how often games are decided off the feet of these kickers, it’s clearly a decision the team can’t take lightly.