Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, the Dallas Cowboys are heading into camp without a reliable kicker on their roster. It’s the same song and dance we witnessed last year and if you forgot how that all went down, don’t fret, we have a little recap available.
It started when the team put their trust in undrafted free-agent rookie Jonathan Garibay. A couple of months later they signed another UDFA, only this one was a little older. Seasoned Canadian Football League kicker Liram Hajrullahu was brought on to create some friendly competition. Sadly, both Garibay and Hajrullahu were awful as both were eventually released in August as the team instead rolled with an old friend, Brett Maher. And as we all know, last year was Maher’s second stint with the Cowboys, and to get caught up on that soap opera, let’s rewind a little further.
After a surprise final roster cut where the team moved on from veteran Dan Bailey, Maher became the Cowboys' kicker in 2018. He spent two roller-coaster seasons with Dallas that included highs of setting records for longest kicks and lows from missing way too many makable field goals. The team finally had enough and released him near the end of 2019. The Cowboys then signed veteran Greg Zuerlein, who was their kicker from 2020-2021, and that came with its own moments of chaos, but don’t worry, we’re not going to go down that rabbit hole.
Last season, Maher’s comeback tour had everyone in the stands cheering as his leg was as accurate as we’ve seen in some time. He finished the year making 29 of 32 (90.6%) of his field goals, and that included over 95% from inside 50 yards. His field goal percentage was the highest for a Cowboys kicker since Bailey’s Pro Bowl season in 2015. That’s fan-flipping-tastic!
As great as Maher was in the regular season, things turned sour in a hurry as he missed four-straight extra points in the playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Double-you Tea Eff! Fortunately, the Cowboys smoked the Bucs so it didn’t come back to hurt them, but clearly, something had worked its way into Maher’s head as he had lost his mojo.
That brings us to now. The team’s lone kicker is the well-traveled Tristan Vizcaino who has had limited opportunities with four different teams. Mostly, he’s been called upon to fill in on a short-term basis when another kicker was unavailable. He did that for San Francisco (Robbie Gould) in 2020 and Arizona (Matt Prater) last season. His lone chance for a real job came in 2021 with the Los Angeles Chargers when he beat out Michael Bagley for the kicker job. Things started out okay, but then missed five extra points over the course of four games and ultimately was released after Week 6.
Replacing one kicker who had a case of the PAT yips for another isn’t very comforting. Of course, those yips came back in 2021 and a lot of time has passed since then. Since leaving the Chargers, Vizcaino hasn’t missed a kick, going 4/4 in field goals and 6/6 in extra points. For his career, he’s 11/12 on field goals and Cowboys fans might be able to recall his only miss.
Fun fact: Cowboys new kicker Tristan Vizcaino has only missed one FG his entire career and that came when he doinked it off the left upright against the Cowboys in Week 2 of 2021. pic.twitter.com/0exLksQ11M— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) May 14, 2023
So, here we are with another wild card kicker slated to get the first chance to prove he’s the guy. Just as they did last year, the Cowboys will be on the lookout to bring in some competition. Recently, special team’s coach John Fassel was asked about adding a veteran to the mix and he had this to say.
“It’s probably the easier way (to go) because you know what you’re going to get,” Fassel said. “If you’re going to bring them in, you have to be excited about what it is. There’s veterans on the street right now – let’s face it, there’s Mason (Crosby), there’s Robbie (Gould), there’s (Ryan) Succup. There’s a lot of guys that have performed in the NFL, and you weigh that against everything else. There’s really no secrets of who’s available. The good thing for us at the kicker spot is just being patient and deciding who that second guy is we’re going to bring in, whether it’s now or training camp.”
Fassel went as far as saying that even bringing back Maher is again on the table. And when you look at the field goal percentage last year, Maher stands out among the other remaining free agents.
Free Agent Kickers Available
|Kicker||Age||2022 FG %||Rank|
|Kicker||Age||2022 FG %||Rank|
We know a kicker is only as good as his last kick, which doesn’t bode well for Maher. However, if you go off of field goal percentage, Maher is the only one of these options who didn’t rank outside the top 15 last season. Signing one of these other guys isn't going to inspire confidence.
To have a good kicker teams either have to sign a young one in hopes he works out (a la Dan Bailey) or spend around $6 million a season for the services of one of the more proven ones (a la Justin Tucker). Everyone else in the league is rolling the dice and that’s what this Cowboys team will again have to do this upcoming season. Keep looking by all means. Turn over every rock and get some legs in camp so they can properly evaluate their options. But in the end, there won’t be an answer that guarantees success, so once again we’ll all be crossing our fingers and hoping for the best.