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Cowboys kicker battle may have a third contender at training camp

If last year taught us anything, Dallas’ next kicker may not be on the roster yet

NFC Divisional Playoffs - Dallas Cowboys v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

As we near the start of the Cowboys’ 2023 training camp, the search for a new kicker is already a focal point. While Dallas has two unproven contenders already on the roster, last year showed us how a veteran fallback option could be on the front office’s speed dial.

Currently vying for the job are two relatively unknown kickers; Brandon Aubrey and Tristan Vizcaino. Aubrey is a former professional soccer player who kicked for the USFL’s Birmingham Stallions in 2022. He was just signed by Dallas a few weeks ago.

Vizcaino has floated around the NFL since 2018 but only attempted 10 field goals, mostly working on practice squads. The Cowboys signed him last January after Brett Maher’s disastrous playoff game against Tampa Bay, but Maher did enough in practice to keep his job for one more week.

This impending battle is reminiscent of the one that took place in last year’s camp. Veteran Lirim Hajrullahu and undrafted rookie Jonathan Garibay, again with minimal pro experience between them, were the two contenders Dallas took to Oxnard. But when neither did enough to earn the team’s confidence, the Cowboys went back to a familiar face and signed Maher about two weeks into camp.

Maher had been a free agent since February of 2022, so it wasn’t a matter of him being released and suddenly available. No, Dallas clearly had him on a list of fallback options if the competition between Garibay and Hajrullahu didn’t produce. Could a similar situation be unfolding this year with Aubrey and Vizcaino?

If the Cowboys don’t think either of their new kicker contenders are winning the battle, who might they turn to? Maher likely won’t be an option, having just signed on with the Denver Broncos a few days ago. His predecessor and a John Fassel favorite, Greg Zuerlein, has returned for a second season with the New York Jets. So if Dallas does need to find a new option, another familiar face is probably not available.

The first thought for most would be veteran Robbie Gould, who remains a free agent despite another strong season in San Francisco. Gould turns 41 in December, which is certainly daunting, but has shown no signs of regression in the last few years. He has been vocal about his desire to keep playing and is likely waiting for a phone call from someone during training camps.

Another veteran free agent, and one with easy links to Dallas, is Mason Crosby. Not only is he a Texas native but Crosby spent most of his career kicking for Mike McCarthy’s Green Bay teams. Almost 39 now, Crosby still turned in a strong year for the Packers with over 86% of his field goals made in 2022.

One experienced option who just became available is Michael Badgley. Much younger than the last two at just 28 (as of this Friday), Badgley flamed out in 2020 with the Chargers but has been much better the last two seasons. He’s made 42 of 50 field goals in stints with various teams from 2021-2022, plus missing just one of 73 extra-point attempts.

These are the obvious possibilities but not necessarily the first names on Dallas’ supposed list. After all, who could’ve predicted that they’d reunite with Maher last year? He’d been gone since 2019 but that didn’t mean the Cowboys had stopped keeping tabs.

Going into camp with such an unpredictable situation at kicker isn’t great, but that’s not unusual for the position. Back in 2011, who’d have ever imagined that Dan Bailey would go from undrafted rookie to arguably the best kicker in franchise history? Remember that crazy timeshare situation he had with David Buehler? Hardly a typical start to a solid career.

We certainly hope that one of Brandon Aubrey or Tristan Vizcaino is about to make his own impressive mark on the Cowboys. But the good news is that if neither rises to the occasion, Dallas should have some solid alternatives. Hopefully, if we do need to turn to free agency, we get there before some other teams do.

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