The Dallas Cowboys had one of the worst Special Teams units in the NFL last year, finishing near the bottom of the league in almost every category. It became clear when Mike McCarthy was hired that he needed to bring in a new coach for the unit and find new players to boost all factors.
One of the first steps in addressing the deficiencies came when the Cowboys hired John Fassel, one of the game’s best Special Teams coaches. Among the first things ‘Bones’ Fassel will need to do is solve the kicking woes.
The Cowboys went with a poor strategy last year, keeping a bad kicker for much of the season, and it might have cost them games. Brett Maher made some deep kicks, but only managed to convert on 66.7% of his attempts. That’s not nearly good enough in the NFL and the team recognized its mistake after 13 games, switching to journeyman Kai Forbath.
Neither is the long term answer, but luckily for the Cowboys, there might be a few kickers available who can help. Fassel’s kicker while with the Los Angeles Rams, Greg Zuerlein, is someone the team should look into. The man they call ‘Legatron’ for his powerful leg is a free agent could be the answer to Dallas’ kicking woes that has plagued them since Dan Bailey’s best days.
Zuerlein is one of the better kickers in the league having connected on a stellar 82% of his career kicks, including 60% from over 50 yards out. Last year was a bit of a down year for Zuerlein, but he’s been over 80% on his kicks in five of his last seven years, including making 95% of his field goal tries in 2017.
At 32 years old, with one of the league’s strongest legs, and with the benefit of being able to kick at least eight games indoors, Zuerlein would be a good fit for the Cowboys.
If Zuerlein ends up being priced out of the Cowboys’ range, McCarthy has a kicking connection of his own that he might want to look into in Mason Crosby.
Crosby is a little bit older at 35, but he’s coming off his best statistical year, making 91.7% of his attempts. He doesn’t have the length in his leg that Zuerlein does, but Crosby’s more consistent on the intermediate attempts that puts points on the board. Crosby made 21-22 on his kicks under 50 yards in 2019, while Zuerlein made only 19-26.
In a reunion with McCarthy, Crosby would also be coming from Green Bay to Dallas, where the conditions are much more conducive to making kicks, especially from longer distances.
It’s been too long since Dallas’ had a reliable kicker. Maher replaced Bailey so Dallas could save a few bucks, but Bailey had become untrustworthy due to injury concerns during his last few years with the Cowboys. The team tried to rely on Maher and it backfired. Valuable points were left on the field due to Maher’s accuracy issues and Jason Garrett’s penchant for attempting field goals instead of being aggressive.
There are other free agent kicking options for the Cowboys, including Bailey, but Crosby and Zuerlein have a connection to the new coaching staff. Both would be good options and an upgrade over what the Cowboys have now.
Do you think the Cowboys should spend a little cash on a kicker to avoid another Brett Maher situation? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.