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Cowboys attempt to solve kicking woes with Brett Maher reunion

After an abysmal beginning to camp for the placekickers, the Dallas Cowboys brought back familiar face Brett Maher to add competition to the kicking battle.
Credit: Geoff Burke
A dejected Cowboys kicker Brett Maher after missing a game-tying field goal try in the final seconds against Washington. Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

DALLAS — The Dallas Cowboys seem to enjoy living dangerously when it comes to building their roster.

Jerry Jones’ squad routinely goes into the offseason with a few glaring holes they address with less than perfect players from the second and third waves of free agency. Then, whichever need isn’t met successfully, capital is spent on improving the team from the scraps once they’ve evaluated the roster at training camp.

Sometimes this strategy comes back to bite Dallas.

A few days at Oxnard for practice and the Cowboys acknowledged that they had a need at linebacker and were fortunate enough to be able to bring in help when they signed LB Anthony Barr. The veteran Barr is a quality player that hadn’t found a home yet and the Cowboys got him on a lesser deal than other teams had offered.

The Cowboys haven’t been so lucky with the kicking position, however. It took less than two weeks into camp for the team to realize they didn’t have a good enough option at placekicker.

With a need that could no longer be ignored, Dallas finally addressed the poor early efforts from rookie undrafted free agent Jonathan Garibay and veteran Lirim Hajrullahu by releasing Garibay and bringing Brett Maher back to join the camp battle.

Maher is hardly a Pro Bowl kicker, but the Cowboys had to do something. It’ll be the former CFL standout’s second stint with the team after he surprisingly usurped mainstay Dan Bailey and kicked with the Cowboys for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

In those two seasons, Maher made just 73.65% of his field goal attempts and missed one extra point. The latter is an improvement over kicker Greg Zuerlein from last season, but the field goal percentage from Maher was one of the worst in the league.

The positive news is that Maher kicked in eight games with the New Orleans Saints last season and saw improved results, making 16 of 18 attempts. Dallas, like the Saints, play half their games indoors, which is helpful for kickers looking to improve their accuracy.

Maher’s biggest positive is his leg strength. The former Nebraska Cornhusker made kicks of 62 and 63 yards when he was with the Cowboys and was 10 for 15 from 50+ yards during his two seasons with the team.

Feeling forced to intervene and sign a kicker just days away from their first preseason game, and as they prepare for an upcoming season, isn’t a good sign for Dallas. The team had all offseason to acquire a proven kicker, but they didn’t and now they’ve been left to scramble to bring back a kicker they replaced two seasons ago.

With Garibay now released, the Cowboys have a new kicking competition between two unproven veteran kickers. Hajrullahu remains to duel with Maher; the duo will have the rest of training camp and the preseason to see who wins the job.

Dallas is hoping whoever claims the job becomes a consistent and dependable option as games in the NFL are usually close and often decided by a clutch kick.

The Cowboys have put themselves in a tough position, they currently don’t have a kicker they can feel good about as the season approaches. Ultimately, however, they have no one to blame but themselves.

Do you think the Cowboys are in good shape with Brett Maher back in the mix? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.

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