Lions Looking Into Options At Kicker

Since the departure of Matt Prater following the 2020 NFL season, the Lions have struggled to find constancy at the placekicking position. Twice, Michael Badgley has come to their rescue with admirable results, and though he’s set to return in 2024, that hasn’t stopped Detroit from examining all its options.

Badgley first helped out the Lions in 2022, signing with the team’s practice squad in early-October and getting promoted to the active roster three weeks later. After the team opted to move on from Austin Seibert, Badgley took over the job and didn’t relinquish it. For the rest of the year, Badgley made 20 of his 24 field goal attempts and went a perfect 33-for-33 on extra point attempts. The team re-signed Badgley for the 2023 season but cut him in July.

Instead, the team opted for Riley Patterson last season. In 13 games, Patterson only missed two of 17 field goal attempts, but when the Memphis-product missed two extra point attempts within a three-game stretch, the Lions waived him in favor of Badgley, who had remained on their practice squad all year.

Once again, Badgely gave the Lions what they were looking for. Though, he too missed two extra point attempts in his four regular season games, Badgley was a perfect four-for-four on field goals. During the team’s run to the NFC Championship Game, Badgley was a perfect three-for-three on field goals and 11-for-11 on extra points. Despite this consistency, Badgley was rarely tested in big moments. Throughout the playoffs, head coach Dan Campbell repeatedly opted to go for it in long field goal scenarios.

The only other option currently on the roster is James Turner, an undrafted rookie from Michigan. A grad transfer for the Wolverines after four years at Louisville, Turner showed inconsistent production at the collegiate level. Turner missed eight field goals and two extra points in his sophomore season with the Cardinals. He never made more than 20 field goals in a season and only had a career-long of 50 yards, so he may not be the answer to Campbell’s hesitation from long distance.

The veteran free agent market is relatively bare. With many kickers already signed or re-signed, only Randy Bullock serves as an experienced option. The 34-year-old only appeared in six games for the Giants last year, though.

Another intriguing option in free agency, though, is Michigan Panthers kicker Jake Bates in the UFL. Bates signed with the Texans last year after going undrafted but was waived just prior to the preseason. This wasn’t extremely surprising as Bates didn’t kick any field goals in college. During time at Texas State and Arkansas, Bates was utilized singularly on kickoffs, utilizing leg strength gained in two seasons of college soccer at Central Arkansas. Finding his place in the UFL, though, Bates has taken the football world by storm.

Coming into a game today, Bates’ stats consisted of 15 made field goals out of 18 attempts. While the accuracy is admirable, what’s really impressive is his leg strength. His only three misses have come from over 50 yards, yet he is still six-for-nine from long distance. Of those six makes from 50+, three of those were from 60 yards or further. The young kicker doesn’t shy away from the spotlight either. Two of his makes have been game-winners, including a career-long 64-yarder to open the season. His 64-yard make is second to only Justin Tucker‘s 66-yarder in Detroit’s stadium.

That being said, Bates is still under contract with the Panthers and cannot communicate with NFL teams at the moment nor can his agent. Currently, the Panthers themselves are the only ones who can communicate with any interested parties, given their ownership of his contract.

Still, Bates to Detroit makes a lot of sense. The team has an expressed desire to bring in some competition at kicker and reached out to the Panthers already, and Bates has seen all of this kicking success come in the city of Detroit at Ford Field. Bates could be the long-distance answer that convinces Campbell not to go for it next year.

The Lions may have to wait for the close of the UFL season to acquire Bates but consider them a top candidate to land his services in 2024. If that plays out, Badgely could once again be relegated to a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency role, if he doesn’t find a new home altogether.

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