Jake Bates

Lions Expected To Sign UFL Kicker Jake Bates

TODAY, 9:05am: Bates will be inking a two-year deal with the Lions, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

FRIDAY, 10:00pm: The NFL interest in UFL kicker Jake Bates has been no secret over the past several weeks. Bates has been taking the football world by storm in his season with the Michigan Panthers out of Detroit. Now, it’s seeming like he’ll get a chance to play for the city’s NFL team as Aaron Wilson of KPRC 2 reports that the Lions are expected to add the big leg to their roster.

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, using 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.

Bates started off the season extremely hot, making 15 of 18 field goal attempts, before eventually cooling off to end the season going 21-for-28 on field goals. While the initial accuracy was admirable, what really made an impression was his leg strength. Of his seven misses, five were from over 50 yards, yet he still ended the season seven-for-12 from long distance. Of those seven 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. He did miss a 53-yard game-winning attempt in the team’s regular season finale, though.

Bates has received interest from a few NFL teams, but because of his contract with the UFL squad, he was unable to sign with anyone until the team’s season came to an end. With Bates’ Panthers losing to the Birmingham Stallions last weekend, the window will soon open for Bates to sign. Wilson reports that any official deal won’t be signed until Tuesday of next week. Aside from the Lions, Bates recently visited the Packers and Commanders, per Wilson. The Ravens were also listed as a team of interest, and Wilson notes two other teams showed interest, as well.

Whenever Bates does arrive in Detroit, he will be in competition with the Lions’ incumbent kicker Michael Badgley. Badgley took over late in the season for Riley Patterson, who served as the team’s kicker for 13 games last year. In replacement duty, Badgely went four-for-four on field goal attempts, though he did miss two extra points. 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.

That answer could come, though, in the form of Bates. With his first opportunity to placekick last year, Bates caught everyone’s attention with early accuracy, a strong leg, and a clutch ability in big moments. If he can carry that early success into his first NFL season, he should stand a solid chance at beating out Badgley and Turner for the job in 2024.

Commanders, Lions, Packers, Ravens Interested In K Jake Bates

As expected, Jake Bates‘ UFL season has generated NFL interest. A number of teams are in on the recent spring/summer league specialist, whose previous NFL path did not include any game action.

The Michigan Panthers kicker has received interest from the Commanders, Lions, Packers and Ravens, according to KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson. All four teams have requested meetings with Bates, per Wilson, and ESPN.com’s John Keim notes the Commanders will be the first team to host the young specialist. That meeting is set for today.

Washington’s kicker need formed recently, after the team released offseason pickup Brandon McManus after a lawsuit alleging sexual assault emerged. The Commanders have already signed kicker Ramiz Ahmed, but the Washington Post’s Nicki Jhabvala notes the team is looking to hold a competition between the recent signee and another option. The team also auditioned Andre Szmyt on Tuesday, per Jhabvala. Szmyt kicked for the UFL’s St. Louis Battlehawks this season.

With the UFL’s regular season ending, NFL teams are free to hold workouts. UFLers can be added next week, after the league’s weekend championship game. Considering the success the Cowboys have enjoyed with USFL players in recent years — including All-Pro kicker Brandon Aubrey, a summer 2023 addition — several of the new UFL’s top players will land opportunities to attend NFL training camps. Bates will almost definitely be one.

Bates, whom the Texans cut after barely a week during training camp last year, caught attention for making multiple 60-plus-yard field goals early this season. This included a 64-yarder. The long-range makes placed the Michigan kicker back on the NFL radar, and his second chance figures to feature a more thorough look. That said, Bates proved shakier down the stretch of the UFL season. He missed field goals five field goals over the Panthers’ final four games; that followed a two-miss performance in an April Michigan-Memphis matchup. Overall, Bates went 21-for-28 on field goals this season.

The Lions were connected to the in-state UFL team’s kicker early during the season, and the team used multiple kickers (Riley Patterson, Michael Badgley) in 2023. Detroit re-signed Badgley this offseason and added UDFA James Turner. But the team has been looking into adding another piece here, and Bates’ leg strength certainly caught attention.

Anders Carlson remains the frontrunner to kick for the Packers, but special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia mentioned a potential spring league addition (via The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman) before training camp. Green Bay’s roster already houses two other kickers — Greg Joseph, Jack Podlesny — so a Bates addition would certainly be interesting from a roster-allocation standpoint ahead of training camp. Carlson went 27-for-33 last year but missed four extra points and then missed a kick in the Packers’ narrow divisional-round loss to the 49ers.

It would obviously surprise if Bates ended up in Baltimore, given that the Ravens employ arguably the best to ever do it. Justin Tucker is going into his 13th NFL season. Bates, 24, stands to land somewhere soon. His Houston work last summer does not make it a lock he will be one of the 32 kickers in Week 1, but the UFL work will give him a shot.

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.

Extra Points: Onside Kick, 18-Game Season, Olympics, UFL, Lions

Since the rule change that prevented running starts on onside kicks came to pass in 2018, the onside kick has been rendered largely irrelevant. The league greenlighting an experiment involving the XFL-style kickoff will further tilt the odds toward receiving teams, as onside kicks now must be declared in advance. Teams were 2-for-41 in onside kicks last season and 3-for-56 in 2022. The Eagles’ proposal to replace the onside kick with a fourth-and-20 play failed, just as similar offerings have in the recent past. but competition committee member Rich McKay hopes some momentum for this alternative will build in 2025.

There was a lot to do to get the kickoff proposal passed this year, so I’m for that next year,” McKay said (via the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin) of further discussion on the fourth-and-20 option. “There’s no question that, I call them the traditionalists, they don’t like that discussion very much. But I do think there’s something to discuss there. Because we’ll have another year of onside kick data, which I bet you shows us we’re not recovering very many.”

The NFL has made a few changes over the past decade to inject more drama into on-field sequences, allowing two-point conversion returns and moving the extra point back. The kickoff change qualifies as a far more radical effort; this effort going well in 2024 could open up discussion on the fourth-and-20 option a year from now.

Briefly shifting gears from draft-geared content, here are more recent news to come out of the pro football universe:

  • The NFL also recently moved its trade deadline back a week, though multiple teams championed a proposal to slide the deadline back two weeks. Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio recently connected these proposals to a future in which the NFL pushes its regular season to 18 games. Some around the NFL view that as likely, though Florio does not expect this long-rumored topic to become a front-burner matter until the next CBA (the current deal expires after the 2030 season). New NFLPA president Jalen Reeves-Maybin did not dismiss the idea outright. “I think that people are kind of running with it right now cause it slipped out there,” Reeves-Maybin said, via the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett. “But I think there’s a lot of other things to gain, and when that time comes, we’ll address that.” If/when this becomes a bargaining point, further expansion to the schedule will likely require a major concession from the NFL.
  • More momentum has emerged for NFL players to participate in the flag football program when it debuts at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics. Discussions between the league and the union have begun, and NFL executive VP of football operations Troy Vincent said (via the Sports Business Journal’s Daniel Kaplan) he expects players to be permitted to play in the Olympics.
  • The USFL and recent XFL incarnations have sent players to the NFL; the Cowboys carry two Pro Bowlers (Brandon Aubrey, KaVontae Turpin) from the USFL. The new UFL has produced a player to monitor early. Michigan Panthers kicker Jake Bates, who has made a 64- and 62-yard field goals already, has drawn interest from multiple teams, per the Detroit News Tony Paul. The Lions have reached out to the Detroit-based UFL club, Paul adds. NFL teams can contact UFL clubs about players, Birkett adds, but they are not supposed to contact players directly. The Cowboys added Aubrey after last year’s USFL season; Bates cannot join an NFL team until the UFL’s season wraps. Until this UFL season, Bates — a Central Arkansas soccer player and Texas State kickoff specialist — had not made a field goal in a game since high school. The Texans waived him after barely a week last year, but this UFL start certainly puts him on the radar for another NFL opportunity.

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/12/23

Saturday’s minor moves:

Cleveland Browns

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Las Vegas Raiders

New England Patriots

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Hayes was signed one week ago as the Lions were dealing with injuries in the secondary, but he will now be on the lookout for another new team. The 25-year has appeared in 13 career regular season games while bouncing around the league.

The Raiders added one ex-Chiefs running back in Damien Williams yesterday, and they have done so again today. Thompson was part of the Chiefs’ Super Bowl-winning squad in 2019, and remain with the Chiefs the following season. He made 31 combined regular and postseason appearances in Kansas City, but he has yet to see game action since 2020. Especially until Josh Jacobs returns to the Raiders, Thompson will aim to earn a depth role in the Vegas backfield.

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/1/23

Here are Tuesday’s minor moves:

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

  • Signed: RB Toriano Clinton, TE La’Michael Pettway, T Dan Skipper
  • Waived: T Jordan Murray, TE Kaden Smith, DT Jamal Woods

Las Vegas Raiders

New England Patriots

  • Claimed (from Bears): WR Thyrick Pitts
  • Placed on reserve/retired list: WR Jalen Hurd

New York Giants

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks

Chosen in the third round by the 49ers back in 2019, Hurd never ended up seeing regular-season action. A converted running back who played in front of Alvin Kamara at points while at Tennessee, Hurd transferred to Baylor and became a wide receiver. Two season-ending injuries — a back malady in 2019 and an ACL tear in 2020 — derailed Hurd’s 49ers tenure. The team cut him during the 2021 season. Barely a week after the Patriots signed Hurd, it appears he is throwing in the towel on an injury-plagued career.

Penisini had unretired this offseason, joining the Panthers. The former Lions sixth-rounder played two seasons on his rookie contract but called it quits in June 2022. His unretirement will precede a Panthers exit. The Lions are moving Zylstra off their 90-man roster due to a severe knee injury. If unclaimed, Zylstra would revert to Detroit’s IR list. Zylstra has seen action in 17 games for the Lions over the past two seasons.

Hassenauer will require surgery to repair a triceps injury, and this transaction will shut him down — as far as the Giants are concerned. The only way Hassenauer can play in 2023 would be if the Giants removed him from IR via an injury settlement. Hairston suffered a herniated disk during practice, per KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson (on Twitter).