James Turner

Packers Claim K James Turner

Perhaps the Packers will indeed go into training camp with three kickers. After the team waived Jack Podlesny to bring its kicker count to two post-minicamp, another specialist is now on the roster.

Green Bay submitted a successful waiver claim for James Turner on Thursday, per NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo. The Lions waived Turner to make room for UFL addition Jake Bates. Turner will join Anders Carlson and Greg Joseph on the Packers’ 90-man offseason roster.

While Podlesny was given a reserve/futures deal in January, Turner entered the league as a UDFA months later. He spent the past four years as a primary kicker, first at Louisville before a final season at Michigan. Turner’s transfer allowed him to kick for the national championship-winning Wolverines last season.

Turner served as Louisville’s primary kicker from 2020-22 before using his COVID-19 year of eligibility at the Big Ten program. Turner made 90.9% of his field goal tries during his final season at the ACC school (20-for-22); he connected on 85.7% of his tries (18-for-21) with the Big Ten program. While Turner struggled with the Cardinals in 2021, his past two years served as a rebound of sorts. Turner showed enough to secure an offseason commitment from the Lions, but the UFL’s Michigan team ended up affecting the NFL club’s kicker setup.

The Packers used a sixth-round pick on Carlson last year, and he replaced 16-year kicker Mason Crosby. Counting the playoffs, Carlson missed six extra points last season and misfired on four field goals in the regular season’s second half — before missing a 41-yarder in a three-point divisional-round loss to the 49ers. The Packers added Joseph in late March.

A recent rumor about the Packers considering a three-kicker training camp competition lost some steam with the Podlesny move, but Green Bay will use Detroit’s recent UFL addition to keep that reality in play.

Minor NFL Transactions: 6/18/24

Today’s minor moves:

Atlanta Falcons

Detroit Lions

Miami Dolphins

  • Waived: WR Mathew Sexton

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

  • Signed: G Liam Fornadel

New York Jets

  • Signed: OL Kohl Levao

Jones-Smith brings six games of experience to Atlanta, with the offensive lineman seeing time with the Raiders (2020) and Ravens (2021). The majority of his career snaps have come on special teams. He’ll provide the Falcons with some OT depth behind Jake Matthews and Kaleb McGary.

The Lions officially added former UFL kicker Jake Bates to their squad, so the team moved on from an undrafted kicker to make room. Turner spent four years at Louisville before joining Michigan for the 2023 campaign. He had a standout season for the Wolverines, converting 18 of his 21 field goal attempts and 65 of his 66 XP tries.

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.

Lions Sign 15 UDFAs

The Lions came away with five rookies over the course of the draft. The 2024 event’s hosts have added to that group with 15 undrafted players. Here are Detroit’s rookie free agent signings:

  • Jalon CalhounWR (Duke)
  • Steele ChambersLB (Ohio State)
  • Duke Clemens, OL (UCLA)
  • Kingsley Eguakun, OL (Florida)
  • Chelen Garnes, S (Wake Forest)
  • DaRon Gilbert, LB (Northern Illinois)
  • Hogan Hatten, LS (Idaho)
  • Bryan Hudson, OL (Louisville)
  • Nate Lynn, DL (William & Mary)
  • Morice Norris Jr.CB (Fresno State)
  • Isaac RexTE (BYU)
  • Loren Strickland, S (Ball State)
  • James TurnerK (Michigan)
  • Isaac UkwuDL (Ole Miss)
  • Isaiah WilliamsWR (Illinois)

Williams secured one of the largest guarantees in the league amongst undrafted rookies. The 5-9 speedster received $225K of locked in base salary in addition to a $15K signing bonus, Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 reports. Williams began his college career as a quarterback, but over the past three seasons he served as a key member of the Fighting Illini’s passing attack. The 180-pounder recorded 82 catches in 2022 and ’23, totaling a career-high 1,055 yards and five touchdowns last year.

The Lions finished the 2023 campaign with Michael Badgley as their kicker, and he was re-signed earlier this offseason. The 28-year-old entered Friday as the only kicker on Detroit’s roster, but Turner will provide offseason competition. The latter spent his first four seasons at Louisville, converting 79.7% of his field goal attempts. That figure rose to 85.7% with the Wolverines in 2023, and Turner connected on all but one of his extra point kicks

Like Williams, Chambers switched positions midway through his college tenure. He started his time with the Buckeyes as a running back, though he only received 28 carries across the 2018 and ’19 seasons. The move to linebacker prompted a spike in playing time, and Chambers increased his tackle total with each passing season over the last three years. In all, the 6-1, 220-pounder racked up 208 stops, three sacks and four interceptions; he will aim to translate that production into at least a special teams opportunity in Detroit.