Jonathan Garibay

NFC West Notes: Cards, 49ers, Van, Hawks

Following the Chiefs’ lead, the Cardinals used a position player as their emergency kicker Sunday. Backup running back Eno Benjamin logged a kickoff for the Cardinals against the Panthers on Sunday. That arrangement, similar to the Chiefs’ usage of safety Justin Reid against the Cards in Week 1, will not persist past Week 4. With Matt Prater battling a right hip injury, the Cardinals worked out multiple kickers Monday.

Rodrigo Blankenship, Matt Ammendola — the Chiefs’ first post-Reid solution to fill in for Harrison Butker — Jose Borregales and Jonathan Garibay auditioned for the Cardinals, Aaron Wilson of tweets. Blankenship, whom the Colts turned to in their first full season without Adam Vinatieri, missed much of last year with an injury and was removed from his gig after struggling in Week 1 this year. Blankenship worked out for the Jaguars last week. Ammendola lasted two games as the Chiefs’ Butker fill-in, being cut after struggling in Week 3, while Garibay was part of the Cowboys’ kicking competition. The rookie UDFA did not make it out of training camp.

Ahead of Monday’s Rams-49ers matchup, here is the latest from the NFC West:

  • Although the 49ers turned to Jaylon Moore to replace Trent Williams in Week 3, Colton McKivitz will start against the Rams on Monday night. An ankle injury prevented McKivitz from replacing Williams against the Broncos, who pounced after the All-Pro’s exit, but he was the team’s swing tackle throughout the summer. With Williams facing a four- to six-week recovery timetable, McKivitz may have the blindside gig for a bit. The 49ers let 2021 swing tackle Tom Compton sign with the Broncos, but McKivitz — who filled in for Williams in a do-or-die Week 18 tilt in Los Angeles — has been with the team since arriving as a 2020 firth-rounder.
  • The 49ers have made a few changes at the slot cornerback spot over the past several weeks. After Darqueze Dennard entered camp with the job, rookie Samuel Womack supplanted him and led to the 49ers releasing the veteran. Deommodore Lenoir has since replaced Womack, with Kyle Shanahan indicating the 2021 fifth-rounder played ahead of the 2022 fifth-rounder due to superior practice work recently, Matt Barrows of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Lenoir played 29% of San Francisco’s defensive snaps last season but likely does not have a firm grip on the job over Womack, who impressed during training camp, just yet.
  • Staying on the subject of 49ers corners, Shanahan expressed optimism Jason Verrett would practice this week. Verrett’s practice window opens ahead of Week 5, with the 49ers carrying the injury-prone vet on their reserve/PUP list. Should Verrett prove recovered from his September 2021 ACL tear, Barrows notes a starting job should not be ruled out. Verrett played well as a 49ers starter in 2020, showing form that enticed the team to re-sign him in 2021 and this year. Emmanuel Moseley‘s past in the slot could allow for a transition, forming a Verrett-Mosley-Charvarius Ward trio, if Verrett is healthy.
  • Sean McVay did not seem to expect Van Jefferson to miss a third of the season, but that will happen. The Rams placed Jefferson on IR ahead of their Week 3 game, but McVay is adamant the third-year wideout did not suffer a setback upon returning from arthroscopic knee surgery, Sarah Barshop of tweets. Jefferson’s IR move was more about roster construction, and The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue adds (via Twitter) the Rams expect their WR3 to be back when first eligible in Week 8 (following the team’s Week 7 bye).
  • Seahawks cornerback Tre Brown will not be ready to return when first eligible to come off the team’s PUP list. Pete Carroll confirmed the third-year corner remains a few weeks away, via’s Brady Henderson (on Twitter). Brown missed last season’s first five games and was down for their final seven, with a Nov. 21 knee injury leading to the latter hiatus. Seattle’s cornerback room has changed considerably since Brown last played; it will be interesting to see what role the 2021 fourth-rounder will play upon returning.

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/23/22

Tuesday marked the day teams were forced to cut down from 85 to 80 players. Here are the moves teams made made to reach the new maximum. Players who land on the reserve/PUP or reserve/NFI list must miss at least the first four regular-season games.

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Dallas Cowboys

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Commanders

Cowboys To Bring Back K Brett Maher

The Cowboys’ Tuesday kicker workout has concluded, and it will lead to a transaction. The team will circle back to Brett Maher, Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News tweets.

Dallas’ kicker from 2018-19, Maher spent last season with the Saints. Kicking in eight Saints games last season, Maher lasted longer than New Orleans’ other batch of Wil Lutz replacements did last season. And the Division II product will attempt to secure a second Cowboys stint that lasts into the regular season. Maher went 16-for-18 on field goal tries during his eight-game Saints run — one that ended in February when the team released him.

To make room on their 90-man roster, the Cowboys are waiving rookie Jonathan Garibay. The Texas Tech UDFA struggled during training camp. Tuesday’s transactions will bring about a competition between two inexperienced 30-something specialists. Both current Cowboy kickers have kicked in Canada. Hajrullahu, 32, played in the CFL from 2014-19; Maher, also 32, did so from 2013-16 and again in 2018.

Maher, who joined Matt Ammendola and Cole Murphy in Tuesday morning’s workout, will vie with Lirim Hajrullahu to succeed Greg Zuerlein as the Cowboys’ kicker. Dallas cut Zuerlein in March, leading him to the Jets. The team initially cut Maher back in 2019, signing Zuerlein not long after, but the parties will link up again.

Maher, 32, did not kick in 2020, though he remained a workout-circuit fixture, but his late-2010s Dallas tenure was one of the more memorable short kicker stints in recent memory. Maher’s 63-yard field goal as a Cowboy in 2019 represents a team record. He made two other 60-plus-yard tries, making him the only kicker to boot three field goals from beyond 60 yards in NFL history. The Cowboys, however, ousted him after he made 66% of his 2019 attempts (20-for-30).

Cowboys To Work Out Brett Maher, Matt Ammendola, Cole Murphy

The Cowboys moved on from two-year kicker Greg Zuerlein this offseason and introduced a competition between far less experienced specialists. Said competition appears to be generating some unease.

Struggles from both Lirim Hajrullahu and Jonathan Garibay will bring the Cowboys to work out some replacement options. Brett Maher, Matt Ammendola and Cole Murphy are coming in for a Tuesday workout, Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News notes. Maher, of course, has a Dallas history. He operated as the Cowboys’ kicker from 2018-19.

Garibay resided as the team’s lone kicker for much of the offseason; Hajrullahu arrived July 1. Garibay has struggled throughout camp, per Gehlken, who adds he missed seven of his 11 field goal tries during Saturday’s practice. Despite having just four games on his resume (all in 2021), Hajrullahu is going into his age-32 season. Garibay is a rookie UDFA out of Texas Tech.

The NFL’s lone kicker with three 60-plus-yard field goals — all coming during his time with the Cowboys — Maher resurfaced last season. He was part of the Saints’ Wil Lutz solution, one of four kickers to be classified as such last year. Maher, 32, made 88.9% of his field goal tries in eight games with the Saints. He was 10-for-12 on extra points. The Saints waived the ex-CFL leg in February.

Ammendola, 25, kicked in 11 Jets games last season — his first NFL action. The Oklahoma State alum made just 68.4% of his field goal attempts and was 14-for-15 on PATs. The Jets cut him in March. He also auditioned for the Jaguars last month. Murphy, who kicked at Syracuse from 2014-17, has not played in an NFL regular-season game.

After Maher’s late-season struggles in 2019, the Cowboys moved on. They gave Zuerlein a three-year, $7.5MM deal in 2020 but dropped him in March of this year. Zuerlein has since replaced Ammendola with the Jets. Considering the underwhelming Hajrullahu-Garibay competition, it would be a slight surprise if one of these available kickers was not added after Tuesday’s workout. With Hajrullahu going 8-for-8 against a live rush Monday, it might be Garibay whose job is at stake here.

Cowboys Expected To Add To K Competition

The Cowboys currently have just one kicker on their roster, but that could change in the near future. According to ESPN’s Todd Archer, Dallas will, “in all likelihood,” add to the position before training camp next month.

The Cowboys signed Jonathan Garibay as an undrafted free agent this offseason, making him the starter by default at this point. He will have the opportunity to replace Greg Zuerlein, whom the team released in March. The veteran ultimately signed with the Jets, further limiting the experienced options available to Dallas as they look for competition. Archer notes that the USFL could provide an answer, along with, of course, kickers let go by their current teams.

Garibay enjoyed a productive final college season at Texas Tech. He made 15 of 16 field goals, including a 62-yarder, the longest made kick in the FBS in 2021. He earned First-Team All-Big 12 honors as a result. The former Red Raider has drawn praise from head coach Mike McCarthy in the early stages of his NFL career. “You can definitely get a feel for his ability,” McCarthy said, adding that Garibay is “off to a good start.”

Archer names Chris Naggar as a candidate to be brought in for training camp. The 21-year-old was signed by Dallas to a futures contract in February, but released last month. His lone NFL game came last year with the Browns, so he would essentially be on level terms with Garibay in terms of experience. Nevertheless, it would come as little surprise if the Cowboys were to add one or more other kickers by July as they look for more consistency at the position heading into another season filled with high expectations.

Cowboys Add 20 UDFAs

The Cowboys had one of the biggest UDFA classes in the NFL, signing 20 undrafted rookies to contracts:

Bell got a chunk of money to join the Cowboys, receiving $215K in guaranteed money, per PFF’s Doug Kyed (on Twitter). The Florida A&M product missed the 2020 campaign but returned for the 2021 season, finishing with 95 tackles and a pair of sacks. Bell has shown some ability to play on both sides of the ball, making him an intriguing prospect (and, presumably, a good fit for special teams).

Aaron Wilson of tweets that Empey got $110K in guaranteed money. The lineman was a four-year starter at BYU, although injuries limited him to only 15 combined appearances between the 2020 and 2021 seasons.