It feels like now is the time, more than ever, for the Cowboys to consider spending a draft pick to solve the problem at kicker once and for all — having again finding themselves at square one
FRISCO, Texas — Stop me if you've heard this before: the Dallas Cowboys need a kicker. There's a reason you didn't stop me, of course, and it's because this has unfortunately become sort of an annual (or very near it) dance in the years following the release of legendary kicker Dan Bailey.
It's been a carousel of boots brought in to be long-term answer at the position since that fateful decision in 2018, of both the veteran and the youthful variety, and it's included revisits with familiar faces in the hopes of solving the issue only to eventually discover it wasn't solved at all.
As the 2023 NFL Draft approaches, you have to wonder if the Cowboys are now ready to spend one of their beloved draft picks at the position, but let's be clear: that's not something Dallas is usually comfortable doing.
They drafted only two kickers in the Jerry Jones era — Nick Folk in 2007 and David Buehler in 2011 — neither delivering the goods (likely making Jones gun shy going forward) and the latter being beat out by and undrafted kicker by the name of … you guessed it… Dan Bailey.
But while Bailey proved a legend can be found in UDFA, time has proven that's far from the norm, and maybe it is truly time to lean into the problem with a splash grab this April.
What Was Here (2022):
Lirim Hajrullahu, Jonathan Garibay — There is really no objective way to pleasantly describe the 2022 training camp battle between these two kickers, because it truly was an abject disaster. There were times when Hajrullahu, who was experiencing yet another attempt at sticking with the Cowboys, was able to string together some quality kicks but, overall, both he and Garibay (an undrafted rookie) put on a cringeworthy display in Oxnard that eventually led to yet another reunion with Brett Maher.
Brett Maher — There were many who wondered which version of Maher would show up last season: the one who set records for the Cowboys or the one who was sent packing because his inconsistency at mid to close range became too much to turn a blind eye to. As it turned out, it was the best version of Maher that suited up in the regular season — becoming one of the best weapons for the Cowboys in the process. The wheels fell off in the playoffs though, and the Cowboys are back at square one this offseason in [still] trying to find a true successor to Bailey.
Tristan Vizcaino — Remember I mentioned how the Cowboys have been stuck in a cycle of retreads? This fits that bill, with Vizcaino re-signing in Dallas with the hopes of sticking around for the long run. An undrafted NFL free agent in 2018, he'd initially join the Cowboys on a futures deal in 2020 only to be released in April of that same year. He became a journeyman thereafter — his career spanning 10 teams — and he's now back for another go in North Texas. Needless to say, a full-blown competition is needed at kicker and it would be unfathomable to allow Vizcaino to operate this summer without a counterpart challenging for the throne.
Top 2023 Prospects:
Jack Podlesny, Georgia — How's about a two-time national champion who routinely delivered on the biggest stage(s) in collegiate football on one of the biggest programs in the country? That'll do nicely, to say the least, with Podlesny entering this year's draft with a resume at Georgia that includes having been honored as a First-Team All-SEC talent and SEC Special Teams Player of the Year in 2022 — also the MVP of the Peach Bowl in 2021. His career low in PATs for the Dawgs was 98.6% in three seasons, and his career low in FG attempts? It was 81.3%, and that was as a freshman, so need I say more??
Jake Moody, Michigan — When it comes to kickers in particular, having proved themselves capable when the pressure is being applied by some of the largest football crowds in the country matters and it can often help them easily acclimate to similar challenges in the NFL. Not entirely unlike Podlesny, Moody hails from a place where former NFL head coach Jim Harbaugh calls the shots. Moody's chance at landing a natty was derailed in 2022, but he's not short of honors (i.e., Lou Graza Award winner, two-time Bakken-Andersen Kicker of the Year, two-time First-Team All-Big Ten, etc.). He can't boast the insane FG attempt accuracy numbers of Podlesny, but he's still very good in that arena and he's also never … literally never… missed an extra point at Michigan.
Chad Ryland, Maryland — It's not difficult to see how one of these three is unlike the other, considering Ryland isn't from one of the biggest programs in the country such as Georgia or Michigan, having done his work for the Terrapins instead in 2022, nor is he as decorated as is Podlesny or Moody; but what Ryland lacks in those arenas he makes up for with potential. A transfer from Eastern Michigan, where he spent four seasons before heading to Maryland, Ryland finished his collegiate career with an XP accuracy rate of 97.3% and after a slow start as a freshman in FG attempts, improved every year to average higher than 85% in his last three seasons — making him worth a late-round grab (or undrafted free agency) if the position isn't addressed before then.