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Progress Report: What Future Holds For Zuerlein


(Editor's Note: With over 20 players set for unrestricted free agency, the Cowboys' roster is destined to look much different in 2022. Still, a large percentage of their roster is already in place, and they'll have plenty of work to do to improve last season's 12-5 record. In the coming weeks, the staff of will evaluate those players already under contract, examining their past performance and future outlook. Today, we continue the series with kicker Greg Zuerlein.)

The Good:When Zuerlein really needed to make kicks, he was able to. That's the good part of his season and really his entire career. Zuerlein has been a clutch kicker with plenty of big kicks. In 2022, he drilled a 56-yarder to beat the Chargers on the road in Week 2. He also hit a 49-yarder in the rain in New England to force overtime in an eventual win. Zuerlein hit a 45-yard field goal in the final seconds to force overtime against the Raiders on Thanksgiving, although Las Vegas won the game with its own field goal. Zuerlein also made a 48-yard kick in the final two minutes in Tampa Bay in Week 1 to give the Cowboys the lead, only to see Tom Brady drive down the field for the win.

The Bad: Plain and simple, Zuerlein struggled with extra points. He missed six throughout the season, to lead the NFL. Among the top 25 kickers last season, the average extra-point misses by kicker is 1.8, with five of them making every single extra point. But Zuerlein's six misses were problematic and somewhat odd, considering he was 15-of-16 on field goals from 30-39. Overall, Zuerlein missed six field goals, and half of those were over 50 yards out. But the six extra-point misses added up, especially later in the season.

Best Of 2021: His best moment occurred in Los Angeles in Week 2 against the Chargers. Zuerlein had a roller coaster game in Week 1 in Tampa Bay, with an extra point miss, and another missed field goal. He then rebounded with a clutch fourth-quarter kick to take the lead. So the next week in LA, Zuerlein was still being scrutinized for his performance in Tampa, but he not only made his extra points and field goals during the game, but hit the 56-yarder as time expired to give the Cowboys their first of 12 regular-season wins.

Contract Consideration: Zuerlein still has another year on his contract, which is actually the same salary and cap charge as 2021. His $2.25 million base salary is the majority of his $2.8 million cap hit. If the Cowboys were to release him, they'd save his $2.25 million off the books. Zuerlein currently ranks 17th in the NFL in average salary per year.

What's Next: The Cowboys will likely enter the offseason and probably training camp with Zuerlein on the roster. His cap value isn't too high for a veteran kicker with his experience. But like all positions, the Cowboys will look to have their best option on the field. They did sign kicker Chris Naggar to a futures contract. The former SMU product should be here this offseason and could be a competition for Zuerlein in camp. But for Zuerlein to be back, he'll have to ease the team's concerns on his ability to consistently make kicks, especially the mid-range field goals and extra points.

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