Free agency is here, but the majority of the 2019 roster is already in place. In the coming weeks, DallasCowboys.com will feature players who are currently under contract for next season, analyzing their past season and their future prospects.
Today, we continue the series with kicker Brett Maher.* What's Been Good:* Maher pulled off the shocker of training camp by beating out former special teams captain Dan Bailey -- top five all-time in career NFL field goal percentage -- for full-time kicking duties. The 28-year-old Maher went to Cowboys camp five years earlier but had never kicked in an NFL regular-season game and had spent 2015-17 in the Canadian Football League. The Cowboys trusted their eyes, though, and decided Maher's preseason work (combined with a more cap-friendly contract than Bailey's) warranted a roster spot. Maher had more highs than lows in 2018. His 29 made field goals ranked eighth in the NFL. He tied the Jets' Jason Myers last season (and Bailey in Cowboys history) for most field goals of at least 50 yards (6-of-7 attempts). He won NFC Special Teams Player of the Week twice, and he set career highs with four field goals in two early-season wins over Detroit and Jacksonville.What's Been Bad: Kickers make their money on those critical attempts from 40-49 yards, and Maher was a little less consistent there. He tied for 11th in the league from that distance (7-of-11) and finished 25th in total field goal percentage among qualified kickers (29-of-36, 80.6 percent). He went 6-of-10 over the final six games, including playoffs, though he didn't have an attempt in the divisional-round loss to the Rams.
2018 Highlight: Maher's leg strength is among his best traits -- he knocked home a 57-yarder in his final preseason audition at Houston -- and delivered again in December against NFC East rival Philadelphia. Maher made 3-of-4 field goals in the Cowboys' emotional overtime win, including a 62-yarder that would turn out to be the second-longest kick in the league last season. He also had touchbacks on 4-of-5 attempts and even made a special teams tackle.
What's Next: Maher is signed through 2019, and without another kicker on the roster right now, signs point to him entering camp with the job intact. Though his accuracy can improve, his leg strength is a major asset with the Cowboys having the option to play their eight home games at AT&T Stadium indoors.
How did Brett Maher fare in his first season after the Cowboys made a stunning training camp decision? We take a look in our latest Star Evaluation.
Bryan Broaddus' Bottom Line: This might sound a little crazy, but the news of Dan Bailey being released during training camp was almost as surprising as us releasing Quincy Carter during camp in 2004. It was something you never gave much thought until it actually happened. My initial reaction was "Why?" To be honest, I never knew that Bailey's job was really in the balance and I was expecting business as usual for the upcoming season. That wasn't the case. I remember calling the Houston game on the radio, and when Maher made the 57-yard field goal I thought to myself, "Some other squad should take a look at him." Maybe this was the point of the evaluation that tipped the scales in Maher's favor with the front office and staff. Maher did have a good camp with the exception of the miss in San Francisco. You could see the leg strength in camp, so for him to make the number of long field goals that he did during the season was not a surprise. The surprise was the number of short attempts that he missed, which, at the time, was cause for concern. Overall, Maher did a nice job of replacing a legend in Dan Bailey. Where he's going to need to improve is the consistency we expected from Bailey. If Maher can do that, then this move -- as shocking as it was -- will be viewed in time as the right one.