Veteran kickers Randy Bullock and Zane Gonzalez battled for the Lions’ starting kicker job during the 2021 preseason. Ultimately, neither was able to emerge with the victory in the battle to replace Matt Prater.
Bullock and Gonzalez combined to make all eight of their kicks during the preseason — four field goals and four extra points — but they had their share of issues during training camp practices.
Apparently, that was concerning enough that the Lions elected to release both players during their final roster cuts. As a result, they don’t have a kicker.
Is going kicker-less a bold, new strategy for Lions coach Dan Campbell? It doesn’t seem like it. Campbell downplayed the Lions’ absence of a kicker and indicated that the team’s 53-man roster was not yet finalized.
“I think what needs to be remembered here is (just because a player makes the initial 53-man roster) does not mean that this is who we’re riding with all the way through the season,” Campbell said Monday, per the Detroit Free Press. “There’s going to be some guys that are going to be on our team that aren’t even in the building yet. That’s probably going to happen. There’s a good chance that can happen.”
So, it sounds like the Lions will add another kicker to the fold. A few solid-looking options are available among the final cuts, including former Chargers kicker Michael Badgley, former Patriots kicker Nick Folk, former Panthers kicker Joey Slye and Ravens rookie Jake Verity. The Lions should be able to land one of them if they so desire.
Of course, the Lions could also opt to sign a kicker to their practice squad and call him up on game days. The Patriots did that early last season with Folk and also had Justin Rohrwasser on the practice squad. If the Lions want to save a roster spot, they could take that approach.
Either way, Detroit will need a kicker. In fact, it’s the first year in quite some time that the Lions have lacked stability at the kicker spot. Prater held down the role well after signing with Detroit as a free agent early in the 2014 season. The Lions struggled in the month before Prater signed, as Nate Freese and Alex Henery sputtered at the position.
Lions fans will hope to avoid a repeat of the Freese/Henry duo in 2021.
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