Cowboys in Free Agency Talks With a ‘Familiar Face’ and Ex-Jets Starter: Report

Mike McCarthy

Getty Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy looks on during a practice.

Although the Dallas Cowboys have encouraged a training camp battle the past two weeks, it appears as if free agency reinforcements are needed.

The Cowboys needed to move on from Greg Zuerlein after a lackluster 2021 season, but the team has taken its time in finding its next starting kicker. Jonathan Garibay was added as an undrafted free agent after the 2022 NFL draft, while Lirim Hajrullahu was brought back to the team in July.

Now, the Cowboys are looking at three new names, including former Dallas kicker Brett Maher. According to Dallas Morning News reporter Michael Gehlken, the team is set to try out three kickers at practice on August 9.

“Cowboys to work out three kickers Tuesday, including Brett Maher, two people familiar with the tryout said,” Gehlken Tweeted on August 8. “An answer to the weekend question is coming.”

Blogging the Boys’ David Howman followed Gehlken’s reporter and stated that the two other kickers trying out are former New York Jets kicker Matt Ammendola and Cole Murphy.

The battle between Hajrullahu and Garibay has been well documented, but for the wrong reasons. Neither have impressed since the competition has began, and now Dallas is having to consider a wider pool of options just weeks before the regular season is set to begin.

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Background on Free Agency Potentials

Maher is a familiar name for Cowboys fans, as the 32-year-old was the surprise starting kicker for Dallas in 2018 and 2019 after the team moved on from longtime kicker Dan Bailey. While Maher did maintain the job for the better part of two seasons, fans likely don’t look back at his time fondly.

Maher made 74.2% of his attempts while in Dallas according to PFR, worse than Zuerlein, the kicker who replaced him. He was out of the NFL during 2020, but popped back up with the New Orleans Saints in 2021. Maher made 16-of-18 field goal attempts and 10-of-12 PAT tries as a Saint.

Ammendola got his first NFL chance last season with the Jets, but did not impress. In 11 games, the former Oklahoma State kicker made 13-of-19 field goal attempts while also making 14-of-15 PATs. Ammendola did not play for the Jets after Week 11.

Cowboys Kickers Struggling in Camp

To put Garibay and Hajrullahu’s performance into perspective, the latter had the first “perfect” practice of training camp on August 8, several days into the program. Before Hajrullahu’s performance on Monday, neither kicker had made every attempt in a single session.

This is partially due to the winds and climate in Oxnard, California, but the goal is to have a kicker that can make attempts in unideal situations. Utilizing Gehlken’s stats and math, Hajrullahu has made 50 kicks on 59 attempts (84.7%) and Garibay has made 33-of-58 attempts (56.9%).

Hajrullahu’s percentage is better than Zuerlein’s successful kick attempt rate of 82.9%, but not by much. Having a kicker be a liability is something Dallas must avoid in 2021, and that rate isn’t necessarily guarantee a spot.

While the wind is a factor in California, the real issue is that “live” kick attempts in training camp are supposed to be much easier and feature less pressure than in-game attempts. If the Cowboys’ options aren’t impressing, it’s hard to see either Hajrullahu or Garibay making the jump once the regular season starts.

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