Cowboys Sign Possible Replacement for Struggling Starter vs. 49ers

Jerry Jones

Getty Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones walks onto the field before an NFL game.

Help is on the way for the Dallas Cowboys amid the struggles of kicker Brett Maher as the team is signing Tristan Vizcaino to the practice squad ahead of the rivalry showdown versus the San Francisco 49ers, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. The move potentially creates competition between Maher and Vizcaino going into the Divisional Round matchup.

“The Cowboys plan to sign kicker Tristan Vizcaino to the practice squad, pending physical, per source,” Pelissero tweeted on January 18, 2023. “Team officials have said the plan is to stick with Brett Maher after Monday night’s extra-point fiasco. But now they have insurance.”

The news comes despite the Cowboys insistence that the team plans to stick with Maher as Dallas advances in the playoffs. It will be worth watching to see if the Cowboys elevate Vizcaino to the active roster on gameday. Vizcaino played three games this season with short stints in New England and Arizona.

The veteran was perfect the last time he attempted kicks for the Cardinals in November notching three extra points and two field goals against the Rams. Additionally, Vizcaino has had stops with the Chargers, Bills, Vikings and Bengals during his NFL career. The specialist also had a brief tenure with the Cowboys in 2020 before ultimately being released.

Jones: ‘Setback to Go Into the Rest of These Playoffs With Shakiness at Kicker’

Maher missed four straight extra points against the Bucs before hitting his final attempt, but head coach Mike McCarthy maintained that his job was safe heading into San Francisco. Owner Jerry Jones pivoted from his initial position strongly backing Maher in the hours following the Cowboys’ win in Tampa to leaving the door open for a possible signing just one day later. During a January 17 interview with 105.3 The Fan’s “Shan and RJ,” Jones referred to signing a free-agent kicker this late in the season as “doable.”

“This is a classic case of looking at what he’s done for this team and done on the field all year, not just last night,” Jones explained when discussing a decision on Maher’s future. “And, so, but kicking is a technical thing. It has everything to do with the – just frankly mentally having it all together when you step up there. And, so, we’ll read this thing as the week goes along. I don’t want to get ahead of it.

“I thought when came out at halftime, watched him warm up out there. He was making all the kicks. I figured that was behind him, but we will take a look at it. We can’t, it would really be a big setback to go into the rest of these playoffs with shakiness at kicker.”

Should Cowboys Fans Be Concerned by Signing?

There are two ways to look at the Vizcaino signing with the most obvious explanation being insurance behind Maher. The second possibility is more troubling as it could indicate Dallas has not been happy with Maher in the days following the shaky Wild Card round performance.

The Cowboys previously indicated that the team planned to evaluate the kicking situation throughout the week, but Dallas just began practicing on January 18 which is the same day the move was made. Regardless, it is alarming to hear special teams coach John Fassel admit his belief that Maher is dealing with the yips as the playoffs continue.

“I don’t know what it is, but I believe in the Yips, and I believe in the hot hand,” Fassel said during a January 17 press conference. “And he had a hot hand, let’s face it, only missed four kicks all season: a P.A.T. [extra point], a 49-yarder and two 57-yarders. And then, the Yips happened, so I’d expect a hot hand coming up. And then Levi’s Stadium, in my experience there, is not an easy place to kick. There’s grass, there’s probably some conditions and there’s definitely [a] wind factor. So, let’s go. What else would we want?”