Keep an eye on the kicker situation in Philadelphia. Jake Elliott owns one of the better legs in the league as evidenced by the five-year extension the Eagles handed him last year. He’ll forever be remembered for arguably saving the Super Bowl season when he nailed a 61-yarder to beat the Giants.
But everyone has a shelf life, right? According to NFL reporter Aaron Wilson, the Eagles brought in veteran kicker Lirim Hajrullahu for a workout last week. The 30-year-old is a two-time All-Star and Grey Cup champion in the Canadian Football League (CFL). He spent training camp with the Los Angeles Rams before losing the starting job and getting released on Sept. 4.
“This is a perfect combination for myself to get in,” Hajrullahu said, via the Rams’ official website. “I’ve had professional experience, I’ve played in big games and I believe I can compete with the best of them.”
Former CFL all-star kicker Lirim Hajrullahu to work out for the Philadelphia Eagles, per a league source
— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) October 14, 2020
Hajrullahu, a Kosovo-born refugee who fled to Canada at age 8, is a dual-threat punter and kicker who nailed the game-winning field goal for the Toronto Argonauts in the 2017 Grey Cup (CFL’s version of the Super Bowl). He has connected on 239-of-287 (83%) in 107 games, including a career-long of 56 yards. Hajrullahu also has boomed 651 punts for 22,961 yards — that equals 35.3 net, or 44.1 gross.
Born in #Kosova, Lirim Hajrullahu was 8 years old when war erupted and his family fled to Canada as refugees.
After 6 CFL seasons, two all-star nods and a Grey Cup, he gets an NFL shot. The Los Angeles Rams are signing the Albanian kicker.
— Team Albanians (@TeamAlbanians) April 14, 2020
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Curious Move to Work Out New Kicker
The decision to bring a kicker in for a workout looks suspicious on the surface, especially considering Elliott’s popularity and success for the Eagles. He’s a beloved specialist (and fan favorite) who was recently locked up to a $20 million contract.
Yes, Elliott has struggled this season: the 25-year-old is just 1-for-4 on field goals over 50 yards, plus he missed on a 57-yarder versus Pittsburgh and a 52-yarder versus Baltimore. Elliott has now gone a disappointing 5-of-13 (38%) on field goals over 50 yards dating back to 2018.
But he remains in good standing within the organization and special-teams coordinator Dave Fipp gave him a huge vote of confidence. He has connected on 71-of-79 (90%) from under 50 yards for his career while going 10-of-19 (53%) on kicks over 50 yards in 53 career games.
“No, I’m not concerned at all with Jake. You can paint any picture you want,” Fipp told reporters. “Obviously, this year he hasn’t connected on as many as we’d like to connect on from that 50-yard range. He’s 100 percent from all his kicks underneath 52-yards. I think there’s a lot of guys that would like to be there right now.”
Special teams coordinator Dave Fipp "not concerned at all" about Jake Elliott. Career-wise: he's hitting at 60%-plus at kicks over 50 yards. Under 50 yards, he's hitting at 90%. The sample size this year hasn't been great but he has no concerns. #Eagles #FlyEaglesFly
— Michael Greger (@mike_greger) October 20, 2020
“It’s been a wild ride,” Elliott said after inking his extension. “From getting plucked off the practice squad a couple of years ago to signing this deal, it means a lot to me. They’ve shown they have confidence in me. But it’s still the same job, and I’m going to keep pushing.”
Possible Insurance Policy for COVID-19
One theory floated out there (h/t Bleeding Green Nation) is maybe the Eagles are working out specialists as insurance policies against a positive COVID-19 test. Remember, the on-boarding process for free agents is six days as they need to clear testing and protocols before being allowed to be rostered.
That means the Eagles might be out of luck if Elliott or punter Cameron Johnston went down during the week. They have would no options to replace them on special teams. Since Hajrullahu had already conceivably cleared COVID-19 testing, then they could slide him right in case of an emergency. It’s actually a genius move.
With onboarding process for FAs now taking 6 days, Eagles really should use a couple of their open PS spots to add specialists. If someone gets hurt during practice or even the previous game, there might not be time for an outside replacement to clear protocols.
— Greg Richards (@igglesnut) October 10, 2020
Again, Fipp made it clear he has no designs to replace Elliott.
“I’m really comfortable with Jake,” Fipp said. “You might not be and that’s fine and everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. We can all paint the picture we want with our own brush. You can focus more on this year’s 50-plus kicks, but at the end of the day to me, four kicks is not a huge sample size.”
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