This is one of the rare areas that I have remained steadfast in my criticism of Joe Douglas. Otherwise, I’m a huge fan of the Jets general manager. I don’t understand his unwavering loyalty to Sam Ficken and I probably never will.
My most recent suggestion was to take a flyer on former Arizona Cardinals kicker Zane Gonzalez, but since it doesn’t seem like there’s any movement on that front, it’s time to keep spitballing until we figure out Douglas’ next plan.
Many NFL franchises have multiple kickers battling for a job in training camp, so perhaps the wily GM is hoping someone of interest shakes free. Here are the best waiver claim options for the Jets to monitor during training camp.
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3. Los Angeles Chargers
The Los Angeles Chargers have brought in a couple of kickers to compete with starter Michael Badgley. Entering his fourth year in the league, Badgley has steadily declined. The kicker has gone from a 93.8 field goal percentage as a rookie to a 72.7% last season.
He dealt with a groin injury in 2019 but had fewer excuses in 2020. Despite all of that, Badgley is still the likely Chargers starter when all is said and done. His greatest competition is 2021 undrafted prospect Alex Kessman, who could be worth a look on waivers if Jets UDFA Chris Naggar continues to struggle.
The former Pittsburgh Panther, Kessman, was the only UDFA placekicker that outbid Douglas’ signing of Naggar, although the Jets dished out more guaranteed money.
Does that mean he’s a candidate for Gang Green? Not necessarily, Kessman’s 71.9 career field goal percentage in college was worse than Naggar’s but he did have four years of experience while the SMU product only had one. His best season was his senior campaign, hitting 79.3% of kicks with a 58-yard long.
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2. Cincinnati Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals jumped at the opportunity to draft top 2021 kicking prospect Evan McPherson in the fifth round of the NFL draft. The Florida Gators product ended up being the only kicker selected this season, and he definitely earned it in college.
McPherson was known for his accuracy at Florida, drilling 85% of field goals and 99.3% of extra points. The Bengals will do everything in their power to have the rookie win this job, after spending such a high pick on the young talent. That means veteran Austin Seibert could easily become available.
Here’s the big question, is Seibert an upgrade on a Ficken or Gonzalez? The former Oklahoma Sooner was a solid prospect in his own right in 2019. He doesn’t have a huge leg which could downgrade him in Douglas’ eyes but he did once have an accurate pedigree.
After a decent rookie season with the Cleveland Browns, the former fifth-rounder flamed out fast in year two when the Browns inexplicably cut him heading into Week 2. Seibert does offer NFL experience if Ficken disappoints.
Some quick honorable mentions include the Tennessee Titans who are rolling with two NFL newcomers, 2020 practice squad rookie Tucker McCann and 2021 UDFA Blake Haubeil. The loser might be an option on waivers.
Another team to look at is the Indianapolis Colts. Rodrigo Blankenship is the starter but Indy snagged failed Chicago Bears prospect Eddy Pineiro. The latter actually had decent numbers with Chicago in 2019 but injuries cost him his starting job after that. If the Colts let him go, Douglas could bet on talent here with Pineiro.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I was actually slightly surprised that Douglas didn’t go after 2021 undrafted free agent Jose Borregales, who I felt kind of fit the Jets GM’s style. The rookie has a strong leg (57-yard long) and a high-energy personality that could mesh well under Robert Saleh.
After transferring from FIU to Miami in 2020, Borregales had his best season hitting 90.9% of field goals and 100% of extra points. His career percentages in college were 80.5% (FG) and 98.2% (PAT).
The defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers also have veteran Ryan Succop, who helped win them a title. Bucs GM Jason Licht may try and hold onto both, securing the present and future with the pair, but if either slip to waivers they should immediately become Douglas’ top target at kicker.