Covid-19 ends Cowboys kicker comp before it starts, Forbath released

The Dallas Cowboys 2020 kicking competition was over before it even began. After struggling through a season and a half of Brett Maher missing more than one out of every four field goal attempts, it appeared the club was ready to let the best kicker win as they had not one, but two kickers with resumes entering the season. Maher had been anointed as Dan Bailey’s successor when it came to Cowboys kicking duties but 10 misses in 13 games led to his release in December 2019. The team signed Kai Forbath, who hit all 10 of his field goals (and all 10 extra points) and then promptly resigned with the team back in March.

The team then raised the ante, signing former Los Angeles Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein in the spring. Leading many to think there was going to be true competition for the role based on camp performance, but it will not be. Forbath was released on Saturday.

Forbath was expected to compete for the starting role with Zuerlein, who signed a $7.5 million dollar deal with the Cowboys in March. Now, he hits the free-agent market with a $137,500 signing bonus as a consolation prize.

As the only kicker on currently on the roster, it’s Zuerlein’s job going forward, and he has a pretty solid resume. The best stretch of his career was from 2016 to 2018 when he made 84 out of 93 field goal attempts. In 2017, he earned his only Pro Bowl and All-Pro nods.

Since entering the NFL in 2012, Zuerlein has hit on 201 out of 245 field-goal attempts (82%), however he only connected on a 72.7% clip in 2019 which was the second-lowest of his career. That’s why many assumed the team would wait to make sure Zuerlein was all the way back before releasing Forbath, but the NFL’s Covid-19 roster rules mandate teams be down to 80 players before camp practices start on August 17.

One reason for optimism about the Zuerlein signing is it reunites him with the Cowboys new special teams coordinator John Fassel who was hired in January. The Cowboys are hoping a fresh start and eight years of familiarity with an old coach can get Zuerlein back to being “Greg the Leg” like before.

Forbath has been an accurate place kicker over the last four seasons, nailing 89.9% of his kicks across stints with four different organizations. His downfall though is that his leg isn’t very powerful and that hinders him on kickoffs.

Over the same stretch, he’s had touchbacks on just 52.3% of his kickoffs. His career percentage is under 40%. Meanwhile Zuerlein has touchbacks on 73.7% of his kickoffs over the last four seasons. The Cowboys could use less forced-on-them drama on special teams, especially considering how potent their offense should be. Limiting return opportunities may be a key component.

—COWBOYS WIRE