The Rams have been working with kicker Greg Zuerlein almost exclusively since they drafted him in the sixth round in 2012. Zuerlein signed with the Dallas Cowboys as a free agent this offseason, then signed two non-NFL free agents and made another pick, drafting a kicker in the seventh round last month. The LA Rams are one of only two teams in the league right now who have three kickers on the roster, the other being the Buffalo Bills, so how exactly could this competition shake out?
On the Roster
The Rams took Sloman with the 248th pick of the draft out of Miami of Ohio. NFL.com did a good job of summing up his high school and college career:
High school kickers are not often given credit for helping their team win a state title. However, Sloman deserves that recognition after making 20-of-23 field goal attempts (long of 53 yards) and converting all 51 extra point tries as a senior at Pace Academy in Georgia. He made only one of three field goals (long of 31 yards) as a true freshman at Miami (Ohio) but was the team’s kickoff specialist (12 touchbacks on 54 kickoffs). Sloman became the starter as a sophomore and was the team’s Special Teams Player of the Year (12-16 FGs, long 45; 35-36 XPs; 21 touchbacks on 58 kickoffs). Redhawk coaches did not give him many field goal opportunities as a junior (10-13-76.9, 41-42 XPs) but he did create 42 touchbacks on 63 kickoffs. Sloman finished his career on a crescendo, garnering second-team All-MAC notice in 2019 by converting 26-of-30 field goals (86.7 percent, 4-5 from 50 yards or more) and all 34 extra point tries (52 touchbacks on 75 kickoffs).
Sloman has a strong leg but went 0-of-5 on kicks of 50+ as a sophomore and junior, compared to 4-of-5 on those kicks as a senior. Is he going to have the long range accuracy he had as a senior or will those previous misses come back and bite him?
You can watch his kicking workout here. (Embed not available.)
The Rams signed Hajrullahu out of the CFL, where he was an All-Star in two of the last four seasons.
Hajrullahu went 47-of-55 on field goal tries in 2019 with a long of 56. For his career, he’s made 83.3% of his 287 attempts over six seasons. He drew interest from the league in 2019 but ended up returning to Hamilton, but the team released him this year so that he’d be able to freely negotiate and sign with an NFL team in 2020
MacGinnis was signed shortly after Hajrullahu. From Alabama, MacGinnis kicked at Kentucky and he holds several major kicking records there. He went undrafted in 2018 and spent a little time in camp with the Chicago Bears during the spring. He was 9-of-11 in the AAF and 10-of-10 in the XFL.
Depth Around the NFL
Teams often find their kickers in September and October when other organizations give up on players early. It is not uncommon for some of the game’s best kickers to have been seen as practically worthless and expendable early in their careers. Or late in their careers. It’s a very funky position. Below are some examples of teams that will have to part with a kicker of note. I am not including every team that has two kickers on the roster and it does not mean there aren’t other depth options.
Bills - Stephen Hauschka, Kaare Vedvik, Tyler Bass
The Ravens drafted defensive lineman Broderick Washington in the fifth round this year because the Vikings wanted Kaare Vedvik last year. They waited Vedvik before the season even started. He kicked one game for the Jets and was awful. But there’s been hope that the Norwegian is special enough to figure it out. But that’s not all, as Buffalo drafted Bass in the sixth round, 188th overall, an exceptional college kicker from Georgia Southern.
Vedvik is almost certain to finish third here, I think, but the loser between Hauschka and Bass could be the most attractive kicking option for teams in need come September. Hauschka has had some struggles in the last two years but has at times been an elite kicker. Bass went 114-of-116 on XP and 54-of-68 on FG during his career.
Jets - Sam Ficken, Brett Maher
Maher beat out Dan Bailey for the job with the Cowboys in 2018 and that’s essentially the start of why Zuerlein is in Dallas now. (Bailey went on to beat out Vedvik in Minnesota in 2019, making the Vikings trade for him pointless.) The Cowboys released Maher last season and he was picked up by the Jets on a futures deal. He’ll compete with Ficken, who you remember as filling in for Zuerlein a few times, and Ficken went 19-of-28 in New York last season, 23-of-26 on XP.
Ravens - Justin Tucker, Nick Vogel
Tucker isn’t going anywhere but when John Harbaugh gets a kicker or punter, I pay attention. Even if that kicker is Vedvik. Vogel went 128-of-131 on XP and 47-of-64 on FG during three years at UAB, including 19-of-23 last season.
Cowboys - Greg Zuerlein, Kai Forbath
We can assume that Zuerlein isn’t coming back (we assumed the same about Michael Brockers and that seemed even less likely) but what about Forbath hitting free agency again? He’s kicked for six different teams, including replacing Maher with the Cowboys last year. He went 10-of-10 on field goals (seven of those coming 40-49) and 10-of-10 on extra points. Forbath’s last full season was going 32-of-38 and 34-of-39 on XP with the Vikings in 2017. The next year, they picked up Bailey.
See how there’s like three teams involved in all of these rotating kicker moves? That’s where the LA Rams don’t want to be in six months, one year, two years.
Panthers - Graham Gano, Joey Slye
Graham Gano started his career in Baltimore, working with John Harbaugh, where he lost out to Steven Hauschka. Just wanted to include that first ...
He has spent the last eight years in Carolina but missed all of 2019 with a left knee injury. The Panthers signed Slye on August 1, one week after he was waived by the Giants, and he was not expected to make the final roster. He crushed it in the preseason though and won the job. Slye had ups and downs, but finished 25-of-32 (including 8-of-11 beyond 50) on field goals and 31-of-35 on extra points. He went undrafted out of Virginia Tech in 2018.
Gano went to the Pro Bowl in 2017 and kicked the NFL’s longest field goal (63 yards) in 2018.
Predicted Best Options: I’ll say that Graham Gano, Kai Forbath, and Tyler Bass become free agents. Of those, Bass obviously has the best long-term upside and that’s probably why he’d be difficult to acquire if he has a nice preseason. The Ravens have been known to keep multiple kickers before also. Gano carries injury and rust concerns but could be a Pro Bowl kicker, we know he has that talent. Forbath is fine, but not ideal, and most likely I’d assume the Rams will be happier with the winner out of their three options.
But if nobody stood out for LA, there are going to be a couple of attractive alternatives eventually.
Most recent: 14-of-17, 12-of-12 with the Patriots in 2019
Most recent: 17-of-25, 22-of-28 with the Colts in 2019
Most recent: 1-of-6, 24-of-25 on XP for the Titans in 2019 (six games)
Most recent: 7-of-8, 11-of-15 for the Patriots in 2019 (four games)
Who is your favorite option in house at kicker?
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Which external K option would you prefer over the in house options?
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