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How will Rams handle kicker position this season?

The practice squad may be the best way to keep the competition open into mid-september

NFL: AUG 29 Rams Scrimmage Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Not many teams are going through what the LA Rams are going through with their kicking competition right now, but they aren’t completely alone — and that also serves as a reminder that whatever decision the Rams do make, there will be teams waiting to sort through the leftovers.

On Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed kicker Ryan Succop, a veteran who had made 86.6-percent of his attempts with the Tennessee Titans in the five years prior to him going 1-of-6 in 2019. He will compete with Matt Gay in the final days of training camp because that’s what you can do in a kicker competition; you can add and remove players from it at the flick of a Bic.

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said he’s looking for a kicker who won’t miss “the ‘gimmes’.” After waiving Elliott Fry to make room for Succop, the Bucs will make either the veteran or the second-year Gay — who missed five extra points and two field goal tries that were under 40 yards in 2019 — available again on Saturday.

And the Rams will have more options to sort through once they’re done sorting through the three that they currently have on hand.

Austin MacGinnis

Los Angeles Rams Training Camp Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The least considered of the three, MacGinnis has AAF and XFL experience but this has been his first go around with an NFL team after leaving Kentucky in 2018. At times he seemed like he could be in second place in the competition (the truth is we don’t know the true rankings for Sean McVay at this point though) but hasn’t stood out and wasn’t drafted.

Sam Sloman

Los Angeles Rams Training Camp Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Sloman was drafted, but barely. Only seven more players went after him before everyone shutdown their laptops on the virtual draft. Sloman proved to have a strong leg after making both of his 53-yard attempts in the most recent scrimmage, but he seems to be inconsistent on the “gimme” kicks from what we’ve heard out of camp and the warm up to the season.

Lirim Hajrullahu

Los Angeles Rams during a scrimmage NFL football game a SoFi Stadium.

Maybe the favorite going into camp and certainly the favorite a week ago, Hajrullahu has six years of CFL experience and was twice named an All-Star. So he’s got something to draw back on in terms of knowing what it’s like to be paid money for critical kicks with a bunch of people watching; which may or may not matter because plenty of good kickers didn’t have six years of experience in the CFL.

If Hajrullahu didn’t make the Rams though, he does seem the most likely to be picked up for a trial with another team. And that should impact how McVay decides the competition both this week and if he has to re-evaluate the winner of that job after a couple of games.

This year’s unusual circumstances mean that teams can keep 16 players on the practice squad and it would not be surprising to see Los Angeles hold onto two placekickers until further notice. Maybe that is overkill but if McVay has liked all three enough to keep them until now, would he want to keep testing out the two who don’t make the final 53?

What other options will he have and what other options will the teams searching for kickers have?

The Bucs are surely a candidate to keep their kicker competition open even after the season begins. The Titans are holding a competition between Greg Joseph and Tucker McCann that is apparently “neck and neck,” but Tennessee also brought in veteran Stephen Hauschka recently and they’re next trying out Stephen Gostkowski. This also serves as a great opportunity to remind people that even a kicker tryout means waiting five days until you can actually sign that player and have him in-house because of COVID-19 testing protocols.

So having a kicker on the practice squad already will give the Rams an advantage to not have to wait five days to bring in someone new.

The Indianapolis Colts could be leaning towards Rodrigo Blankenship over Chase McLaughlin, the New England Patriots drafted Justin Rohrwasser but then signed Nick Folk and he’s done much better during training camp, potentially opening up another intriguing young option if the veteran wins the job. And the Chicago Bears created a kicking competition by signing Cairo Santos in late August and he may have beaten out incumbent Eddy Pineiro.

All of which is to say that there are a few kicking competitions out there and there will be a number of notable names available to Los Angeles should they need it, including veterans Hauschka and Gostkowski for the moment. Hauschka has gone 22-of-28 on kicks in each of the last two seasons, but missed a few “gimmes” including two extra points in 2019, as well as 1-of-5 on kicks over 50. Gostkowski went 2-of-5 from 50+ in his last full season with the Patriots and was only 11-of-15 on extra points in 2019.

The Rams will continue to evaluate the three kickers they have in-house now, as well as the many kickers who will be available both this upcoming weekend and after a few weeks of the season has transpired. It may best suit them to keep the kicking competition open into mid-September with the practice squad, assuming nobody comes and steals any away, which is another thing they’ll have to be aware of —

As well as if there’s any kickers they want to steal from another team.