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Rams should solve kicking problems by signing this free agent

Texans K Ka’imi Fairbairn should be a priority if Houston lets him test free agency

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Even though I expect the Los Angeles Rams to go the cheap route on special teams this offseason, because that’s what they’ve always done since Sean McVay became the head coach, I will still continue to encourage the team to give kicker slightly more than a passing thought this time around. The Rams suffered at kicker in 2020 and 2023, both times opting to go with players that no other teams wanted and cycling through a lot of bad choices.

L.A. got lucky with Matt Gay in 2020 and that took a lot of pain to get to him. They should avoid pain this year and target someone like Ka’imi Fairbairn if they get even the slightest chance to do so.

Who is Ka’imi Fairbairn?

A native of Hawaii, Fairbairn—whose full name is: John Christian Ka’iminoeauloameka’ikeokekumupa’a Fairbairn—kicked for four years at UCLA.

He connected on 76.4% of his attempts, including over 80% in his last two seasons.

Undrafted in 2016, Fairbairn made the Texans in 2017 and has been Houston’s kicker ever since. He led the NFL in makes and attempts in 2018 (37-of-42) and he’s progressively gotten better every year: Fairbairn made 93.5% of his kicks in 2022, then beat that by making 96.4% of his kicks in 2023, although he missed five games.

Fairbairn went 27-of-28 on field goals and 21-of-22 on extra points. He also has good accuracy from deep, going 11-of-12 on 50+ attempts over the past two seasons.

Despite his quad injury, Fairbairn returned from IR this season and was as good as ever.

Who do the Rams have?

It’s fair to say that the Rams might not bring back Brett Maher again. Splitting time between Maher and Lucas Havrisik, the Rams went 32-43 on field goal attempts: Maher made 74% and Havrisik made 75%. Maher went 3-of-7 beyond 50 yards.

They both missed extra points: 3 for Havrisik and 2 for Maher.

Indications are that L.A. won’t keep either, as the Rams officially brought back Tanner Brown this week. He was the kicker going into camp, but the undrafted free agent lost the job during the preseason.

What will Fairbairn cost?

The going rate for a top tier kicker these days is between $5-$6 million per season. Nobody will likely make as much as Justin Tucker, the NFL’s best ($6 million), but we could see Fairbairn get $5.5 million per season or more.

Will the Rams do that? Well, they let Gay leave to sign a $5.6 million per season contract with the Colts. Gay went 33-of-41 this season, which isn’t great, but he went 8-of-13 beyond 50 yards and 35-of-36 on extra points. The Rams would have had a better kicker if they had kept him, that’s for certain.

Another former Rams kicker, Greg Zuerlein, went 35-of-38 for the Jets and 15-of-16 on extra points. That’s right, the Jets kicker only had 16 extra point attempts.

As it happens, Zuerlein is also a free agent and is more likely than Fairbairn to not be tagged or extended. Will the Rams entertain a reunion?

Other free agents include Will Lutz, Nick Folk, Chase McLaughlin, Greg Joseph, and Joey Slye. You could argue that all five are better than who the Rams have had.

There are options besides Fairbairn, ones who might not cost as much. But what is it worth to McVay to not miss critical kicks in 2024? Hopefully for the Rams sake, they’re willing to spend more than the minimum.