Cleveland Browns kicker Zane Gonzalez had an awful, terrible, no good, very bad day on Sunday, missing two field goals and two extra points in Cleveland’s 21-18 loss to the Saints. Minnesota Vikings kicker Daniel Carlson also had a poor day in Minnesota’s 29-29 tie with the Packers, missing a trio of field goals (including two in overtime), all from inside 50 yards.
The Pittsburgh Steelers also could be pondering a move – Chris Boswell hasn’t made a field goal yet this season, missing both of his attempts (one last week against the Browns, one this week against the Chiefs) and also missing an extra point against Kansas City on Sunday. However, his strong track record in Pittsburgh will likely keep him safe (for now, at least).
Another team that could be in the market for a kicker, at least on a part-time basis, is the Los Angeles Rams. Incumbent Greg Zuerlein injured his groin just before kickoff of the Rams’ game with the Arizona Cardinals, leading to punter Johnny Hekker filling in (and the Rams going for two following their first touchdown of the game).
There’s reason to believe that both the Browns and Vikings will move on from their incumbent kickers in the coming days – Gonzalez is in his second year out of Arizona State (and he made just 15 of 20 field goals last season), and Carlson is an undrafted rookie out of Auburn who beat out veteran Kai Forbath in August.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer also sent Carlson a message during preseason, going for two after a touchdown following a pair of missed field goals by Carlson.
“Just let him (Carlson) know that if he’s going to miss them (field goals), I’m going to go for two,” Zimmer said.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter also confirmed on Sunday afternoon that the Browns, Vikings, and perhaps Rams could be in the hunt for kickers, and named a bunch of possible options, including Forbath, long-time Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey, ex-Chief and Bear Cairo Santos, infamous Bucs second round flop Roberto Aguayo, and former Raider Giorgio Tavecchio.
Teams likely to be looking for kickers this week: Cleveland, Minnesota, Los Angeles Rams.
Top kickers on street: Dan Bailey, Cairo Santos, Sam Ficken, Roberto Aguayo, Jon Brown, Taylor Bertolet, Kai Forbath, Eddie Piniero, Georgia Tavecchio.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 16, 2018
None of these kickers really move the needle too much – Bailey is probably the best of the bunch, and he’s coming off the worst season of his career in 2017 (15/20 field goals made, two missed extra points in 12 games). Forbath had an up and down year for the Vikings in 2017, making 32/38 field goals, but missing five (FIVE!) extra points. Tavecchio made 16/21 and missed one extra point for Oakland a year ago, while Aguayo spent the year on the sidelines and Santos made four of five attempts on the season.
Rolling the dice with a younger kicker may also make sense, but the teams could run into the same issues they did with Gonzalez and Carlson. Penn State alum Sam Ficken hit two out of three field goals (and missed an extra point) for the Rams last year. Nick Rose split 2017 between the Chargers and Rams, and went 11/14 (with three missed extra points) in ten games. Long-time Charger Nick Novak needs a home after going 9/13 with a missed point after in seven games with the LA Chargers in 2017.
If the Browns and Vikings do want to make changes after two weeks, they definitely have options. Will those options actually be upgrades? That’s a far more difficult question to answer.