Who'll Emerge As The Jets Kicker?
The New York Jets have found themselves dealing with a mini-crisis at the kicker position. Their initial choice at the position, Chandler Catanzaro, bailed on them following a poor preseason debut in which he missed two extra points. Then, the Jets watched Catanzaro’s replacement, Taylor Bertolet, have an equally bad outing in his first preseason appearance, also missing two extra points.
With the regular season closing in quickly, Joe Douglas and the Jets front office are without a doubt looking to solve their kicking problem as fast as possible. Can they find an answer before Week 1 comes along?
Here are a few players who could potentially emerge as the next kicker for the Jets.
Bailey has experienced a free-fall from the elite ranks of kickers in the NFL. Once the most accurate kicker in NFL history, he has seen his production dip over the last few years. Bailey’s fall has been so dramatic that his current team, the Minnesota Vikings, went out and traded a fifth-round pick to replace him. The kicker they acquired, Kaare Vedvik, has never kicked in a regular season game.
With the addition of Vedvik, it seems clear the Vikings will cut ties with Bailey sometime before the start of the regular season.
Given the success he has had in the past, Bailey could be of major interest to Douglas and the Jets once he becomes available.
Bailey was signed by the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma State in 2011. Over his first five seasons in Dallas, Bailey was phenomenal. He made 90.6 percent of his field goal attempts and did not miss a single extra point attempt. Through 2015, Bailey owned the highest career field goal percentage in NFL history among kickers with at least 50 attempts.
Things have changed over the last three seasons. Since 2016, Bailey has made only 78.8 percent of his field goal attempts, which ranks 32nd out of the 34 kickers with at least 40 attempts over that span. His total of 17 missed field goals is the second-highest total in the league over the past three years.
On the plus side, Bailey has remained solid on extra points. Though he has missed three extra point attempts over the past couple of seasons, Bailey still owns an extra point conversion rate of 97.7 percent since the distance change in 2015, which remains tied for the fourth-best mark in the league over that span.
Bailey is also capable of handling kickoff duties, though his ability to generate touchbacks has been well below-average. That shouldn’t be too much of a detriment, though. Since the touchback on kickoffs moved up to the 25-yard line, its value has declined greatly.
Douglas and company certainly have their eyes on Bailey as a potential target should he become available.
Bryant is perhaps the most curious case in the league at the kicker position. He was released by the Atlanta Falcons following a 2018 season in which he converted on a career-best 95.2 percent of his field goals. Although he is 44 years old, Bryant has remained an elite kicker throughout the entire 2010s decade. He is still without a team, even though he has publicly stated that he is still hoping to play in 2019.
Since 2010, Bryant has posted a field goal percentage of 86 percent or better in eight of nine seasons. He was perfect on extra point attempts in seven out of nine seasons, never missing more than two in one year.
In total, Bryant has made 89.3 percent of his field goal attempts since 2010, which ranks second-best among the 39 kickers with at least 100 attempts over that span. Only the immortal Justin Tucker has converted more frequently.
Since extra points were moved back in 2015, Bryant has made 97.7 percent of his point-after attempts, which ranks third-best among the 24 kickers with at least 100 extra point attempts over that span.
In addition to his age, there are a couple of minor drawbacks that come with Bryant. One is his injury propensity. Bryant missed five games in 2015 due to a quad injury, and missed three games in 2018 with a hamstring injury.
The other knock on Bryant is his lack of kickoff ability. Bryant has not handled kickoff duties in a longtime, and might not have the leg strength teams prefer to have in their kickoff specialists.
Regardless, Bryant has been an extremely reliable scorer for a long time running. While adding him may have a small negative effect on the kickoff game, he would instantly solve the placekicking proble. Not only would he patch the hole, but he could potentially elevate the team to elite status in that phase.
Any NFL fan is going to cringe at the thought of having Parkey on the team after watching his dreadful miss in the NFC Wild Card round last year, which sent the Chicago Bears home and the Philadelphia Eagles to New Orleans.
However, there are a few reasons I could see Parkey as the potential man for the job in New York. Number one, he has a connection with Jets head coach Adam Gase. That matters – punter Matt Darr is competing in camp thanks to his connection with Gase in Miami.
Parkey made a career-best 91.3 percent of his field goal attempts as a member of Gase’s Dolphins in 2017. Following that performance, he received a hefty deal in free agency from the Bears.
As all football fans are aware, that deal did not go very well for Chicago. Parkey made only 76.7 percent of his field goals, while also missing three extra point attempts. He had an unbelievable knack for missing off of the posts. In the playoffs, that tendency continued at the wrong time, as he would miss what has already become one of the most infamous kicks in NFL history – the double-doink.
The second reason Parkey could land the job is his kickoff ability. Parkey has a very strong leg on kickoffs, as he was able to generate a touchback on 73 percent of his kickoffs for the Bears last season.
As mentioned previously, teams do value having a kickoff specialist with power. This is something that could give Parkey an edge over Bryant or Bailey.
Each of the three aforementioned names are seasoned veterans, but my fourth name to keep an eye on is a younger player.
Slye, only 23 years old, has been a preseason star so far for the Carolina Panthers. He has made all five of his field goal attempts, kicking from an average distance of 44.0 yards (well above the NFL average of about 37 yards).
Impressively, Slye hit on both of his attempts from 50-plus yards, making kicks from 55 and 54 yards. He also made a couple of attempts in the 40-49 yard range, canning a 42-yarder and a 40-yarder.
In addition, Slye knocked through both of his extra point attempts. It’s nothing remarkable, but perfection in the extra point game has been hard to come by for the Jets so far this preseason.
Slye kicked for Virginia Tech from 2014-17 before going undrafted. He spent some time in camp with the Los Angeles Chargers last season, but was unable to catch on to a regular season roster.
Now, Slye’s impressive performance with the Panthers in the preseason has him in line to land a job.
Most likely, that job will not be coming in Carolina. The Panthers are most likely going to stick with veteran kicker Graham Gano, meaning there is a good chance that Slye’s future takes place somewhere else.
Could that place be MetLife Stadium?