The Dallas Cowboys made their first moves toward identifying a starting kicker this week when they signed placekicker Brett Maher to compete for the job.
With the signing, the Cowboys also waived local favorite Jonathan Garibay. Lirim Hajrullahu is also on the roster and in the running after the Cowboys released former kicker Greg Zuerlein early in the offseason.
Maher knows his way around in Dallas as he previously kicked for the team in 2018 and 2019. Maher was released in his final season with the Cowboys after going 1-4 in two weeks. He was most recently with the New Orleans Saints last season, where he completed 16 of 18 in eight games.
Despite his unceremonious exit from America’s Team, Maher holds the record for the four longest field goals in team history, including a 63-yarder against the Philadelphia Eagles. He finished his time in Dallas with a record of 49 of 56.
Hajrullahu was with the Cowboys during training camp in 2020, though it was widely known that Zuerlein would be the eventual starter. Zuerlein spent the 2020 offseason undergoing and recovering from back surgery. Hajrullahu was brought on for one game last season to fill in for Zuerlein due to COVID-19 restrictions. Hajrullahu did not attempt a field goal in that game but completed five PATs on five tries.
Garibay came to the Cowboys from Texas Tech, where he was a reliable kicker who scored a game-winning 62-yard field goal to defeat Iowa State. In camp with the Cowboys, his numbers have been deplorable.
“Cowboys QB Dak Prescott hypes crowd for 33-yard Jonathan Garibay FG attempt. And the miss deflates them,” tweeted Dallas Morning News sportswriter Michael Gehlken from Cowboys camp on August 6. “Garibay has missed four straight FGs today. He’s 4-of-11 for today. Hajrullahu is 8-for-11. Camp competition been a runaway.”
Cowboys QB Dak Prescott hypes fans for 39-yard Jonathan Garibay FG attempt. And the miss deflates them. Garibay has missed four straight FGs. He’s 4-of-11 for today. Lirim Hajrullahu is 8-for-11. Camp competition been a runaway. pic.twitter.com/iefHQy7fP5
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) August 6, 2022
Before releasing Zuerlein, the Cowboys signed a reserve/futures contract with placekicker Chris Naggar. The Arlington, Texas, native was a successful punter and placekicker at the University of Texas and Southern Methodist University. Naggar was released on May 13 and is now a free agent.
The kicking competition is now between two veteran players with lots of experience in crucial moments. The position is critical this season, as the Cowboys lost several games last year on the difference of points left on the field from missed field goals and extra point attempts, including on opening night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The first preseason game of 2022 will be August 13, when the Cowboys travel to face the Denver Broncos. Both Maher and Hajrullahu may likely see action as the team looks to quickly narrow down the competition and begin preparing for the regular season.
The Cowboys’ kicker on opening night will undoubtedly be a new face this year, but the opponent will not. For the second consecutive season, the Dallas Cowboys open against the Buccaneers, who are once again led by quarterback Tom Brady.