Green Bay Packers

Gutekunst Isn’t Satisfied With Green Bay’s Kicking Situation

Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers have promised to be in on every conversation regarding player acquisition.

Brian Gutekunst scored two big-name free agents, safety Xavier McKinney and running back Josh Jacobs. However, the phrase doesn’t just refer to big-name players. Wherever Gutekunst sees a way to improve his team, he makes a call.

That includes the kicker competition, which is already a three-way battle between incumbent Anders Carlson, veteran Greg Joseph, and intriguing newcomer Jack Podlesny. Gutekunst sought to add Jake Bates, the UFL Michigan Panthers kicker who caught attention for a 64-yarder in the UFL season opener (which was very rude, as it caused a St. Louis Battlehawks loss).

Ultimately, Bates went to the rival Detroit Lions on a two-year deal. While the Packers didn’t land this one, it shows they’re still willing to consider other options. Where does Green Bay’s kicking battle stand, and could the Packers look at other UFL kickers?

Bates was a kickoff specialist in college who hadn’t attempted a field goal since high school. So when he nailed that 64-yarder in Week 1 against St. Louis, even after an icing attempt, all eyes were on him.

The 64-yarder was a personal and league record, but Bates wasn’t a one-hit wonder. He made another 60-plus-yarder the following week and had a field goal of over 50 yards in six games. In the playoffs, Bates went 4 for 6 and finished the season with 21 out of 26 field goals made. Unsurprisingly, Bates was the spring league’s All-UFL kicker.

From that first bomb, it was clear that Bates would get a shot at an NFL team. Green Bay was interested, but now Bates will get the chance to continue kicking in Ford Field.

Drafting kickers is becoming unpopular in the NFL due to the opportunity cost and risks of handing the reins to an inexperienced player. Green Bay’s recently drafted kicker, Carlson, is one of many rookie kickers who had a rough inaugural season.

I believe the UFL is an excellent solution for teams in need of a new long-term kicker. The spring league is already ideal for players to make their name known and build a film resumé. For kickers especially, it provides a tangible, high-stakes kicking experience in a much more NFL-like environment than college. In addition, the NFL has adopted the kickoff rules from the UFL, giving those kickers a slight advantage in this upcoming season.

If the Packers do want to sip from the UFL well, Bates isn’t the only NFL-worthy kicker from that league.

Bates got the spotlight for distance, but Andre Szmyt of the Battlehawks might be the total package. Szmyt’s 19 field goals led the league, and his 90% success rate was third. He was one of three UFL kickers to have at least one 60-plus-yarder. With the influx of players getting a chance with NFL teams this week, it won’t be surprising to see Szmyt get a shot soon. Could it be with the Packers?

Matt LaFleur hasn’t committed to taking all three kickers into training camp, and the interest in Bates shows the team is still looking to elevate the competition.

LaFleur said Carlson has responded well to the competition and had a solid spring. Thus far, no one has fallen behind or flat-out won the job, which is good news for Carlson. While I wrote that the Packers need to make the hard choice if it looks like Carlson can’t handle the job, the desired outcome is still for their chosen kicker to win the spot.

And Bates’ most well-known skill, leg strength, is something Carlson has in spades. There may have been doubts about Carlson even before his rocky season, but his distance was never one of them. Carlson has a powerful leg and the ability to boom them like Bates. Accuracy is where he needs to improve.

So, bringing in a kicker like Bates could be an interesting type of competition for Carlson. Here’s a lad with your skillset who’s proven himself in crucial games. It would be a testament to Carlson’s mindset and resilience to compete with someone like Bates, traits his coaches have lauded on multiple occasions.

We won’t get to see that particular battle. Detroit might offer a more probable route for Bates to become a starting kicker, and he may prefer kicking in a dome. Still, it won’t be surprising to see the Packers try to add another big-legged kicker into the mix between now and July. Szmyt would be an intriguing choice, and there are still other high-level UFL and UDFA kickers to look at it.

Bates would have made an exciting what-if for the Packers. Regardless, the ideal hope is that Carlson overcomes his rough rookie season and develops into Green Bay’s next decade-long kicker. His leg strength, resilience, and potential are there, waiting to be unlocked.

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The best general managers are constantly looking for ways to improve their roster. Brian Gutekunst has been quoted multiple times saying that roster building is a 365-day-a-year […]

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