Jake Bates again proves why he's potential missing piece for Lions in 2024

The Detroit Lions need help at kicker, and Michigan Panthers' standout Jake Bates continues to prove himself worth of a shot.
Rick Osentoski/UFL/GettyImages

The Detroit Lions are fresh off the 2024 NFL Draft, and while some definite strides have been made, one gaping hole remains.

The kicker spot has not been acceptably upgraded this offseason. While Michael Badgley was re-signed, the Lions did not make a subsequent move in the draft. Former Michigan kicker James Turner was signed as an undrafted free agent, but that clearly wasn't enough to address arguably Detroit's biggest roster issue.

A solution continues to show itself close to home, in the form of Michigan Panthers' UFL standout Jake Bates. This past weekend Bates showed off his strong leg again, booting a 60-yard field goal through the uprights at Ford Field.

As if that wasn't enough, Bates also showed himself to be cool under pressure by drilling a game-winning 42 yard field goal for the Panthers.

All-told, Bates was an impressive 5-5 in the game. Whether from distance or close up, Bates is proving he is nearly automatic. This season alone, Bates has drilled kicks from 64, 62, 60, 55 and 52 yards for the Panthers.

When time is right, the Lions must act quickly to get Jake Bates

After a few months of fantastic performances, it's clear that Bates is going to have NFL teams calling him. Field goal issues are something plaguing the NFL, and Bates has shown he has the distance and accuracy that franchises will covet.

The Lions, or any other team who will have interest, has to wait until the UFL season is over before they can sign Bates (June 17 is the day after the league's championship game). Sheer proximity should allow them to get an early offer, if not the first offer, in to him. They cannot allow themselves to be outbid, and maybe he'll want to stay in Detroit.

At this point, Badgley is only the kicker by default due to lack of other options. His shortcomings from longer distance (outdoors, especially) may legitimately impact in-game strategy during big moments in big games. Brad Holmes promised competition for Badgley right after signing him, then came the signing of Turner, who arguably was not even the top UDFA kicker available.

If the Lions still want him and can get him, Bates will obviously have to come in and beat Badgley out for the job. But he could provide the Lions with a weapon at kicker they have lacked since Jason Hanson and Matt Prater.

As the weeks go by, Bakes continues to show he could be the missing piece for the Lions next season.

Next. 4 biggest winners for Detroit Lions after the 2024 NFL Draft. 4 biggest winners for Detroit Lions after the 2024 NFL Draft. dark