Lions must handle kicking competition differently after Jake Bates addition

The Detroit Lions added Jake Bates to their kicking competition, so they must handle things carefully in order to ensure they go into the season with the best option.
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The Detroit Lions made a notable offseason move late last week, signing UFL kicking phenom Jake Bates to a two-year deal.

After he made a 64-yard field goal in the Michigan Panthers' season opener, Bates felt like a a potential shoo-in option for the Lions. That buzz faded over the course of the UFL season, but it still made sense to give him a shot as other NFL teams naturally showed interest.

Last year, the Lions famously couldn't depend on any kicker to consistently hit from long range, which was their undoing in the NFC Championship. With full acknowledgement it was the UFL and the pressure will be way different in the NFL, Bates' leg strength is not an issue.

Bates now enters a competition that includes incumbent veteran Michael Badgley and undrafted rookie James Turner. By all accounts Turner outdid Badgley during minicamp. If there's a concern about Bates, it's his ability to be consistent from closer range. Before kicking in his first game for the Panthers, he also hadn't kicked a field goal since high school.

Either way, the kicking competition has to be real in order to give the Lions the best shot at solving one of the few remaining problems on their roster.

Detroit Lions can't simply hand Michael Badgley kicking job

If there's been one issue in the tenure of Brad Holmes and Dan Campbell, it's been the duo's inability to make sound decisions with the kicking game. From Austin Seibert to Ryan Santoso to Riley Patterson, none have really inspired confidence. Mistakes in judgement have compounded matters sometimes.

Last season, went with Patterson over Badgley out of training camp after they had dealt a draft pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars to re-acquire him. That was in spite of Badgley's late-season success in 2022. The decision proved to be a mistake, as the Lions eventually switched back to Badgley last season.

This time, Badgley can't be seen as the leader in the clubhouse sheerly due to his experience. The Lions need to have a genuine competition for the kicking job, with ability the No. 1 differentiator and no favoritism for experience. At this point, it's hard to tell if they will.

Whoever emerges, the Lions can solve their kicking problems to help give head coach Dan Campbell a legitimate option if the situation dictates. The addition of Bates just highlights how seriously Detroit must take their kicking competition from here to the start of the season.

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