Lions quickly inquire about UFL kicker who played hero for Michigan Panthers

It's not too surprising, but the Lions have reportedly already reached out to Michigan Panthers kicker Jake Bates.

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Over now three seasons, the Brad Holmes-Dan Campbell regime for the Detroit Lions has not quite figured out the kicker spot. The revolving door has slowed way down compared to Year 1, but the NFC Championship Game loss to the 49ers to end last season spotlighted that Michael Badgley has deficiencies that render him not an option in certain situations.

The Lions ran it back with Badgley, re-signing him before free agency started. But Holmes promised competition would be added, however obviously, and the competition should be more significant than it was a year ago. Alas, the depth of available veteran free agent kickers has been thinned out, if not completely spoken for.

The Lions dipped into the XFL last year for a kicker to compete with Badgley, inviting John Parker Romo to their rookie minicamp. The XFL and USFL have merged to form the UFL this spring, and the Lions are quickly tapping the spring football well for a kicking option.

Lions quickly reach out to UFL kicking hero

Saturday marked the start of the UFL's opening weekend, with the Michigan Panthers hosting the St. Louis Battlehawks. Panthers' kicker Jake Bates made a 64-yard game-winning field goal, inside Ford Field no less.

Lions fans jumped right in to give their endorsements of Bates.

According to Tony Paul of the Detroit News, the Lions are among multiple NFL teams who are already interested in Bates and have reached out to the Panthers. He will most likely finish the UFL season, of course. But even if he doesn't have any more 60-plus yard game-winners, a solid season will keep him on the radar of NFL teams.

Bates has had a winding road to get here. Prior to this 64-yard field goal, he hadn’t attempted a regular season kick since high school. He was strictly a kickoff specialist, for Texas State (2020 and 2021) and Arkansas (2022). Arkansas' kicker was Cam Little, who is one of the top kickers in this year's draft class, so Bates was blocked. But he owned his role, with 64 of his 75 kickoffs (an FBS leading 85.3 percent) going for a touchback.

Bates also played two seasons of soccer at Central Arkansas.

Bates kicked in the 2023 preseason opener for the Houston Texans, then he was waived two days later.

Paul also passed along a notable tie between the Lions and the Panthers. Panthers general manager Steve Kazor was a long-time scout for the Los Angeles Rams (2007-2022), as Holmes climbed the latter in that organization from scout (2003-2012) to director of college scouting (2013-2020).

The Lions should leave no more stones unturned in their search for a kicker who could replace Badgley. Bates is an easy candidate to get a chance now, even if it's easy to overreact to his shining moment in the 2024 UFL opener.

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