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Cowboys closing in on a deal with K Mike Vanderjagt


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Jagt Up?

Cowboys Closing In On Deal With Veteran Vanderjagt

Nick Eatman - Email

DallasCowboys.com Staff Writer

March 22, 2006 3:07 PM

IRVING, Texas - After 17 seasons of counting on inexperienced and inexpensive place-kickers, the Cowboys made it clear this off-season they intended on changing their ways.

And if they are indeed willing to pay for an experienced kicker, might as well go after the most accurate kicker in NFL history.

That's what the Cowboys were doing on Wednesday, courting Indianapolis unrestricted free-agent kicker Mike Vanderjagt at Valley Ranch.

While no deal had been officially struck by early Wednesday evening, the two sides appeared to be closing in on an agreement that could be signed as early as Thursday.

Any chances of Vanderjagt returning to Indianapolis ended Tuesday when the Colts signed New England unrestricted free-agent kicker Adam Vinatieri to a deal that reportedly includes a $3.5 million signing bonus and averages $2.5 million over the first three years of the contract.

And with Vinatieri off the market, Vanderjagt and former Minnesota kicker Paul Edinger are the top veteran kickers still available, assuming the Cowboys aren't interested in re-signing Billy Cundiff, recently signed by Tampa Bay and then released this week. The Bucs re-signed their kicker from last year, Matt Bryant, who the Cowboys were highly interested in signing at the start of free agency.

While Vinatieri is considered one of the more clutch kickers all time, hitting two game-winning field goals in the Super Bowl, no kicker has been more accurate than Vanderjagt. The veteran has made 87.5 percent of his field goals in his eight-year career, but is coming off a disappointing finish to the 2005 season when he badly missed a 46-yard attempt against the Steelers in the divisional playoffs that would've forced overtime in the Steelers 21-18 victory.

Vanderjagt made 23-of-25 field goals in 2005 and was perfect on 37 attempts in 2003, including a stretch of making 42 consecutive from the end of 2002 through 2003.

However, Vanderjagt is not as consistent on his kickoffs. In fact, he hasn't kicked off full-time for the Colts since 2003. Indianapolis actually signed Jose Cortez, who began the year making 12 of 16 field goals for the Cowboys, to kick off the latter part of the 2005 regular season and in the playoffs.

Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells has never been one to keep two place-kickers, but always stresses the importance of field position. Also, punter Mat McBriar is not an option, having never kicked off.

With Vinatieri now off the market and Vanderjagt expected to visit New England either Thursday or Friday, the options at place-kicker for the Cowboys are dwindling fast. Plus, Shaun Suisham is the only kicker on their current roster after the club went through a disastrous 2005 season using three different kickers.

And last year's kicking debacle is forcing the Cowboys into unfamiliar territory, considering the club has always signed rookie free-agent and inexperienced kickers since owner Jerry Jones bought the team in 1989. But he also had the services of kicking coach Steve Hoffman, whose contract was not renewed prior to the 2005 season.

Heading into the off-season, the Cowboys had interest in both Bryant and Green Bay's Ryan Longwell, who signed a five-year, $10 million deal with Minnesota, which handed him a $3 million signing bonus.

The Cowboys also were contemplating signing Seattle restricted free agent Josh Brown to an offer sheet, but since the Seahawks decided not to match the transition offer sheet guard Steve Hutchinson signed with Minnesota, they have enough cap space to match any legitimate offer the Cowboys might make for the three-year veteran kicker.

The Cowboys also have been keeping a close eye on the Olindo Mare situation down in Miami. Reports suggest the Dolphins might release their veteran kicker, who is scheduled to earn a $1.4 million base salary. Mare not only has one of the league's strongest legs, but would immediately give the Cowboys a boost on his kickoffs, recording 16 touchbacks last season alone.

But with the veteran kickers disappearing from the free agent market, the Dolphins must be asking themselves just who would kick for them if they let Mare go.

The Cowboys, though, realize it won't take much of an improvement at this spot to upgrade last year's performance. The kicking woes started the end of training camp and lasted through the end of the regular season.

Just as Billy Cundiff seemed ready to enter his fourth consecutive season as the Cowboys' kicker, he suffered a quad injury on the last day of training camp. The Cowboys were forced to put him on waived/injured and gave him an injury settlement that prevented them from re-signing Cundiff until mid-November.

In the meantime, they settled on Cortez, who provided some stability on kickoffs, but was erratic on field goals and even missed an extra point in San Francisco. His final straw came in Seattle when he not only missed a 29-yard field goal in a game the Cowboys eventually lost, 13-10, but tried to place blame on holder Tony Romo sits to pee and snapper L.P. Ladouceur.

The Cowboys then signed Suisham off their practice squad, and the rookie was perfect on two short field goal attempts and two extra points in his first two NFL games. But when Cundiff became eligible, the Cowboys opted to re-sign the guy they knew best.

And he returned with a bang, hitting a franchise-record 56-yard field goal against the Lions. But four days later, Cundiff hooked a 34-yard attempt wide left that would've broken a fourth-quarter tie against the Broncos on Thanksgiving Day. The Cowboys eventually lost in overtime, 24-21.

Cundiff then had a game to forget in Carolina on Christmas Eve, missing one field goal and having another blocked in the first half. In the final minute of play, Cundiff missed a potential game-tying field goal, but the Cowboys were bailed out on a running-into-the-kicker penalty. Instead of kicking again, the Cowboys went for the win instead, scoring the game-winning touchdown.

However, Cundiff was released before the final game. The Cowboys re-signed Suisham, who went 1-of-2 in the season finale, missing his first and only attempt beyond 29 yards.

Back to San Antonio?

According to reports, the Cowboys have had discussions with San Antonio city officials about a possible return to the Alamo City for training camp.

The Cowboys spent two years training in the Alamodome in San Antonio from 2002-03.

The Cowboys' are scheduled to return to Oxnard, Calif. for the third consecutive year, but the contract expires after this summer.

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I think there's a rather large drop-off after Vinatieri, who does better than anyone under pressure and is by all accounts a great locker room guy. A few years ago I would have said Vanderjagt was a close second, but he leg has weakened the last few years as a result has started to miss a few field goals, plus you'd hate to waste a roster spot on a kick-off specialist.

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Then you'd end up in a bidding war with Seattle. After the Hutch thing, they'd probably win it just out of spite.

True. Dont want to get burned twice in front of the fans.

Gotta save face.

Hey, but if you didnt match, you'd get a the incredibly valuable 18th pick in the 7th round of the draft!!!

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Guest santana4prez

It would be a nice addition for the Cowboys. If the Skins are up by 2 late in the game and the Boys cross our 40 im going to be worried,

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Yeah, because kickers need to be young to be effective.

Morten Anderson was kicking well into his 80s. :laugh:

Never said that

Every kicker is not like Anderson most kickers start to breakdown between 30-38 (look at the idiot in Washington) am I saying that's going to happen to Vandershank? no but it's a very high possibility.

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Never said that

Every kicker is not like Anderson most kickers start to breakdown between 30-38 (look at the idiot in Washington) am I saying that's going to happen to Vandershank? no but it's a very high possibility.

Carney is still effective at 41.

Elam and Hanson are both about 35. They are still very good.

I think 2 seasons with Vandy at a high level is not inconcievable.

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11. Please do not use the “Quote” feature to quote huge blocks of text or pictures.

If you would like to respond to the contents of a particular post, simply quote the sentence or idea that you're commenting upon, not necessarily the entire post. It wastes space on the database and unnecessarily extends and clutters threads.

that would be money well spent for the boys... they have not had a solid kicker in some time..

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