Odds Jake Bates Wins Lions' Kicking Job

Examining the odds Jake Bates has to be Lions' 2024 starting kicker.
Michigan Panthers kicker Jake Bates
Michigan Panthers kicker Jake Bates / Eric Canha, USA TODAY Sports
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The Lions’ kicking competition just got a bit more interesting with the reported acquisition of Michigan Panthers phenom Jake Bates.

Bates became an overnight sensation in late March after hitting a 64-yard, game-winning field goal in the Panthers’ season opener. The momentous kick, which notably came at Ford Field, was two yards shy of the longest field goal made in Ford Field history. That came via the right leg of Baltimore Ravens All-Pro kicker Justin Tucker. Tucker nailed an NFL-record 66-yard kick to top the Lions in Week 3 of the 2021 NFL season.

Ever since Bates drilled the 64-yarder, Detroit fans have clamored for him to join Dan Campbell’s team, and now they have reportedly gotten their wish.

The UFL product joins a crowded kickers room in Motown, with incumbent Michael Badgley and undrafted rookie free agent James Turner already on the team's 90-man roster.

The deal is reportedly for two-years, according to ESPN.

Badgley, who spent most of last season on the Lions’ practice squad, emerged as the team's starting placekicker in Week 15 against the Denver Broncos. He converted all six of his extra-point attempts in the 42-17 victory, but did not attempt a single field goal. 

He went on to execute all four of his field-goal tries in the regular season, plus all three of his FG attempts in the postseason. Yet, in the second half of Detroit's NFC Championship Game tilt with the 49ers, Campbell quite notably chose not to use Badgley on multiple fourth-and-short situations in enemy territory. That screamed to me then – and still does now – that Badgley is no shoe-in for the Lions’ kicking job in 2024.

Meanwhile, Turner – who kicked for both the University of Louisville and the University of Michigan – converted 81.3 percent of his field-goal attempts during five collegiate seasons (four with Louisville and one with Michigan). Additionally, he added solid competition for Badgley in spring camp, even outperforming the veteran kicker in some offseason workouts.

While Badgley and Turner inevitably have the early “leg up” – no pun intended – on Bates in the kicking competition, it wouldn't be the longest of longshots for the UFL star to make the Lions’ season-opening roster. 

Bates, who prior to this spring hadn't attempted a field goal since high school, executed on just 21-of-28 kicks for the Panthers this past season. Yet, he made 10 of his 11 attempts at Ford Field, and impressed the masses – the Lions included – with his long-distance kicking prowess. 

Along with the aforementioned 64-yarder, he made field goals of 62, 52 and 55 yards within the first three weeks of the Panthers’ 2023 campaign. And, for the season as a whole, he nailed a staggering seven field goals from 50-plus yards out. 

If Bates can improve upon his overall accuracy, he'll only enhance his odds of winning the kicking job out of training camp. 

At this present juncture, I'm going to give him a 25 percent chance of being the Lions’ starting kicker come Week 1 of the regular season.

Additional reading

1.) Lions' 2024 Roster Bubble: Running Backs

2.) Mark Brunell: Jared Goff's Arm Talent 'Best I've Ever Been Around'

3.) Lions' 2024 Roster Bubble: Tight Ends


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Vito Chirco

VITO CHIRCO

Vito has covered the NFL and the Detroit Lions for the past five years.  Has extensive reporting history of college athletics, the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Mercy Athletics.  Chirco's work include NFL columns, analyzing potential Detroit Lions prospects coming out of college, NFL draft coverage and analysis of events occurring in the NFL.  Extensive broadcasting experience including hosting a Detroit Tigers podcast and co-hosting a Detroit Lions NFL podcast since 2019.