Should Detroit Lions still target Jake Bates after recent kicker praise?

Michigan Panthers kicker and United Football League star Jake Bates has been having a phenomenal season so far, which has certainly caught the attention of Detroit Lions fans who want the team to add to its kicker competition.

Bates, who will play his next game on Sunday, May 26, at 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, has drilled 15-of-18 field goals in 2024, most of which have come at Ford Field.

But the impressive kicker isn’t just making chip shots, as the Arkansas product has crushed a whopping six over 50 yards, including three from 60 or more. He even nailed a 70-yarder in practice recently, which only adds to his legend.

The Lions are currently set to have a kicker competition between Michael Badgley, who has already had a failed stint in Detroit, and undrafted free agent and Michigan product, James Turner, who is, of course, a total wild card.

While that situation remains shaky for a team that has Super Bowl aspirations that can be dashed because of one missed field goal, there are reasons for optimism early on for both players.

During OTAs earlier this week, special teams coordinator Dave Fipp praised the improved leg strength Badgley has shown after he made two long kicks at OTAs Thursday. Fipp also touched on Turner’s leg strength.

Fipp was asked about Bates, but he declined to go into specifics, only saying he was aware of the season the UFL star is having and is happy for him.

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“Yeah, I’ve seen him. I’m not going to go into specifics on any individual player, but obviously, I’m happy for the kid,” Fipp said. “He’s having a great year, and from what I understand, it’s a pretty cool story. I mean, he is like a backup kicker, kickoff specialist, and got a chance to do it and made the most of it, it sounds like.”

While Fipp’s comments about the Lions’ current kickers are all well and good, they do absolutely nothing to quell the fears over Detroit’s current options. After all, making kicks in practice and in a game are two entirely different things.

Knowing that, the Lions should definitely still try to sign Bates, who cannot talk to or sign with a team until after the UFL season, which ends on June 16. The Lions have already reportedly expressed interest, and my belief is that they will pursue him once he’s available.

Nobody is saying Bates is going to be a lock to be the NFL’s next great kicker, nor is he a lock to even to make the cut on the Lions’ 53-man roster. However, he’s a strong option for a competition that could use as many as possible.

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