For the next two weeks, we're going to go position-by-position and assess the level of need the Dallas Cowboys prior to this month's 2018 NFL Draft. We begin today with the ever-underrated special teams.
The last few offseasons allowed for a lot of luxurious confidence with the specialists. Dallas had one of the best kickers of all time in Dan Bailey, an emerging punter in Chris Jones, and perfection personified in long snapper L.P. Ladouceur.
Indeed, for a while, the only complaint for the Cowboys has been in their return game. Lucky Whitehead was never consistent and Cole Beasley was rarely effective.
Last year, Dallas seemingly solved that problem when they drafted returner Ryan Switzer. The rookie delivered with the third-best average on kickoff returns in the league and a punt return touchdown.
For 2018, the Cowboys bring back Switzer and the rest of the crew. However, after last season, the question mark is now at kicker.
After six seasons as one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history, Bailey was a career worst 75% from field goals in 2017. He also missed two extra points, the first time he's missed any.
Thankfully, there's an easy excuse for these issues. Bailey was 100% on the season until he suffered a groin injury in Week 7. He would miss the next four weeks and then struggle upon returning, hitting just 8-of-13 field goals over the rest of the year.
So is it as simple as Dan getting healthy and getting back to his usual elite form in 2018? The Cowboys certainly hope so.
Still, Bailey turned 30 years old in January. And even if age doesn't slow him down, some kickers never bounce back from lost confidence. If Dan's struggles have shaken him mentally, we may not know until it's too late.
That said, the draft probably isn't the place to deal with it. Dan Bailey has been too good to not give him a chance at redemption, and you don't spend a pick on a kicker unless the cupboard is bare.
What's more, Dallas just signed CFL kicker Brett Maher. With two guys already on the roster, drafting another kicker wouldn't be logical.
The Cowboys could sign a rookie from the undrafted free agent pool if they see him as an upgrade over Maher. But barring that, Dallas appears ready to ride with Dan Bailey for at least one more season.
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