Jonathan Garibay may not just waltz into the Cowboys' kicking job after all. Dallas has brought back veteran Lirim Hajrullahu today to give the rookie some competition as the team prepares for its 2022 training camp.
Hajrullahu was signed last August to handle practice and preseason duties following injuries to Greg Zuerlein and Hunter Niswander. He was added to the practice squad once Zuerlein return for the regular season, cut a week later, and then added back in November for another one-week run.
Lirim went 5-for-5 on extra points during his one game played in Dallas. He did not attempt any field goals in the Week 9 victory over Atlanta.
After being again released by the Cowboys once Zuerlein was reactivated, Hajrullahu was on the Commanders' practice squad briefly before being signed by the Panthers. He played in Carolina's final three games and made 4-of-5 field goals and all three extra point attempts.
The 32-year-old veteran of the Canadian Football League was released by the Panthers in May. Now he's found his way back to Dallas with a legitimate opportunity to find a lasting home.
Cowboys have re-signed former CFL All-Star kicker Lirim Hajrullahu, source said. He and rookie Jonathan Garibay appear set for a summer competition. https://t.co/FRdliZctKi
After releasing Greg Zuerlein in March due to his contract and performance issues, Dallas has not invested much in his replacement thus far. They only had Chris Naggar, an undrafted rookie from last year, on the roster before signing Jonathan Garibay following the 2022 Draft.
Naggar was released soon after and left Garibay running unopposed for the kicker position. Now there should be a legitimate competition between the rookie and the veteran Hajrullahu when the Cowboys open camp in less than four weeks.
Earlier this week, Mike McCarthy talked about his team's kicking situation and his intent to be patient with the undrafted rookie Garibay. But not giving him any competition this summer would've bordered on negligence.
Pressure abounds in the NFL but perhaps nowhere more than at kicker. Creating offseason competition helps put that extra weight on the players, hopefully pushing them closer to the reality of those intense moments when the games start counting in September.
If nothing else, hearing how Garibay and Hajrullahu are comparing in camp and perhaps seeing it in the preseason will give us another fun story to follow for this year's camp.