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Lions signing big-legged Michigan Panthers kicker Jake Bates

Justin Rogers, The Detroit News on

Published in Football

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — The Detroit Lions are adding more competition to one of the team's least stable spots on the roster in recent years, agreeing to terms with big-legged kicker Jake Bates, who recently concluded his breakout season with the UFL's Michigan Panthers.

The deal, which will be signed next week, was confirmed Saturday by his agent, Marty Magid, and Panthers general manager Steve Kazor.

A converted college soccer player, Bates served as a kickoff specialist at both Texas State and Arkansas. After finishing among the NCAA leaders in average kickoff distance and touchbacks as a senior in 2022, he got a look from the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent last offseason.

Bates appeared in the Texan's preseason opener in 2023 prior to being released. He kicked off four times in the contest while converting 2-of-3 extra points. He did not attempt a field goal.

Bates joined the Panthers for the UFL's debut season, quickly making headlines with his ability to convert from long distance. In the first game of the season, he made a 64-yard game-winner. That would match the second-longest field goal in NFL history, behind only Justin Tucker's 66-yarder that beat the Lions in 2021.

 

Bates added two more field goals from 60 or more yards, including a 62-yarder the following week. He finished the season 17-of-22.

It's not immediately clear whether Bates will replace another kicker on Detroit's roster or if the team will temporarily carry three into training camp. Veteran Michael Badgley entered the offseason as the presumptive favorite to win the job after converting 85.7% of his field goal attempts with the Lions the past two seasons, but undrafted rookie James Turner, out of the University of Michigan, had been making a strong case during OTAs and minicamp with leg strength that could rival Bates.

Since the departure of Matt Prater ahead of the 2021 season, the Lions have struggled to find a reliable solution for the position. If either Turner or Bates were to win the job in camp, they'd become the seventh different player to kick in the regular season during that stretch. That list consists of Austin Siebert, Ryan Santoso, Aldrick Rosas, Riley Patterson, Dominik Eberle and Badgley.

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