TRENDING IN RAMS: Rams Projected to make move for 4 free agent kickers this offseason

Ka’imi Fairbairn will be the hottest kicker on the free agent market this spring.

Bill O'Brien: Texans kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn 'has to make the kicks'

It’s no secret that the Los Angeles Rams’ kicker needs to play better next season than he did in 2023. Last season, Los Angeles missed 16 combined field goals and extra points with Brett Maher and Lucas Havrisik.

Matt Gay had provided stability to the Rams’ kicking position for several years until signing the most lucrative free agent contract for a kicker in NFL history last spring. The Rams attempted to go cheap but ended up getting what they paid for. After the NFL Draft, LA signed two undrafted free agents, Tanner Brown and Christopher Dunn. Brown won the minicamp kicking battle, but he was released in favor of Maher before the start of the regular season. Brown is back on the team’s offseason roster.

Did the Rams learn that investing more substantially may be necessary to achieve better results? Could they look at signing a veteran kicker this offseason, or will they try to build through the draft or another UDFA?

1 – Ka’imi Fairbairn, Houston Texans

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Last season, Fairbairn made 27 of his 28 field goal tries, missing only one. The 29-year-old has the ability to kick from a distance. In 2021, he set a career long of 61 yards. Fairbairn has made 41 of 52 attempts from 40 to 49 yards, and 29 of 40 attempts from 50 yards or beyond.

Is he the top kicker in the NFL? No. Is he the Rams’ most realistic and dependable choice available? Maybe.

Fairbairn is anticipated to cost more than four to five million per year on a free agent contract.

2 – Will Lutz, Denver Broncos

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The Broncos acquired Lutz from the New Orleans Saints in a trade shortly before the start of the regular season last year, reuniting him with head coach Sean Payton. Denver is widely regarded as a favorable location for kickers due to its altitude, although Lutz’s results last year were just adequate. He converted 30 of 34 shots but missed two extra points. Two of the misses were from beyond 50 yards, while his longest make of the season was from 52. In 2022, Lutz set a career high by kicking a 60-yard field goal.

Lutz should be a more cheap alternative than Fairbairn, but he’d still cost more than $3 million each year.

3 – Greg Zuerlein, New York Jets

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Zuerlein isn’t the same player he was when with the Rams. He is currently 36 years old and most certainly nearing the end of his professional career. “Legatron” still has the ability to strike from distance, as he made a 60-yard field goal just two years ago. The Jets ordered Zuerlein to attempt 17 kicks from more than 50 yards out during the last two seasons.

While he still has the distance, his accuracy is not as dependable as it was early in his career. 2023 was an especially strong year for him, but it may be an outlier as he has been around 81-82% accuracy for the few years prior.

Zuerlein currently makes $2.6M annually with the Jets and after a strong 2023 could command more than that on the open market.

4 – Chase McLaughlin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Wouldn’t it be ironic if the Rams ended up keeping McLaughlin as their long-term kicker after the Colts signed Matt Gay to a lucrative free agent contract to replace him after the 2022 season? Nonetheless, at 27 and with his ability to hit from deep, McLaughlin will be an appealing option for teams in free agency who aren’t necessarily looking at the top of the list.

His career long is 57 yards. McLaughlin hit seven of eight attempts from beyond 50 yards and converted all 33 point-after tries this season for the Bucs.

2022 and earlier were more iffy, so the Rams would be betting following his finest individual season yet. McLaughlin made nine of 12 kicks from outside 50 yards while with the Colts in 2022. With the Cleveland Browns in 2021, he struggled in the 40-49 area, converting only four of ten tries.

Would the Rams be ready to wager that McLaughlin will turn a turnaround in 2023 and become their long-term kicker? Is his pre-2023 production a better reflection of who he is as a player?

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