Several NFL teams interested in UFL kicker who made multiple 60-plus-yard FGs

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As expected, Jake Bates‘ UFL season has generated NFL interest. A number of teams are in on the recent spring/summer league specialist, whose previous NFL path did not include any game action.

The Michigan Panthers kicker has received interest from the Commanders, Lions, Packers and Ravens, according to KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson. All four teams have requested meetings with Bates, per Wilson, and ESPN.com’s John Keim notes the Commanders will be the first team to host the young specialist.

Washington’s kicker need formed recently when the team released offseason pickup
Brandon McManus after a lawsuit alleging sexual assault emerged. The Commanders have already signed kicker Ramiz Ahmed, but the Washington Post’s Nicki Jhabvala notes the team is looking to hold a competition between the recent signee and another option. The team also auditioned Andre Szmyt on Tuesday, per Jhabvala. Szmyt kicked for the UFL’s St. Louis Battlehawks this season.

With the UFL’s regular season ending, NFL teams are free to hold workouts and add them in free agency. Considering the success the Cowboys have enjoyed with USFL players in recent years — including All-Pro kicker Brandon Aubrey — several of the new UFL’s top players will land opportunities to attend NFL training camps. Bates will almost definitely be one.

Bates, whom the Texans cut after barely a week during training camp last year, caught attention for making multiple 60-plus-yard field goals early this season. This included a 64-yarder. The kicks got the Michigan kicker back on the NFL radar, and his second chance figures to feature a more thorough look. That said, Bates proved shakier down the stretch of the UFL season. He missed five field goals over the Panthers’ final four games. Overall, Bates went 21-for-28 on field goals this season.

The Lions were connected to the in-state UFL team’s kicker early during the season, and the team used multiple kickers (Riley Patterson, Michael Badgley) in 2023. Detroit re-signed Badgley this offseason and added UDFA James Turner. But the team has been looking into adding another piece, and Bates’ leg strength certainly caught attention.

Anders Carlson remains the frontrunner to kick for the Packers, but special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia mentioned a potential spring league addition (via The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman) before training camp. Green Bay already rosters two other kickers — Greg Joseph and Jack Podlesny — so a Bates addition would certainly be interesting from a roster-allocation standpoint ahead of training camp. Carlson went 27-for-33 last year but missed four extra points and then missed a kick in the Packers’ narrow divisional-round loss to the 49ers.

It would obviously surprise if Bates ended up in Baltimore, given that the Ravens employ arguably the best to ever do it. Justin Tucker is going into his 13th NFL season. 

Bates, 24, stands to land somewhere soon. His Houston work last summer does not make it a lock he will be one of the 32 kickers in Week 1, but his UFL work will give him a shot.

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