Cowboys kicking competition: Dallas native signed for 2022 following roller-coaster season from Greg Zuerlein – CBSSports.com

Cowboys kicking competition: Dallas native signed for 2022 following roller-coaster season from Greg Zuerlein - CBSSports.com

Greg Zuerlein acquitted himself well in his one and only postseason game with the Dallas Cowboys — admittedly so — making his only field goal attempt and both of his extra point tries. But the fact the latter is a big deal is evidence of his roller-coaster 2021 season, one that became a mixed bag of successes and untimely failures, and several of his failures helped cost the Cowboys wins as they attempted to chase down the No. 1 seed in the NFC. 

As they begin work on figuring out how to become better for 2022, they’ve now added some competition at kicker — expected to sign a homegrown talent in Chris Naggar to a futures deal, a source confirms to CBS Sports. The news was initially delivered via Twitter by Naggar’s agent, Nathan Shackelford of HC Sports Agency in Dallas, and the official league transaction is expected to land before the end of the week.

Naggar joins the Cowboys being no stranger to the Dallas area, a native of the very same city where AT&T Stadium is housed — Arlington, Texas. After making a name for himself at Arlington High School, he went on to enroll at the University of Texas before finishing his collegiate career at Southern Methodist University in the heart of Dallas. Naggar then found his way to the NFL as an undrafted free agent of the New York Jets in 2021, but his stay was short with Gang Green, moving on to sign with the Cleveland Browns that same year following final roster cuts.

He finished his career at SMU as both a kicker and a punter, which could provide some flexibility in the event the Cowboys are either unable to retain Pro Bowl punter Brian Anger for the coming season, or should Anger go down with injury for any amount of time after they re-sign him.

Still hoping to find a long-term NFL home, he’s hoping it can be with a Cowboys team he grew up watching, and one which can’t afford to continue turning a blind eye to the inconsistencies of Zuerlein. For while special coordinator John “Bones” Fassel might be all-in on his veteran kicker, the Cowboys brass and head coach Mike McCarthy have now shown they aren’t. 

It remains to be seen, however, if the signing of Naggar means a possible parting of ways with the 34-year-old — who is set to enter the final year of his three-year deal and will hit the team’s salary cap for $2.18 million — or if they’re simply trying to push him back to the better version of himself (assuming that’s possible). The Cowboys are scanning the entire roster to figure things out ahead of free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft, and that includes financially, having a list of in-house free agents they’d like to retain. 

To that point, releasing Zuerlein would save them $2.485 million toward the salary cap (be it as a pre- or post-June 1 cut), and you can bet that tidbit is circling the mind of a frugal executive like Stephen Jones. 

Additionally, when the team brought in competition/a temporary replacement in 2021, i.e., Lirim Hajrullahu, Zuerlein’s production instantly improved, and often suffered a downturn each time (three) Hajrullahu was released. Zuerlein finished the regular season with a career-low PAT mark (87.5%), and a player once nicknamed “The Leg” because of his boot strength missed five of his 14 attempts from 40 yards or greater.

There was plenty of reason for the Cowboys to make a move months ago similar to the one they just made, including giving another potential look to Kai Forbath — who was literally perfect in his short stay in Dallas — but it looks as if they’re working to course correct heading into a pivotal 2022 season for McCarthy. 

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