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Lions sign UFL kicker Jake Bates after fourth-down disaster in NFC title game

The Lions have a new kicker.

United Football League guard Jake Bates reportedly signed a two-year contract with Detroit this week. ESPN’s Adam SchefterImproved the team’s kicking power.

Bates played for the Michigan Panthers last season and made three field goals of 60 yards or more, including a game-winning 64-yard field goal in March.

Schefter reported that Bates chose to remain in the Wolverine State with the Lions after visiting with the Packers and Commanders.

After stints as a kickoff specialist at Texas State and Arkansas, Bates played his first season as a field goal kicker in 2023, making 17 of 22 attempts.

Jake Bates will get a chance to be the Lions’ kicker. Getty Images for UFL

Bates will join a Detroit roster that already features 29-year-old veteran Michael Badgley and undrafted rookie James Turner, the 2023 kicker at Michigan.

The Lions are hoping their kickers have a better season in 2024.

Badgley played six seasons in the NFL with the Lions, Bears, Titans, Colts and Chargers, converting 24 of 28 field goal opportunities last season, with his longest being 53 yards.

They have a new kicker in Dan Campbell.
They have a new kicker in Dan Campbell. AP

The question heading into the 2024 season is how head coach Dan Campbell will utilize his kicker on fourth down.

Known for his aggressive approach, Campbell started 34 percent of his fourth-down attempts last season, the highest of any team this century.

The strategy came under scrutiny in the 2023 NFC Championship Game, when the Lions were trailing 27-24 midway through the fourth quarter against the 49ers and Campbell made the unorthodox decision to go for a fourth-down try rather than let Badgley kick a potential game-tying field goal.

Detroit failed to score, missing a chance to tie the game and a chance to reach the franchise’s first Super Bowl.