LA Rams never had a chance of re-signing K Greg Zuerlein

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

The LA Rams enjoyed kicking services by Greg ‘The Leg’ Zuerlein for many years. But they never had a real chance at re-signing him for 2020.

The LA Rams had long enjoyed the kicking of veteran kicker Greg Zuerlein.  He was drafted by the then-Saint Louis Rams in the sixth round (171st overall) of the 2012 NFL Draft. Even in his rookie season, he displayed the ability to be somebody special. He was a perfect seven of seven from 40-49 yards and was seven of thirteen beyond a 50-yard range.  As a rookie, he was able to boot one from 60 yards.

He went on to a superstar for the team. When he lined up to kick, the fans were confident that he would score points.  In better than eight of ten times, he did. That proficiency, and the longevity of his career with the Rams, endeared him to fans of all ages. He was ‘The Leg’ for good reason. He was nearly automatic for the Rams for many years. Not just at short range, but at long range too.
Time began to catch up to Zuerlein.

Zuerlein no longer automatic

Eventually, his ability to kick from anywhere on the field began to unravel slightly in 2018, when he fell to kicking just eight of twelve from a range greater than 40 yards. That trend worsened in 2019 when he successfully kicked just 10 of 18 field goals beyond the 40-yard mark. So in 2018, he made 66.7 percent of his long-range kicks. In 2019, that fell once more to just 55.6 percent of his long-range kicks.

While some reports suggest he suffered from a groin pull, that doesn’t explain why the Rams would send him onto the field to even attempt long-range kicks. In the end, the LA Rams did want to bring back Zuerlein. But as you may recall, the team needed to maneuver the books to create salary-cap space. That meant Zuerlein needed patience, which he did not have.

Cowboys poached Rams special teams

The Dallas Cowboys hired new head coach Mike McCarthy, who immediately began hiring LA Rams coaches to his staff. He hired Special Teams Coordinator John Fassel very quickly.  He then added assistant special teams coach Matt Daniels to his staff.  The Cowboys even hired former Rams running backs coach Skip Peete to join McCarthy’s staff.

With so many familiar faces joining the Cowboys, Zuerlein opted not to wait for the Rams to get their books in order and signed with the Cowboys.  So far, the Cowboys have managed to get a better version of Zuerlein kicking for them. Right now, he is eight of eleven, good for nearly 73 percent of field goals beyond a 40-yard range. That is far better than Rams’ rookie Sam Sloman, who was just 33 percent from that range.  But, it’s far worse than Cowboys 2019 kicker Kai Forbath who was a perfect eight of eight from beyond 40 yards in 2019.

Zuerlein followed Fassel

The Rams balked at re-signing free agent Greg Zuerlein because they had to clear their cap space, had a priority of positions that needed to be addressed, and the team had lost their ST coordinator and assistant, which meant that the team rightfully needed to await the arrival of a new ST coordinator before inking a kicker to a contract. Zuerlein was promised the kicker’s job with the Dallas Cowboys to sign there. And he won that job without a competition

So in the end, Fassel joined the Cowboys and ensured that his new team had a spot for his former kicker.

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While some are disappointed, and perhaps even upset, that the Rams failed to keep Zuerlein, it was not the Rams fault. Zuerlein made up his mind when Fassel left that he would reunite with his former coach in Dallas.  So while many may be a bit heartbroken over the way events played out, keep in mind that this was not on the Rams. Kicker Greg Zuerlein chose to sign with the Dallas Cowboys.