If things go as planned, the Alliance of American Football – which kicks off today! – will serve as a place that provides chances for players who would not get them in the NFL. Because while we love the NFL for all the obvious reasons, it doesn’t provide ample opportunities for proper development (especially for teams in a win-now state of mind).
The AAF will provide last chances for some and first chances for others. And because you’re curious, I have browsed through the league’s rosters in search of place-kickers who could kick their way out of the AAF and back into the NFL. It won’t be easy, but nothing that’s worth it ever comes with ease.
So let’s meet the kickers aiming between the uprights with their sights on a shot at the NFL.
Nick Folk, Arizona Hotshots – Folk was one of the handful of kickers who participated in a recent Halas Hall tryout. The Bears ultimately inked Redford Jones to a reserve/futures deal, but Folk isn’t giving up the dream. Folk didn’t kick anywhere in 2018 and his 2017 season with the Buccaneers was a disaster, but he connected on 86.1 percent of his field goals from 2013-16. HOWEVER, Folk needs to improve on the 70.7 percent success rate on tries between 40-49 yards he posted over the last five years if he is going to make a successful return to the NFL.
Younghoe Koo, Atlanta Legends – Koo was an internet sensation and a preseason standout in 2017, but was cut by the Chargers four weeks into his rookie season after missed three of his first six kicks. Two of the misses were high-profile kicks in one-score games that could have helped the Chargers avoid an 0-4 start.
Nick Novak, Birmingham Iron – As fate would have it, Koo’s replacement is also getting his kicks for an AAF team. Novak didn’t fare much better than Koo, connecting on 69.2 percent of his kicks in seven games with the Chargers. It wasn’t a nice enough showing to get him one of the kicking jobs in the NFL in 2018, but there was a time when Novak’s leg was powerful and accurate. Novak nailed 87.6 percent of his kicks from 2012-16, including 92.7 percent of his kicks from inside 50 yards. Those pesky 50-yarders (12-for-21) gave Novak trouble.
Elliott Fry, Orlando Apollos – Fry went from being walk-on at South Carolina to its all-time leading scorer with 359 points. Despite being a second-team All-SEC selection and a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award in 2014, Fry didn’t get much of a look in NFL circles. HOWEVER, he does have a 55-yard game-winning field goal to his name:
Taylor Bertolet, Salt Lake Stallions – Bertolet played his college ball at Texas A&M and has successful kicks of 54 and 55 on his résumé. He spent time in camp with the Rams, Broncos, and Jets, but has yet to make to the show. Pro Bowl kicker Jason Myers won the head-to-head (or is it toe-to-toe in this case?) battle against Bertolet in Jets camp last summer.
Nick Rose, San Antonio Commanders – Rose made 10 off 11 field goals and 18 of 20 PATs in an eight-game stint with Washington, but he was waived in December when the team activated Dustin Hopkins off injured reserve. He moved on to the Chargers, where he missed two of his first three kicks and an extra point during a brief two-game stint. Rose has also spent time with the Falcons, 49ers, Jets, and Texans. He even had a second shot with the Chargers as the team’s kickoff specialist against the Patriots in the playoffs, but was released five days after signing with the team.
The options in the AAF aren’t all that appetizing, but it doesn’t mean that any of the kickers mentioned above can’t kick their way onto the Bears’ radar. Chicago’s front office should travel down every possible avenue and explore all options in their search for a kicker. And if someone stands out from this group, then it wouldn’t be the worst thing to bring them into Halas Hall for a tryout.