Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Cowboys free agency 2022: Greg Zuerlein signs with Jets after turning down offer to return to Dallas

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Greg Zuerlein hadn’t heard the last of the Dallas Cowboys after the team opted to release him March 13. The move was made after the club signed a locally-bred leg in Chris Naggar that presumably sent a message to Zuerlein that there would at least be competition for the job this offseason, but the release also netted the Cowboys a sum of $2.5 million in savings toward their salary cap. He has now opted to join the New York Jets in 2022, after turning down an offer to re-sign in Dallas at a lower salary — sources confirm to CBS Sports.

That leaves the Cowboys in position to add another boot in either the draft, undrafted free agency or in veteran free agency at some point before training camp arrives in July.

As for Zuerlein, who was also set to enter a contract season after signing a three-year deal 2020, the writing has long been on the wall for the veteran kicker, even though special teams coordinator John “Bones” Fassel hoped it wouldn’t be. But when the Cowboys signed Naggar to the roster in early February, it was clear they were looking to either create competition for Zuerlein this offseason (at minimum) or move on completely, the added wrinkle being the possibility of releasing him only to then re-sign him on a sizable pay cut, but the 34-year-old waved them off.

He now enters a Jets organization that will pit him in a competition against Eddy Pineiro (barring a corresponding move following Zuerlein’s signing, with Pineiro trying to dig in as a restricted free agent retained by New York this offseason.)

Zuerlein battled a string of recent injuries that helped cost him consistency and the Cowboys a victory on more than one occasion in 2021, and it was veteran kicker Lirim Hajrullahu brought in time and again to help keep Dallas from sinking in times when Zuerlein was not available. Zuerlein finished the season with a career-low PAT percentage (87.5%) and missed five of his 14 field goal attempts from 40 yards or greater — a bad look for a kicker nicknamed “The Leg” because of his boot strength. 

He’ll try to regain form for Gang Green in 2022.

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