Ask a hundred football fans what the Dallas Cowboys’ strongest position is and at least 75 to 80 of them would say the offensive line. It might even be more than that, and none of the would be wrong.
However, if someone said “kicker” or even “specialists,” you couldn’t really argue with them.
We’ve started to take for granted the remarkable luxury that the Cowboys now enjoy with kicker Dan Bailey, punter Chris Jones, and long snapper L.P. Ladouceur. Positions that have all given the franchise grief in the past, these are now manned by players who are either at or near the top of the league.
Bailey’s career field-goal percentage of 90.5% over the last five seasons is the best ever. The next closest are are the Ravens’ Justin Tucker at 87.8% and the Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski at 87.3%.
What’s more, Bailey’s contract just became a bargain. A few weeks ago, Baltimore re-signed Tucker to a four-year, $16.8 million contract. Tucker’s new average annual salary of $4.2 million exceeds the $3.2 million that Dallas will have paid to Bailey over the course of his deal, which expires in 2020.
In fact, five other NFL teams are paying their kickers more than Dallas is paying Bailey.
Best of all, Bailey is still just 28-years-old and has at least a few more years before you start worrying about his prime. You do always have the thought of how quickly a great kicker can fall apart, which Dallas experienced during our one bad year with Mike Vanderjagt.
For now, though, Dan Bailey is the best in the biz and in the history of the biz. We’ll take that.
Last April, Dallas re-signed Jones to a two-year extension. You can understand why when you look at his 2015 performance.
Jones is the thinking man’s punter. He isn’t about the booming punts but more strategic ball placement and field position. He does an exceptional job of taking the other team’s return game out of the equation.
Dallas was in the top five last year in net return yardage, which is the length of the punt minus the amount of the return. Only 24 of Jones’ 61 punts were actually returned. Dallas was also in the top five in forcing fair catches.
Jones has shown a great talent for placing the ball right on the sidelines. He maximizes distance while also taking the return man out of the play. He may not have the biggest leg in the NFL but he get some of the best results.
And that’s just fine, because he’s a guy who loves to go unnoticed.
You will only hear about your team’s long snapper when they make a mistake. That’s why Ladouceur has been on the field since 2005, longer than anyone other than Jason Witten, and yet you hardly know his name.
It’s a thankless job, other than the money. Ladouceur has the third-highest cap hit of any long snapper at $1.17 million. Given that he is involved on every play for both Dan Bailey and Chris Jones, that is a small price to pay for perfection.