Lions Add Local College Product to Kicker Competition

Fans of the Detroit Lions could still have questions about whether the team can trust Michael Badgley with a big kick in an important playoff game. But in undrafted free agency, the Lions have added a kicker with championship experience — Michigan’s James Turner.

James Turner Embraces The Spotlight Of Replacing Jake Moody -  Maize&BlueReview’s Anthony Broome reported on April 28 that the Lions signed Turner as an undrafted free agent.

Turner only kicked with the Michigan Wolverines for one season, but he made it count. He connected on all but one of his 66 extra-point attempts. Turner also made 18 of 21 field-goal tries (85.7%) in 15 games.

During the College Football Playoffs, he went 2 for 3 on field goals, connecting on both of his attempts in the national championship game against Washington. He also made all 7 of his extra points in the two contests.

Turner began his college career kicking for Louisville. He made 81.3% of his field goals and 97.9% of his extra points in 53 career games.

Lions Sign Michigan’s James Turner as Kicking Competition

Michigan Kicker James Turner Wins B1G Special Teams Player Of The Week -  Maize&BlueReview

Detroit was one of a handful of teams that could potentially select a kicker in the 2024 NFL draft. But instead, the Lions added one as an undrafted free agent.

Turner is from Saline, Michigan, but he left the state to begin college. In four seasons at Louisville, he made 79.7% of his field goals and 97.6% of his extra-points. During each of his three seasons as the program’s primary kicker, he increased his points total from the previous year.

Turner set a new career high with 119 points scored with Michigan last year. His 65 extra points made also set a new school record.

The Saline product will compete with Badgley for the Lions kicker role. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported on February 22 that the Lions brought back Badgley on a 1-year contract.

Badgley made 4 field-goal attempts and 13 of 15 extra-point tries in four regular season games during 2023. He also made 3 field goals and 11 extra points with no misses of any kind during the playoffs.

But there are still questions about Badgley’s accuracy from deep range. Badgley made a 54-yard attempt in the NFC wild card round, but that kick was inside. The Lions passed up on multiple attempts from beyond 45 yards in the NFC championship outside against the San Francisco 49ers.

Badgley is only 5-for-13 in his career on attempts from 50 yards or further.

Similar to Badgley, though, Turner doesn’t possess the reputation of having a strong leg.

“In short, Turner has been a reliable kicker from short and moderate distances, but with a college long of just 50 yards,” wrote SB Nation’s Pride of Detroit’s Jeremy Reisman. “He may not solve the Lions’ current issue of having no reliable long-distance kicker.”

Could the Lions Still Add Another Kicker?

Jake Bates: UFL kicker and Detroit Lions target is human after all |  Sporting News

Even with the addition of Turner, the Lions may not be set in their kicker competition.

The Detroit News’ Tony Paul reported on March 31 that the Lions were one of multiple teams expressing interest in UCL kicker Jakes Bates. In the UCL, he kicks for the Michigan Panthers.

“Yes, the Lions have already inquired, I am told,” wrote Paul on X (formerly Twitter).

If leg power is something the Lions desire in their 2024 kicker, Bates would hold an advantage over Badgley and Turner. Early in the 2024 UCL season, Bates made a pair of 60-plus yard field goals.

On April 28, he missed two field goals from beyond 60 yards. But those attempts came in his first outside game this season. He also rebounded to make a 30-yard in the outside stadium.

The earliest an NFL team can sign Bates is at the conclusion of the UCL season.

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