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Shuffling kickers

Kickers on the move on cutdown day

The kicker carousel is in full spin, with trades and roster moves shaking up that position with a half dozen different teams.

Most notably, Sean Payton traded for his former kicker, Wil Lutz (pictured), releasing Brett Maher. That looks like a lateral move for the veteran kicker. He’ll perhaps benefit from kicking at altitude, but New Orleans might have a better team and definitely have a more favorable schedule. Lutz converted 91 percent of his field goals in the 2018-19 seasons but missed all of 2021 and dipped to only 74 percent last year.

The Saints apparently like what they’ve seen from rookie Blake Grupe. He hit 5 of 6 field goals in the preseason, including a 50-yarder. His only preseason miss was from 60 yards. But it looks like a risky move in that Grupe didn’t convert more than 80 percent of his field goals in any of his last three college seasons. He went only 14 of 19 last year at Notre Dame. At 5-foot-7 and 156 pounds, Grupe likely will be the league’s smallest player.

With the Cowboys sticking with Brandon Aubrey (at least for now), it’s looking like Notre Dame will have two rookie kickers in the league. Aubrey, however, played soccer rather than football at that school. He converted a 59-yard field goal in the final preseason game.

The Browns also traded for a new kicker, bringing in Dustin Hopkins from the Chargers. (Los Angeles was comfortable with Cameron Dicker, making Hopkins expendable.) Cleveland drafted Cade York in the third round a year ago but he wasn’t accurate enough as a rookie and missed field goals in all four of their preseason games – they cut him.

Tennessee signed Michael Badgley last week but pivoted again today, sending a pick to New England for Nick Folk. The Patriots apparently are comfortable with fourth-round Chad Ryland.

There will be additional kicker moves before long. The Rams released Tanner Brown; they’ll likely replace him with one of the many available veteran free agents. The 49ers also likely will be bringing in a free agent as at least a short-term option; they don’t think third-round Jake Moody will be available in Week 1, and they’ve already placed Zane Gonzalez on IR. Available options include Robbie Gould, Mason Crosby and Randy Bullock.

—Ian Allan

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