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2023 Lions free agent profile: Michael Badgley’s under-appreciated year

Badgley quietly put to bed the Lions’ kicker woes in 2022. Was it enough to bring him back in 2023?

Detroit Lions v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions have 28 players from their 2022 roster set to become free agents in 2023 (18 unrestricted, 10 restricted), and we are covering them all throughout the month of February.

If you missed any of the previous articles, you can check them out here: RB Jamaal Williams, IOL Evan Brown, NT Isaiah Buggs, EDGE John Cominsky, LB Josh Woods, CB Will Harris, CB Mike Hughes, CB Amari Oruwariye, and SAF C.J. Moore.

Next up:

Michael Badgley

Expectations heading into 2022

Since letting go of Matt Prater following the 2020 season, the Lions had employed Austin Seibert, Riley Patterson, Dominik Eberle, Sam Ficken, Randy Bullock, Zane Gonzalez, Matthew Wright, Ryan Santoso, and Aldrick Rosas at the position. When the Lions signed Badgley six weeks into the 2022 season, he became the 10th kicker the Lions have rostered in the year and a half since Prater’s departure.

On the one hand, the Lions had played the kicker carousel game and lost, with Austin Seibert re-aggravating the same injury that ended his season in 2021 and then the Dominik Eberle experiment going awry in its first week. Surely, Lions fans weren’t holding their breath that the tenth try was the charm. On the other hand, desperation and frustration add up quickly, and I’m certain some fans were adamant that it can’t be that hard to find a serviceable kicker in the league.

I know what my expectations were—Badgley had a reputation as a reliable kicker, not a big-legged one. He had proven consistent from reasonable distances in San Diego and then as he bounced around the league, but asking him to deliver big kicks wasn’t in his portfolio.

Some Chargers fans offered their thoughts on Badgley based on his time in San Diego, too:

The Lions were going to have a reliable kicker, so long as they didn’t ask too much of him.

Actual role in 2022

Games: 12 games with Lions (Weeks 7-18), 1 game with Bears (Week 4)
Lions Stats in 2022: 20/24 field goals, 33/33 on PATs
Bears stats in 2022: 4/4 field goals

The outcome was fairly spot-on based on what we heard from Chargers fans. Badgley went 20/24 on the season with the Lions, with three of his four misses coming from beyond 45 yards. The exception was a missed 29-yard attempt against the Bills on thanksgiving that I don’t hold against him due to Tony Romo and Jim Nantz jinxing it.

Beyond that, Badgley missed wide left from 47 yards in Week 15 against the Vikings, short from 54 against the Jets, and wide left from 46 in Green Bay in Week 18. That lines up pretty well with what we were told to expect out of him.

The 54-yard miss was a questionable decision and unlike the previous fourth-down choices by the coaching staff. The Lions were on the road in cold conditions and decided to trot out Badgley on fourth-and-five from what would have been beyond his range in ideal conditions. That was asking for trouble.

The key to Badgley’s success was asking him to make the kicks he can, and not more than that. We’ve been spoiled with the eras of Jason Hanson and Matt Prater, especially with the latter making anything inside of 60 yards feel automatic. It’s important to remember as Lions fans that that’s not true of most kickers in the world.

Ultimately, Badgley met expectations. You could argue he surpassed them, in a way. For a guy who was described as “cannot trust him in the clutch to get the job done,” he delivered against the Bills to tie the game with less than a minute left on a 51-yarder, arguably his most impressive kick of the year—I guess they call him the Money Badger for a reason. Likewise, going a very respectable 20/24 when you’re joining a new unit and have to familiarize yourself with a new holder midseason is nothing to balk at.

Also, don’t take for granted Badgley’s PAT performance. 33/33 is quite impressive, and he finished as one of seven kickers across the league who played most of their team’s games and went 100% on PATs. Of those seven, Badgley tied with New Orleans’ Wil Lutz for the most volume, with 33. Surely, those of you who watched Brett Maher’s meltdown in the playoffs can appreciate that 33/33 extra points are nothing to balk at.

Outlook for 2023

Contract status: Unrestricted free agent

My initial assessment of the Lions’ plans with Badgley still line up, and I think there’s a possibility he returns in 2023. When I asked him following the Week 18 win about returning to the Lions next season, he said:

“We’ve got good chemistry, to finish it like we did [...] You never really know what’s going to happen in the offseason [...] I was excited to be here, (and I) don’t want to leave.”

The Lions could very possibly use a late-round draft pick on a kicker, especially if Badgley is not viewed as a traditional long-term franchise kicker. However, this staff has found a nice repertoire with Badgley to understand what’s within his limits, and his skillset complements the offense’s aggressive nature on fourth down well. In a way, the return of Ben Johnson increases the likelihood of the return of Badgley.

If the Lions don’t retain Badgley before or during free agency, I’d fully interpret that as meaning they’re drafting a kicker. There’s no reason to re-enter the murky free agent kicker waters after what they’ve endured the last two seasons.

If they don’t plan on drafting a kicker, then expect Badgley to be around in training camp, possibly in competition with someone else. Given how well Badgley has meshed with the special teams unit and with the offense’s style, don’t be surprised if he wins said competition and holds his own for the 2023 season.

Poll

What should the Lions do with Michael Badgley?

This poll is closed

  • 73%
    Re-sign him to a one-year deal
    (999 votes)
  • 9%
    Re-sign him to a multi-year deal
    (134 votes)
  • 16%
    Let him walk in free agency
    (231 votes)
1364 votes total Vote Now