Now that the season is over, we’ll be looking at the players the Jets have signed to futures deals since the end of the season. We continue today with a look at kicker Brett Maher.
The 30-year old is listed at 6’0” and 190 pounds and was an undrafted free agent out of Nebraska back in 2013, but didn’t make his NFL debut until 2018. He was the Cowboys’ kicker in 2018 and 2019, although he was released late in the season last year.
Maher was recruited to Nebraska where he originally served as the backup punter and as a holder on the placekicking unit. However, he eventually moved into a dual role as the team’s punter and kicker.
In his college career, Maher made 78 percent of his field goals and 99 percent of his extra points, while also averaging 43.2 yards per punt.
It was the Jets who were the first team to sign Maher as an undrafted free agent in 2013, but he was released before training camp. He spent some time with the Cowboys but his only preseason action was one kickoff and he was released in final cuts.
For the next four seasons, Maher plied his trade in Canada where his best season saw him make 82 percent of his field goals. He also served as a punter, averaging 46.7 yards per punt in 2017. He would ultimately earn a spot on the CFL all-star team as a punter.
He tried to get back into the NFL in 2018 and earned a camp invite with the Cowboys but nobody gave him much of a chance of making the team with the league’s most accurate kicker, Dan Bailey, ahead of him.
Despite missing his first kick of preseason, Maher made field goals of 45, 45, 57 and 41 yards and was surprisingly handed the job over Bailey.
His first season saw him enter the 13th game with only three missed field goals, but there would be concern heading into the 2019 season because he missed four of his last seven kicks. That concern proved to be justified when Maher became the first kicker to miss 10 field goals in a season for four years and was released late in the season.
Over six years on from when they released him during the John Idzik era, the Jets signed Maher to a futures deal at the end of last season.
Now let’s break down Maher in more detail, divided into categories:
Maher had a solid first season with the Cowboys, but was disappointing last year with just a 67 percent success rate on field goals. He has been reliable on extra points, though, with a 99 percent success rate in college and only one miss in 69 attempts at the NFL level.
Perhaps the most worrying thing about Maher’s numbers is that he’s never had an outstanding season with a percentage much higher than 80 percent at any level, so even in his best years, he’s only basically been replacement level.
Maher has had two kicks blocked at the NFL level, including one last season that ultimately got returned for a touchdown by the Colts.
Although his accuracy has been a concern, there’s no doubting Maher’s big leg as he’s made an impressive 10 of 15 from beyond 50 yards in his pro career. That includes kicks of 62, 62 and 63 yards which makes him the only kicker in NFL history with three makes from 60 yards or more.
It was calculated that the 63-yarder would apparently have been good from 66. The NFL record is 64 yards.
However, Maher can sometimes over-hit his kicks from long range, missing badly on this 57-yard attempt.
Maher has made 5-of-8 field goals in cold weather games, but did hit a 62-yarder in Metlife Stadium.
Maher made a couple of game winners with the Cowboys in 2018, helping them make the playoffs. He made a kick as time expired in a 22-19 win over Atlanta and then made this clutch game winner against the Lions while trailing 24-23.
However he also missed this kick that could have sent their game against Washington to overtime.
He also missed a late chip shot against the Packers, his second miss of the game, when he could have made it a one-possession game.
Despite his big leg, Maher has an underwhelming touchback rate of only 60 percent and his numbers for hang time and field position are also underwhelming.
As noted, Maher also has experience as a punter and a holder. He’s a pretty good athlete who played some wide receiver in high school and also participated in track and field. He ran a 4.89 in the 40-yard dash in the pre-draft process.
Maher has three tackles in his NFL career, including one in the postseason. However, he missed his tackle on this play.
He dealt with some hip issues in 2015, causing him to be unavailable for basically the entire season.
Comparison with Sam Ficken
Last year’s kicker, Sam Ficken, is out of contract at the end of the season, but he’s an exclusive rights free agent so the Jets have the option to bring him back on a minimum salary contract if they want to.
Ficken doesn’t have Maher’s leg with a career long of just 54 yards and a 54 percent touchback rate at the NFL level. His accuracy numbers don’t compare favorably either, as Maher’s disappointing 67 percent success rate on field goals last year exactly matches Ficken’s career rate.
That’s before even factoring in extra points, where Ficken has missed 10 percent of his career attempts.
Ficken has been slightly more productive as a tackler with one more tackle in 10 less career games, but is slightly less athletic with a 5.06 40-yard dash time.
Maher is a potential upgrade over Ficken, who had an up-and-down season with the Jets last year despite his game-winner against Miami.
However, he’s the latest in a parade of broken kickers that the Jets have brought in with the hope that they can rejuvenate their career. It worked with Nick Folk and Jason Myers to a point, but if the team can bring in a more reliable option or a youngster with a much higher upside, they shouldn’t hesitate to do so.