Bailey excited for new chapter
The Dallas Cowboys made a surprising move when they released former Oklahoma State kicker Dan Bailey during final roster cuts on Sept. 1.
But Bailey, the secondmost accurate kicker in NFL history, didn’t have to wait long until he received multiple offers from teams around the league.
After a miserable Week 2 for kickers, Bailey became one of the most desired free agents in the NFL — a rarity for players at his position.
The Southwest Covenant alum found a right fit with the Minnesota Vikings, a perennial contender that has struggled to find a reliable kicker in recent years. Bailey said there are many reasons why he signed with the Vikings on Sept. 17.
“The culture they have up here is right in line with what I would like to be a part of,” Bailey said in a phone interview with The Oklahoman on Thursday.
“Great locker room, great staff, great organization. Playing eight games inside is always a plus, so that was definitely a draw.”
While Bailey is excited to be with the Vikings, he admitted he was surprised and disappointed Dallas released him.
He had established a reputation as one the best kickers in football since the Cowboys signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2011. However, Bailey missed four games with a groin injury last season and struggled upon his return, missing three kicks Dec. 10 against the New York Giants.
“Taking a month off in the middle of the season and trying to jump back in and pick up right where you left off … I think I underestimated how tough that was actually going to be,” he said.
Despite his struggles, Bailey said he had a good offseason and did everything he could to keep his spot with the Cowboys, who went with Brett Maher instead.
“They decided to go a
different direction,” Bailey said. That’s just part of the business. That’s how it works sometimes.”
Interest in Bailey picked up after Week 2, when there were 19 misses across the league.
Vikings rookie Daniel Carlson missed three field goals — including two in overtime — in a 29-29 tie against the Green Bay Packers. The Vikings waited less than 24 hours after the game to cut Carlson, a fifth-round pick in April’s draft.
Carlson wasn’t the only kicker to lose his job.
Zane Gonzalez was cut by the Cleveland Browns after missing two field goals and two PATs as the Browns dropped a 21-18 heartbreaker to the New Orleans Saints.
After the game, Saints kicker Wil Lutz consoled Gonzalez on the sideline, a gesture that demonstrates the respect that kickers have for one another.
Although they are all competing for a limited number of jobs, Bailey said, he has formed many friendships with NFL
kickers and never wants to see them fail.
“It’s an interesting dichotomy,” he said. “You don’t want anybody to perform poorly. I would never wish that on anybody, especially at my position.
“... But in the same breath … it’s a job and there’s only 32 of them, which isn’t a lot. When you can get one, you want to do whatever you can to hold onto to it.”
Bailey is trying to do that in Minnesota and has performed well for his new team.
He didn’t attempt a field goal in his Vikings debut against the Bills but made all three of his attempts the following Thursday against the Los Angeles Rams.
His first field goal against the Rams, a 37-yard attempt, bounced off the right upright and barely went through.
Similar to that particular kick, Bailey’s journey to the NFL wasn’t ideal.
Before becoming an All-American at OSU, he had a short stint at Arkansas after high school. He lost the starting kicker job before the 2006 season, and left the Razorbacks after being told he would have to pay for tuition, room and board.
In high school, Bailey played eight-man football at Southwest Covenant in Yukon.
The school didn’t even have goalposts until Bailey began playing there.
Bailey said it is interesting to think about his high school days and reflect on how far he has come since then. He dreamed of playing in the NFL but never expected it would come true.
“That was definitely a dream of mine but I would have never guessed in a million years that I would have the opportunity that I have now,” he said.
Now, Bailey is excited to begin a new chapter of his life in Minnesota and hopes to continue playing for a long time.
“Hopefully I can keep doing it for a lot longer, maybe catch up to (Adam) Vinatieri or some of those guys,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes.”