Bengals: Kicker battle will come down to the wire in 2021

Evan McPherson, Cincinnati Bengals. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Evan McPherson, Cincinnati Bengals. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

Cincinnati Bengals fans will sure get a kick out of this special teams competition.

One pun down, zero more allowed.

But the Bengals really do have a tough choice to make between rookie Evan McPherson and incumbent Austin Seibert for the kicker position this season. Cincinnati used a draft pick on McPherson in the 2021 NFL Draft, making the Florida standout the only kicker chosen in the draft.

Now, teams don’t just waste draft picks on backup kickers. Surely that means McPherson gets the job, doesn’t it?

His collegiate career certainly makes him qualified enough. McPherson entered the NFL as the most accurate kicker in SEC history for players with at least 50 field goal attempts. During his three seasons at Florida, McPherson made 51-of-60 field goal attempts and 149-of-150 extra-point attempts for 302 points.

The only thing keeping McPherson from locking down the kicker spot is the obvious and something that’s by no fault of his own: his lack of pro league experience.

The nightmare of Jake Elliott still haunts Cincinnati, and after going down the treacherous rookie path before, the Bengals may opt for the more seasoned choice of Seibert instead.

Cincinnati Bengals kicker competition is unusually entertaining this season

Seibert was also a fifth-round draft choice, picked by the Cleveland Browns in 2019. After making 25-of-29 field goal attempts and 30-of-35 extra-point kicks as a rookie, Seibert missed his only field goal attempt and his only extra-point attempt in the Browns’ first game in 2020.

Cleveland didn’t feel like giving Seibert a third chance and waived him. The Bengals picked him up from the side of the road and put him on the practice squad, where he bided his time before eventually nudging out Randy Bullock to become the Bengals’ kicker late in the season.

Seibert didn’t let his team down this time: in the Bengals’ final four games of 2020, Seibert made 6-of-8 field goal attempts and 8-of-8 extra-point kicks.

Seibert will want to exact revenge on the Browns for booting him so quickly, but only training camp reps will tell if he’s good enough for the starting kicker job.

That Cincinnati drafted a kicker in 2021 must have been a sock to the gut for Seibert, and if it weren’t for that bad-optics Jake Elliott situation years ago, McPherson would be the de facto kicker.

Watching Seibert and McPherson “kick” it out isn’t exactly must-see TV, but just like any other training camp battle, players’ careers and egos are on the line.

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The stakes for this kicker competition have never been higher, and the mantra can be boiled down to two words: Don’t miss.