The Bengals have a significant issue at kicker.
Long-time veteran Mike Nugent is having a preseason to forget, arguably his worst in Bengals stripes. Last week against the Lions, Nugent missed an extra point and a 45-yard field-goal attempt. That came after he missed a 48-yard field-goal attempt the previous week versus the Vikings.
These struggles have left the Bengals with a potential need to address before the regular season begins, even if Marvin Lewis doesn’t want to acknowledge the issue. It comes as a major surprise after Nugent looked great in training camp, but the pressure of practice kicks and in-game kicks are two different things.
The latter is too big of an issue with Nugent right now for the Bengals to not have a few kickers in mind if they need to sign another option. The good news is Nugent did drill a 50-yard field goal to give himself some small redemption in Detroit. That seems to have been enough to keep another kicker from being added this week.
Still, the Bengals need more competition with Zach Hocker having missed most of the preseason and camp with an ankle injury. He had a good camp before being injured, but as we saw with Nugent, that means very little.
The Bengals probably will not sign another kicker between now and Sunday's preseason matchup with the Jaguars. However, another bad game by Nugent could lead to a kicker being signed to unseat him by the time Week 1 kicks off. Hocker is also expected to make his Bengals debut this weekend.
It's also worth pointing out that Jacksonville's field conditions can result in a bigger challenge for kickers to make field goals. Nugent's current struggles and kicking in an uncommon environment could lead to the kind of night needed for the Bengals to sign another kicker.
The free agent market is pretty dry when it comes to quality kickers who would be an upgrade over Nugent. Garrett Hartley is a veteran who's made plenty of big kicks in his career, but has been too erratic to feel good about.
There's also Josh Scobee...no thanks.
After them, there are several kickers who went undrafted in this year's NFL draft, signed with teams but have since been waived. Former Georgia kicker Marshall Morgan would make the most sense given the Bengals' Bulldogs pipeline. Morgan finished his college career ranking third all-time at UGA and in the SEC in scoring with 407 points.
Morgan converted 38-of-38 extra points and 18-of-25 field goals in 2015. If the Bengals add a kicker within the next week, Morgan is someone to watch for.
The Giants also just released former Bengals kicker Tom Obarski who spent 2015 on Cincinnati’s practice squad. If the Bengals liked what they saw from him last year, they could try to bring him back.
Here is a look at all of the notable free agent kickers we could find.
1. Garrett Hartley, 30, 8th season.
2. Carey Spear, 24, 2nd season.
3. Brad Craddock, 24, rookie.
4. Marshall Morgan, 22, rookie.
5. Nick Rose, 22, rookie.
6. Kyle Brindza, 23, 2nd season.
7. Josh Scobee, 34, 12th season.
8. Tom Obarski, 23, 2nd season.