ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — The Dallas Cowboys waived Dan Bailey, the second-most accurate kicker in NFL history, in a surprise move Saturday to get their roster to 53 players for the regular season.
Bailey was the Dallas kicker for seven seasons and made at least 93 percent of his kicks in three of his first five years. The former Oklahoma State player tailed off badly last season after injuring his groin against San Francisco in the sixth game of the season.
By waiving Bailey, the Cowboys are going with Brett Maher. The sixth-year player from Nebraska hasn’t kicked in a regular-season game. He made a 57-yarder in the Cowboys’ 14-6 loss to Houston in the preseason finale.
Before the injury, Bailey was the most accurate in NFL history among kickers with at least 100 attempts. He was 8 of 13 after the injury to finish 2017 at a career-low 75 percent. The 30-year-old Bailey’s accuracy dropped nearly 20 percentage points over his final two seasons.
Bailey is at 88.2 percent for his career (186 of 211), second to Justin Tucker’s 90.2 percent. Bailey is Dallas’ career leader in field goals.
The move on Bailey could have been a financial one since it saves $3.4 million against the salary cap. Maher, who is signed through 2019, will make $480,000 this season.
Tight end Rico Gathers made the 53-man roster a day after he was arrested on a charge of possession of marijuana. The former Baylor basketball player hasn’t played in the regular season going into his third year.
Dallas made the unusual move of keeping four tight ends in its first season without Jason Witten, who retired after 15 years to take the role as lead analyst for “Monday Night Football.”
Geoff Swaim is the only tight end on the roster with a catch in the regular season. Blake Jarwin is listed as the backup, and the Cowboys drafted Dalton Schultz in the fourth round this year.
The Cowboys made room for Gathers by keeping just two running backs in Ezekiel Elliott and Rod Smith. Former Alabama running back Bo Scarbrough was among the cuts, with Dallas likely hoping to add the seventh-round pick to the practice squad.
Dallas waived two of its free agent signings in defensive end Kony Ealy and receiver Deonte Thompson, who was slowed by an Achilles tendon injury in training camp.
Defensive tackle Jihad Ward, acquired in a trade that sent 2017 fourth-round pick Ryan Switzer to Oakland, was waived. Switzer, a receiver and kick returner, has since been traded to Pittsburgh.
The Cowboys waived a pair of recent third-round picks in offensive lineman Chaz Green (2015) and defensive end Charles Tapper (2016). Both were slowed by injuries early in their careers.
Green was benched during a poor showing while starting in place of left tackle Tyron Smith against Atlanta last season. Dak Prescott was sacked a career-high eight times in that game.
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