The rookie specialist will be among the goats when evaluating the Lions’ 24-7 loss after missing both of his field goal attempts.
Even though the six points left on the table by Freese weren’t enough to bridge the 21-point gap in the final score, both misses came in the first half, where the added points could have altered the complexion of the contest.
Freese has now missed three of his five field goal attempts this season, scratching twice from 49 yards this week and from 42 yards a week ago. His two made field goals were inside of 30 yards.
So, should the Lions cut ties with their seventh round pick of last May’s draft? Maybe, but it might not be as simple as that.
After an up-and-down preseason, the Lions must have expected some level of internment performance from the rookie kicker, so giving up on Freese after only two weeks would be an indictment against their decision to keep Freese in the first place. Also, even though Freese’s conversion rate of 40 percent is atrocious, the sample size is not sufficient and two of his three misses were essentially 50-yard attempts from grass.
If Freese had an established reputation as a kicker, these misses wouldn’t be alarming because of the distance but, as an unknown commodity, questions are inevitable.
Head coach Jim Caldwell said the team wasn’t going to make any “rash decisions” only moments after the loss but wouldn’t completely stand behind his place kicker – which could indicate that the team will – at the very least – be open to evaluating their kicker position.
If the team is willing to look at alternative options, the question then shifts to who.
Rian Lindell is available and converted on nearly 80 percent of his kicks a year ago for Tampa Bay but he is 37 and based on his 47.3 percent conversion average on 50-plus yard field goals since 2008, he may not have made a difference on the two 49-yard attempts against the Panthers.
Alex Henery is another available veteran and – at 27 – he is on the right side of 30. Still, despite converting on 86 percent of his kicks in three career seasons, he has struggled with long field goals, and lost his job to undrafted free agent Cody Parkey after going 1-for-3 during the preseason.
Jay Feely, like Lindell, is available and has a track record but is within a few years of turning 40 and would represent only a stop gap. Rob Bironas is a member of the same group of potential stop gap options. Connor Barth is also available but wasn’t able to make the Buccaneers' final roster this offseason after suffering an injury the year before.
Of course, the Lions could go the route of a less-heralded option with upside such as bringing back Giorgio Tavecchio, who had a solid preseason for the Lions, but lesser-known options come with the same risk as keeping Freese.
As fans and pundits debate the merits of replacing Freese, it’s likely the Lions will be having the same discussion internally. Still, just because the topic may be on the table, it doesn’t necessarily mean the team will opt to go that direction. They have made an investment in Freese and having a larger body of work to evaluate may be the wise route to take.