USFL Conference Championship: Birmingham Stallions v Michigan Panthers
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The Detroit Lions are tapping into the United Football League to deepen their kicking room. The defending NFC North champions have signed kicker Jake Bates to a two-year deal, Bates' agent confirmed to ESPN. The deal is worth $1.98 million and includes $150,000 guaranteed along with a $100,000 signing bonus. On top of the Lions, the 24-year-old received interest from the Green Bay Packers and Washington Commanders, but opted to stay in Michigan.

Bates had put himself on the NFL's radar for his stellar play for the UFL's Michigan Panthers this season, which included him hitting a 64-yard field goal. With just three seconds left in the Panthers' matchup with the St. Louis Battlehawks, Bates connected on the 64-yarder to give his team the win and help set up this latest stop in the NFL. For the season, Bates made 21 of 28 field goals, including two additional 60-yarders.

Bates went undrafted in 2023 out of Arkansas and had his first taste of the NFL when he signed with the Houston Texans last summer. However, the former first-team All-SEC kicker only spent a few weeks with the club during training camp before being released.

Bates joins a Lions kicking room that currently has Michael Badgley and rookie James Turner. Badgley replaced Riley Patterson at the end of last season after Patterson missed two extra points in the span of three games. In four regular-season games, Badgley connected on all of his field goal attempts and 13 of his 15 extra points. In Detroit's two playoff games, he hit three field goals (one from beyond 50 yards) and all 11 extra points.