The Jets hope Zuerlein, released by the Dallas Cowboys in March, can provide stability at the position. They will open the season with a different kicker for the seventh straight year, and overall, have gone through eight kickers since losing Jason Myers to free agency after his All-Pro season in 2018.
Zuerlein, 34, signed a one-year, $2 million contract with New York in March. The Jets also had re-signed Pineiro (one year, $1.75 million) in March, with the hope of upgrading the competition and solving their perennial problem.
In the end, they opted for Zuerlein’s experience over Pineiro’s upside.
Pineiro kicked well in games, converting all eight of his field goal tries as a late-season addition in 2021, and following that up by converting his lone attempt (a 26-yarder) this preseason. He also was 2-for-2 on extra point tries. He recently missed some practices with back stiffness, but returned to kick in Monday night’s preseason win over the Atlanta Falcons.
Zuerlein didn’t have many preseason opportunities, either — 1-for-1 on field goals (a 44-yarder) and 4-for-4 on extra points. Practice performance weighed heavily in the decision, with special teams coordinator Brant Boyer calling it a “neck-and-neck” competition.
“Both of them plenty of leg strength, so it’s going to be really interesting to see how it falls out,” he said last week.
The one question with Zuerlein, an All-Pro for the Los Angeles Rams in 2017, is that he’s never kicked for a cold-weather team. He has played in a dome (Cowboys and Rams in St. Louis) and in warm weather (Rams in Los Angeles). He missed six field goal attempts and six extra point tries last season, leading Dallas to release him.
The Jets will take a $700,000 cap hit for releasing Pineiro, who had a $700,000 guarantee.