Wild-card games show Bailey's importance

IRVING, Texas -- Two games on wild-card weekend were decided by field goals.

The New Orleans Saints beat the Philadelphia Eagles 26-24 on a 32-yard kick by Shayne Graham on Saturday. Lake Highland’s Phil Dawson helped the San Francisco 49ers beat the Green Bay Packers with a 33-yard field goal as time expired.

Having a reliable kicker in the NFL nowadays is a must with how close the games are each week.

The Kansas City Chiefs chose to attempt to convert a fourth-and-17 from the Indianapolis Colts 43 instead of giving Ryan Succop a chance to make a 60-yarder. Succop made all three of his attempts Saturday, but did his late-season struggles lead the Chiefs to not even think about the long kick in a dome stadium?

Although a 60-yard try might have been ridiculed, too.

The Cowboys have one of the most reliable in Dan Bailey, who has missed only four of his last 61 field goal attempts the past two seasons. A case could have been made for Bailey to make the Pro Bowl over Justin Tucker or Matt Prater, but there were other kickers with solid arguments as well for a free trip to Hawaii.

Bailey will be a restricted free agent in March, and he is in a good spot.

At the very least the Cowboys will put the second-round tender on Bailey, which would pay him $2.124 million in 2014. Because he was undrafted in 2011, they have no other option. They could opt to put the right-of-first-refusal tender on him worth $1.389 million but would not receive any compensation in return if he signed an offer sheet with another team.

What the Cowboys should do – and can do despite the salary-cap issues – is sign Bailey to a multiyear deal where they would in effect buy out his chance at unrestricted free agency. They did it a few years ago with Jermey Parnell. They did it last year with Barry Church and Phil Costa.

The Chicago Bears signed Robbie Gould to a four-year, $15 million deal that included $9 million guaranteed. Gould is older and has a Pro Bowl to his credit. He was also set to be an unrestricted free agent.

Only once before has owner and general manager Jerry Jones ponied up for a kicker. In 2006, he gave Mike Vanderjagt a three-year, $5.4 million deal that included a $2.5 million signing bonus, and Vanderjagt did not last the season.

Bailey is no Vanderjagt.

He turns 26 later this month and is an ascending player with an immense amount of respect in the locker room. Teammates voted him the special teams’ captain in 2013.

Finding a middle ground should not be a problem for a player Jason Garrett said does his job as well as anybody the Cowboys have.