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Bucs kicker Roberto Aguayo will have competition this year

Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Roberto Aguayo (19) has his field goal attempt blocked during the second half of an NFL football game between the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Roberto Aguayo (19) has his field goal attempt blocked during the second half of an NFL football game between the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017.

TAMPA — After drafting FSU's Roberto Aguayo in the second round in April, the Bucs cut both of their returning kickers, leaving his job uncontested for 2016.

After struggling as a rookie, he won't be as lucky this fall.

With one field goal missed and another blocked in Sunday's one-point win over the Panthers, the Bucs finished last out of 32 NFL teams in field-goal percentage, 71 percent.

Coach Dirk Koetter made it clear Monday that Aguayo will have competition in 2017, and if the results aren't there, the Bucs are ready to move on.

"As far as the investment in Roberto and where we picked him, we were all on board with that," Koetter said. "That's not going to change. We're never going to bring that back. That happened, and Roberto was our kicker and like any other player, if he's got that Buc jersey on and he's out there on game day, I'm 100 percent in. With that said, our field-goal percentage this year was not good enough. That's not the only stat that's not good enough."

Not only did the Bucs hit only 22 of 31 field-goal attempts, they went 4-for-11 on kicks of 40 yards or longer. Aguayo's long was 43, making the Bucs the first NFL team since 2010 to go an entire season without hitting a single field goal of at least 45 yards. To find a Bucs season where they did that, you have to go back to 1980, when Garo Yepremian's long was 43 yards.

"I think it's already proven that we have no problem moving on from a draft choice and playing somebody that wasn't drafted," Koetter said. "We've got to have competition at every position. Nothing's a given. If they're not the best player, then I feel pretty certain in saying they won't be out there."

NFL'S BEST: A strong showing in Sunday's win against Carolina gave the Bucs defense the title of being the NFL's best on third downs for the season.

It's a remarkable turnaround under first-year defensive coordinator Mike Smith, considering the Bucs ranked 30th in 2015, allowing opponents to convert 46 percent of the time.

The Bucs went into Sunday's game second behind Miami, but after holding Carolina to 4-for-15 on third downs, they improved their season total to 34.4 percent, jumping to first.

SO CLOSE: How close were the Bucs to making the playoffs as a 9-7 wild card? If the Bucs had simply flipped their last two outcomes, instead beating the Saints and losing to the Panthers, Tampa Bay, instead of Detroit, would be preparing to face Seattle.

The Bucs and Lions had the same 9-7 record and 7-5 conference record, but Tampa Bay lost the record against common opponents tiebreaker, going 2-3 while the Lions went 3-2. If the Bucs had beaten the Saints, they would have finished 3-2 in that subgroup and the tiebreaker would have moved on to the next criteria, which the Bucs would have won.

THIS AND THAT: The Bucs signed six players from their practice squad to futures contracts to compete for jobs next fall: RB Blake Sims, TE Tevin Westbrook, CB Cody Riggs, OL Mike Liedtke, OL Josh Allen and S Isaiah Johnson. … Koetter said rookie Ryan Smith, a fourth-round pick who didn't play a snap on defense but worked most of the season as a safety, will be a cornerback moving forward. … Guard J.R. Sweezy, who missed all of 2016 with a back injury, said he's "very confident" he'll be ready to play in 2017. Koetter wasn't so sure: "We really don't know what we have," he said.

Contact Greg Auman at gauman@tampabay.com and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.

Bucs kicker Roberto Aguayo will have competition this year 01/02/17 [Last modified: Monday, January 2, 2017 8:19pm]
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