Saturday, June 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Roberto Aguayo faces stiff test to keep Bucs' placekicker job

TAMPA — The wind is never going to be at Roberto Aguayo's back when he lines up for a field goal or extra point this offseason in his quest to remain the Bucs' kicker.

Quite frankly, short of putting everything through the uprights, it's hard to imagine what Aguayo will have to do to keep his job.

Aguayo, 23, suffered through a disappointing rookie season, and the scrutiny reached the front offices at One Buc Place.

General manager Jason Licht was vilified for his decision to trade up into the second round to select the Florida State kicker. Then Aguayo did nothing to ease the pressure by making an NFL-worst 71 percent (22-of-31) of his field goals, with a long of only 43 yards.

To their credit, the Bucs are willing to lose the draft equity they have in Aguayo, and they demonstrated that by signing Jets free agent Nick Folk while guaranteeing him $750,000.

It's still very early, with offseason workouts, training camp and preseason games to go in the kick-a-thon. But if the two practices that were open to the media last week are any indication, Aguayo might be the guy Hard Knocks cameras follow into the parking lot as he packs up whatever may be left of his career.

Aguayo made 1 of 4 field-goals Tuesday on the narrow goalposts (8½ feet wide instead of the regulation 18½ feet), then connected on 4 of 5 from 35-40 yards on the regulation-sized uprights Thursday. Meanwhile, the 32-year-old Folk was 9-for-9 from the same distance.

"The competition has definitely started. I know everybody feels it," coach Dirk Koetter said. "There's a little tension when we're going through that. That's a good thing. That's a good thing. This is pro football, there's supposed to be competition."

This is not to suggest the Bucs won't give Aguayo every opportunity to restore their faith in his toe. The Raiders' Sebastian Janikowski, also out of FSU, was worse as a rookie, making 22 of 32 field goals (68.8 percent) in 2000. Seventeen years later he's a career 80.4 percent kicker.

If Aguayo rediscovers the consistency he was known for with the Seminoles, the Bucs might have their kicker for a decade. That was the plan. But if the inaccuracy doesn't scare you, consider he didn't demonstrate much range, either. Aguayo was 4-of-11 on field goals of 40 yards or longer. (Janikowski, as a rookie, was 9-of-18 but 8-of-14 between 40 and 49.)

Aguayo will have until the final preseason game to prove himself. For one thing, Folk could get hurt. Two years ago, he went on injured reserve with a quadriceps strain.

What you have to wonder is, if at the end of preseason they both are even, who's leaving? Moves like the signing of Jets free agent quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to provide a quality backup tell you the Bucs know they have a good team and what's at stake.

A year ago, a similar battle was waged by incumbent punter Jacob Schum and Jaguars free agent Bryan Anger. But it didn't have nearly the same interest or intrigue. Anger was clearly better and won the job and eventually a contract extension.

"You know, last year when we had the punter competition, I was kind of nervous about that," Koetter said. "Just like you said, is it going to come down to one punt? But just as time went on, even though it was a close competition, it did sort of work itself out.

"But you know, when you think about how many kicks a guy gets in a year, really the difference between an 85 percent kicker and 75 percent over the course of a season is probably a couple kicks. So they all matter."

Even if Aguayo kicks well in training camp and the preseason, you have to wonder: When Koetter goes to bed Sept. 9 in Miami on the eve of the season opener, will he really be confident that 2017 will be different?

The head wind is just starting to blow.

Comments
Ronald Darby’s friend: Jameis Winston got into second Uber ride alone

Ronald Darby’s friend: Jameis Winston got into second Uber ride alone

New details emerged Friday night about the Uber ride in Arizona in March 2016 that led to Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston's three-game suspension to start the upcoming season, including the fact that Winston was in a car that night with a former Vand...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Chris Godwin on SiriusXM: Bucs have confidence in backup QBs

Chris Godwin on SiriusXM: Bucs have confidence in backup QBs

Bucs receiver Chris Godwin, who has had as good an offseason as any Tampa Bay player, was on SiriusXM NFL radio for a scheduled interview on Thursday night, talking about a range of subjects, including the news of Jameis Winston's suspension to start...
Published: 06/22/18
With Winston suspension, how might Bucs split QB reps in preseason?

With Winston suspension, how might Bucs split QB reps in preseason?

With news that Jameis Winston will be suspended for the first three games of 2018, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter has an interesting decision to make for training camp and especially in preseason games: How does he split reps between Winston and backup Ryan...
Published: 06/22/18
Bucs QB Jameis Winston’s suspension: What they’re saying

Bucs QB Jameis Winston’s suspension: What they’re saying

There are so many sides to the Jameis Winston suspension, and it will continue to be a major Bucs story line through September and beyond. Here's some of the reactions and notes that have already emerged in the first 24 hours since news broke Thursda...
Published: 06/22/18
Welcome back to the dark side, Bucs fans

Welcome back to the dark side, Bucs fans

TAMPA — Thursday was not the end of Jameis Winston in Tampa Bay, but it is in sight.Me? I was sitting at home. I was tired of the NBA draft, even with Tampa's Kevin Knox going to the New York Knicks.So I switched to the NFL Network. An episode ...
Published: 06/22/18
Winston aftermath: Report says Darby wasn’t in car for whole ride

Winston aftermath: Report says Darby wasn’t in car for whole ride

There's no telling how much detail will be disclosed in what the NFL learned in its investigation that led to Jameis Winston being suspended for the first three games of the upcoming season, but some have already been reported in the first 24 hours s...
Published: 06/22/18
Kwon Alexander to Jameis Winston: ‘We gotcha back’

Kwon Alexander to Jameis Winston: ‘We gotcha back’

There are many questions in the aftermath of Thursday's news that Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston will be suspended for the first three games of the 2018 season, but even before the suspension is officially announced, he is drawing support on social ...
Published: 06/22/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Jameis Winston to receive three-game suspension

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Jameis Winston to receive three-game suspension

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston will be suspended by the NFL for three games according to reports, and that number could go up if he doesn't meet certain criteria.Rick Stroud explains that the suspension is not for a failure to report the 2016 i...
Published: 06/22/18
Timeline of investigations, suspensions and allegations involving Jameis Winston

Timeline of investigations, suspensions and allegations involving Jameis Winston

The NFL will suspend Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston three games without pay to start the regular season for violating the league's personal conduct policy. The suspension could be increased if he fails to meet certain undisclosed requirements expect...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Jameis Winston suspension means Bucs will turn to Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB

Jameis Winston suspension means Bucs will turn to Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB

TAMPA — The news of Jameis Winston's suspension to start this season likely means the Bucs will have veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick stepping in at quarterback for the first three games of the regular season.Fitzpatrick took over as the starter for th...
Published: 06/21/18