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Tampa Bay Buccaneers place franchise tag on Connor Barth, re-sign Jeremy Zuttah to four-year deal

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers placed their franchise player tag on Connor Barth, who became the fifth place-kicker in the league to earn that distinction.

The team also announced the signing of G/C Jeremy Zuttah to a four-year contract, reuniting him with former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano.

Terms of the deal were not released.

The franchise tag number for place-kickers is about $2.65-million on a one-year contract that is guaranteed. It represents the average top five salaries of place-kickers in the NFL and is lower this year because of a new calculation agreed to in the new collective bargaining agreement. Barth earned about $1.9-million in 2011.

Other place-kickers who have received the franchise player tag include the Jaguars' Josh Scobee, the Broncos' Matt Prater, the Bengals' Mike Nugent and the Browns' Phil Dawson.

Barth set a franchise record in 2011 by connecting on 92.9 percent of his field goal attempts (26-of-28), which ranked second in the NFL last season. It's believed Barth is seeking a contract similar to the five-year, $15.759-million deal signed by Patriots place-kicker Stephen Gostkowski last season.

Gostkowski made 28-of-33 field goal attempts during the regular season (84.8 percent) and was 5-for-5 in the playoffs.

Barth has improved every season since signing as a free agent with the Bucs midway through 2009. He has made 83.9 percent of his career field goal attempts. Last year, he did not have to perform kickoff duties after the team signed Falcons free agent punter Michael Koenen.

In four seasons, Zuttah's versatility has been a huge asset to the Bucs. He has played in 58 regular-season games with 44 starts at both guard and center. Zuttah started 30 games at left guard, five at right guard and nine at center. A third-round selection (83rd overall) in 2008 from Rutgers, he rejoins his former college head coach.

"(General manager) Mark (Dominik) and I agreed keeping Jeremy on our football team was one of our priorities this offseason,'' Schiano said in a release by the team. "He is a young, talented player, who we both know very well. We are pleased we could get this deal done and secure Jeremy for years to come.''

Zuttah started 14 of the 15 games he played in 2011, helping the Bucs record the fourth-best average gain-per-play (5.29) and third-best average rush-per-play (4.21).

"Not only am I happy to remain a Buccaneer, but also to be back playing for Coach Schiano. I couldn't be more thrilled about this opportunity," Zuttah said in a release by the team Monday.

With Zuttah under contract, the Bucs will spend the day trying reach a long-term agreement with place-kicker Connor Barth. But failing progress in those talks, Tampa Bay is expected to use their franchise tag on Barth before today's 4 p.m. deadline.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers place franchise tag on Connor Barth, re-sign Jeremy Zuttah to four-year deal 03/05/12 [Last modified: Monday, March 5, 2012 4:31pm]
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