TAMPA — With a franchise-record 92.9 percent success rate on field goals, Connor Barth left himself a tough act to follow. But at 26 and already one of the best kickers in the NFL, the Bucs believe nothing should preclude an encore.
That's why they placed the franchise player tag on Barth in March and why on Thursday they signed him to a four-year, $13.2 million contract with $4 million guaranteed.
"For the Bucs organization, (general manager) Mark Dominik, Coach (Greg) Schiano and everyone to believe in me, to know that I'll be their kicker for the next four years, is awesome," Barth said in a statement. "It's just an amazing opportunity, and I want to continue to perform like I have and live up to their expectations."
Barth made 26 of 28 field goals last season, second in the NFL. He made 15 straight to end the season, the longest active streak in the league. In the past two years, Barth's 87.5 percentage is fourth-best in the league.
In a 39-19 loss to Carolina last season, Barth became the third player in league history to make four or more 40-plus yard field goals in one half (50, 47, 46 and 44 yards).
His standing among kickers is reflected in his $3.3 million per year salary, which is just behind the Raiders Sebastian Janikowski ($4 million per year) and the Colts' Adam Vinatieri ($3.45 million) and ahead of the Patriots Stephen Gostkowski ($3.15 million).
Since joining the Bucs during the 2009 season, Barth has made 63 of 75 field goals (84 percent) and has hit all 71 extra points.
He has gone from being released by the Chiefs and Dolphins to one of the highest-paid at his position.
Barth entered the league as a free agent with Kansas City in 2008. He was released at the end of the preseason, then re-signed, making 10 of 12 field goals in 10 games.
In 2009, Barth was released by both the Chiefs and Dolphins. The Bucs had kicking problems that year before signing Barth, who replaced struggling Mike Nugent and Shane Andrus and made 14 of 19 field goals over nine games. That included making three field goals of 50 yards or more in his second game, at Miami.
Barth declined to sign the $2.65 million franchise tender and didn't participate in the veteran minicamp before this year's draft. It turned out to be a good move.
The Bucs had already demonstrated a willingness to spend on specialists. Last offseason they signed Falcons punter/kickoff specialist Michael Koenen to a six-year, $19.5 million contract. The $32.7 million committed by the Bucs is believed to be the most combined by an NFL team for a punter and placekicker.
Despite not being under contract, Barth was present Tuesday on the first day of the Bucs' organized team activities. "That's what makes Connor a unique guy and a good teammate," Dominik said.
By Thursday, Barth was rewarded for his performance and loyalty.
MORE SIGNINGS: The Bucs signed former Jets receiver Wallace Wright and receiver Armahd Lewis while releasing tackle Mike Ingersoll and tight end Tyler Urban. Wright has played in 53 games over four seasons, all with the Jets. Lewis is an undrafted free agent from Central Washington University.