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Falcons release PK Matt Bryant; could Bucs reverse the curse?

The Bucs have struggled with finding a reliable kicker since releasing Bryant in 2009.
Atlanta Falcons kicker Matt Bryant (3) kicks the game-winning field goal during the fourth quarter of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game against the Atlanta Falcons on Dec. 30. (MONICA HERNDON | Times)
Published Feb. 6

TAMPA ― The Bucs have a chance to really reverse the curse of kicker Matt Bryant.

Bryant, 43, announced on Twitter Wednesday that the Atlanta Falcons plan to release him with two years remaining on his contract.

“I was informed last night that the team was moving on from my services and that I will be released,” Bryant posted. “I want to say thank you to all the fans that have stood with me and our family during our time here. I take great pride in my body of work on and off the field. I hope I have represented you well while I was here. It was a honor to be a part of some big moments in this franchise’s history. This chapter is now closed. I look forward to bringing the success and consistency that I produced to my next team.”

The Bucs have struggled to find continuity at the place-kicking position since releasing Bryant in 2009.

Tampa Bay also just hired the Keith Armstrong, the Falcons' special teams coach the past 10 seasons. During that time, Bryant connected on 88.7 percent of his 282 field-goal attempts. Over the same period, the Bucs' collection of 11 wayward kickers made only 77.3 percent of 300 during that time.

Tampa Bay also has missed 11 extra-point tries since the NFL moved the spot for the ball to the 15-yard line from the 2 in 2015.

It was a surprise move by the Falcons, who signed Bryant to a three-year extension before the 2018 season. By releasing him, the Falcons will save about $2.83 million in salary cap room this year, but will take on a $1.33 million dead cap hit.

Bryant made 20 of 21 field attempts for the Falcons last season. He boomed a 57-yard field goal with 1:10 remaining in the game in a 34-29 win over Tampa Bay at Atlanta on Oct. 14. Then Bryant hit a winning 37-yard field goal as time expired in Atlanta’s 34-32 win at Tampa in the Dec. 30 season finale.

Since releasing Bryant, the Bucs have had a revolving door of kickers, from Mike Nugent, Shane Andrus, Connor Barth, Rian Lindell, Pat Murray, Kyle Brindza, Roberto Aguayo, Nick Folk, Chandler Catanzaro and Cairo Santos.

Armstrong said recently that he knows the importance of a good kicker.

“Big time,” he said. “They win games, you know what I mean?”

In 2004, Armstrong was Miami’s special teams coach when the Dolphins hired Bryant as a fill-in while Olindo Mare healed from a thigh injury.

“When Olindo Mare came back at Miami and we finished the season, I’m sitting there saying, ‘Huh, did we keep the right guy?’” Armstrong recalled Friday. “Then Bryant comes up (to the Bucs). As soon as we went to Atlanta and Bryant was let go here, I went right in and got him, and he was the right guy.”

Consider the resources the Bucs have invested in kickers. They traded third- and fourth-round draft picks to move into the second round and draft Aguayo in 2016. They paid Folk $1.75 million for four games and a 2-of-5 field-goal performance in 2017. Catanzaro walked away with $3.75 million for going 11-of-15 on field and with four missed point-after tries in nine games. Santos went 9-of-12 on field goals but is a free agent.

Assuming he doesn’t want to retire, the Bucs should be on the phone with Bryant pretty soon.

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