TAMPA — In the end, the Bucs couldn’t trust Matt Gay. Not to kick a short field goal or an extra point. Not to kick toward the goal posts in the south end zone of Raymond James Stadium or toward any north of Tampa Bay. Not with a potential winner at the final gun. Not with so much on the line this season and Tom Brady under center.
And not when they’re going for “the big prize,” as coach Bruce Arians called it.
Stop us if you’ve heard this before, but the Bucs will have a new kicker in 2020.
The Bucs informed Gay on Friday they plan to waive him.
Ryan Succop, an 11-year veteran who began competing with Gay on Tuesday, won the job.
Succop, 33, had two stints on the injury list for the Titans last season, but he is a career 82.2-percent field-goal kicker.
Gay, 25, struggled as a rookie last year. The fifth-round draft pick from Utah connected on only 77.1 percent of his field-goal tries. He missed a potential winner on the final play in a loss to the Giants and missed three field goals in an overtime loss to the Falcons in the season finale.
Succop is the Bucs’ ninth kicker since 2015, joining a list that also includes Cairo Santos, Chandler Catanzaro, Nick Folk, Roberto Aguayo, Kyle Brindza, Patrick Murray and Connor Barth.
Gay wasn’t the only notable player the Bucs sent packing Friday. Running back Dare Ogunbowale, the special teams captain, was informed the team plans to release him.
Other players the Bucs plan to release, the Tampa Bay Times confirmed, include: running back Raymond Calais; tight ends Tanner Hudson and Cody McElroy; safeties D’Cota Dixon and Jovan Hagan; receivers Spencer Schnell, Josh Pearson, Bryant Mitchell and Cyril Grayson; guard Nick Leverett; linebackers Chapelle Russell and Noah Dawkins; quarterback Reid Sinnett; offensive lineman Zach Bailey; defensive linemen Jeremiah Ledbetter and Benning Potoa’e; and cornerbacks Herb Miller and Mazzi Wilkins, who played at USF.
Calais and Russell were 2020 seventh-round picks by the Bucs.
Many of those players could get an offer to return to the practice squad in a few days.
Ogunbowale, who played nearly 700 snaps last season between offense and special teams, is a casualty of the Bucs’ sudden collection of running backs. Tampa Bay drafted rookie Ke’Shawn Vaughn in the third round in April. In August, it signed 34-year-old LeSean McCoy. This week, the Bucs agreed to a one-year deal with former Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette, whom Jacksonville released this week.
Including starter Ronald Jones, the Bucs apparently plan to go with four running backs.
Cornerback Parnell Motley, an undrafted free agent from Oklahoma who had a terrific start to training camp by intercepting Brady several times before an injury sidelined him the past week, indicated on social media that he had earned a spot on the roster.
The Bucs also plan to keep defensive tackle Khalil Davis, a sixth-round pick this year who showed pass-rushing ability in training camp.
With no time to develop players in the offseason because of the coronavirus and a short window to win with 43-year-old Brady at quarterback, Arians made it clear the Bucs will value experience in 2020.
In releasing Russell, the Bucs decided to utilize the experience they have with linebacker Jack Cichy. But they still have decisions to make at that position. They are likely to retain two or three linebackers from a group that also includes Kahzin Daniels, Quinton Bell, Michael Divinity and Cam Gill.
Arians has made it clear that with rookies missing the offseason workouts and so much at stake after acquiring Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski in the offseason, this is the year to favor experience over youth.
“It might be a third-year guy versus a first-year guy because he played,” Arians said. “I think there’s a trust there. If you’re in a program where you’re rebuilding or reloading, you may want to go with one of those young guys. But if you want to go after the prize, you’re probably going to go with a little more experience.”
Contact Rick Stroud at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 709-5982. Follow @NFLSTROUD.