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Bucs select Georgia punter Jake Camarda

Tampa Bay could move on from veteran Bradley Pinion after three seasons.
Jake Camarda averaged an impressive 46.7 yards per punt during his senior season with national champion Georgia.
Jake Camarda averaged an impressive 46.7 yards per punt during his senior season with national champion Georgia. [ BUTCH DILL | Associated Press ]
Published Apr. 30|Updated May 1

TAMPA — Say this about the Bucs: they aren’t afraid to use draft picks in an effort to improve their kicking game.

After watching Bradley Pinion suffer through the worst season of his career, the Bucs used their second fourth-round pick in Saturday’s NFL draft (133 overall) to select Georgia punter Jake Camarda.

It likely means the Bucs plan to move on from Pinion, who had a career-worst 42.5-yard average last season and was due to earn $2.9 million in non-guaranteed salary in 2022. Pinion also tried to play through an upper leg injury last season but finished 34th in punting average among those who qualified.

Camarda averaged an impressive 46.7 yards per punt during his senior season with the Bulldogs. He also punt on a show with his athleticism at the NFL scouting combine, running a 4.56 40-yard dash. That time was tops among punters and faster than nine running backs and nine wide receivers at the combine, according to the Athens Banner-Herald.

Camarda, however, has been known to misfire on a few punts under pressure, so his adjustment to the NFL bears watching.

But playing four years at Georgia and winning a national championship was good training ground for helping the Bucs make another run.

“I think it’s certainly prepared me for the next level,” said Camarda from his home in Norcross, Ga. “...Playing in every single biggest game that you can possibly imagine.”

In fact, Camarda prides himself on his athleticism. He played baseball and flag football growing up and has made some plays with his legs.

“I always like to think of myself as someone who can be an athlete and can play with other guys,” he said. “I didn’t necessarily want to be the guy that fits the kicker mold, who just kicks the ball and does that, but who can compete in other aspects on the field.”

One of his most memorable plays at Georgia came in his role as a holder, not a punter.

“I had a fake field goal my sophomore year against Baylor where I was able to get a first down,” Camarda said. “That was pretty cool.”

The Bucs have two other punters on the roster: Pinion and Sterling Hofrichter, the former Armwood High School star.

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Bucs general manager Jason Licht has proven he’s not afraid to spend draft capital on specialists.

He used a second-round pick in 2016 on Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo, who lasted only one season after going 22-of-31 on field-goal tries as a rookie and lost his job the next year to Nick Foles.

The Bucs used a fifth-round pick on Utah kicker Matt Gay in 2019. Like Aguayo, he only lasted one season after making 27-of-35 field-goal attempts as a rookie (77.1 percent). However, Gay won a Super Bowl with the Los Angeles Rams last season and made the winning field goal to beat the Bucs in the NFC division playoff game.

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