When most franchises have some kickers miss a few in training camp, it’s a side note in the wrap-up column from a beat writer. Maybe some part of a narrative with a veteran vs. rookie battle brewing at the position.
But when it happens to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, you can hear the panic from the beaches to Brandon. And so the most notorious short-term position in the NFL has a new occupant. Welcome Ryan Succop to Raymond James Stadium!
Can confirm that the Bucs have agreed to terms with kicker Ryan Succop, as first reported by NFL Network. Both of the Bucs’ current kickers, Matt Gay and Elliott Fry, have had some misses in camp. Fry missed two kicks in Friday’s scrimmage, and Bruce Arians wants consistency.— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) September 1, 2020
Matt Gay was 27 for 35 for the pewter and red last season, and 43 of 48 on extra points. It’s not great, and that’s never enough for the denizens of Dale Mabry Boulevard. Which is where things start to go wrong...
So how did The Curse of The Cannons begin?
Martin Gramatica played five years for the team that drafted him in 1999 out of Kansas State, and made 32 field goals for the 2002 Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, including five of six from 50+ yards. But the following two seasons he was just 27 of 45 on three-pointers, and was waived midseason.
And then the chaos commenced.
Rookie Jay Taylor finished that ‘04 season for Tampa, going four of five on field goals and making all 11 extra points. He never kicked in the NFL again.
He was replaced by Matt Bryant, who was signed as a street free agent and lasted four years in Tampa. He had some memorable moments, including a 62-yard field goal at the gun to beat the Eagles in 2006. In 2008 he was 32 for 38 on field goals, and perfect inside of 40 yards and on extra points. But the Bucs of Jon Gruden wanted something better. So they let him go in training camp for Mike Nugent, who had flamed out with the New York Jets.
Bryant then spent the next 11 seasons torturing the Bucs twice a year with the Atlanta Falcons, making 87.5% of his field goals and becoming the Birds all-time leading scorer with 1,163 points.
Nugent? He made two of six FG’s in four games, and was released in less than a month.
Connor Barth then stepped into the
curse breach, and performed pretty well for the next three seasons. Considering all the previous struggles at the position, you can’t blame the Bucs for using their franchise tag on him, which turned into a four-year contract worth $13.2 million. Barth was 28-33 and made all the PAT’s in the first year of that deal in 2012, but then tore his Achilles in a charity basketball game and missed all of the 2013 season.
Rian Lindell stepped in as the replacement, but only after two-time Super Bowl winner Lawrence Tynes was diagnosed with MRSA, one of three players on the team to acquire the disease via the Bucs training facility under head coach Greg Schiano. Tynes sued the club for $20 million in 2005 and later settled for an undisclosed amount, while Schiano was run out of town on a rail after just two seasons.
For Lindell, it would be the last season of the 14-year veteran’s career. The following year rookie Patrick Murray did enough to make Barth a cap casualty in training camp. Murray was 20-24 and made all his PAT’s. So naturally the Bucs brought Barth back for 2015 once he got beaten out in training camp in Denver.
And then Barth lost a training camp battle to Kyle Brindza, who “won” and then went 6-12 on field goals to start the season to get cut after four games. Barth stepped in and finished 2015 admirably, making everything inside of 40 yards and going 23-28 while missing just one PAT.
Now here’s where they panic
So with all the kicking problems the Bucs have had for more than a decade now, general manager Jason Licht finally decided to invest a draft pick in the problem. And his man was right up I-75: Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo. “Mr. Perfect” was everything the #CollegeKickers hashtag was not: 69-78 in three seasons of college, 198-198 on PAT’s, and a leg that sounded like the cannons in the Bucs home stadium when he hit the ball.
With the 59th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (who traded up with San Diego to get there) selected Aguayo, making him the second-highest drafted kicker this century.
#1 on that list? Mike Nugent. Foreshadowing!
Aguayo turned into one of the all-time draft busts in the history of the NFL. He went 22-31 on field goals in his lone season, and was 4-11 from beyond 40 yards while missing two PAT’s. Even when he finally made a game-winner, it was because he missed two field goals earlier that same day.
He was released by Licht, the man who used one of the most valuable assets of the franchise to take him just 17 months earlier, on HBO’s Hard Knocks in one of the more memorable “bring your playbook” moments ever. He never kicked in the NFL again.
So where are they now?
The last three seasons, it’s been more of the same: Starter Nick Folk misses seven kicks in four games in 2017, including two PAT’s, and is gone by Week 5. Chandler Catanzaro and Cairo Santos combine to go 20-27 and miss four PAT’s in 2018.
Which brings us back to the incumbent from 2019 Matt Gay, a serviceable-if-not-spectacular NFL kicker.
This is generally when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers go with the shiny new unknown that can finally solve everything, and watches disaster play out on the field at Raymond James Stadium. If past is prologue, Ryan Succop can probably start apartment hunting. He’ll be on the Week 1 roster, tasked as the next savior for the Bucs at the position that is the bane of the franchise.
Because that’s worked so well before.