Sunday, December 10, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs release kicker Roberto Aguayo

TAMPA — The Bucs shrunk the goal posts for Roberto Aguayo. Before he ever worked a day in the NFL, they hired Lucy to hold for Charlie Brown.

Good grief.

The Bucs released Aguayo on Saturday morning, a few hours after he missed two kicks in a preseason loss at Cincinnati.

"We saw what that movie was like last year," coach Dirk Koetter said. "We're just not going to go that direction anymore."

Drafting one of the most accurate placekickers in college football history was not a mistake. Drafting him in the second round was.

From the minute Aguayo walked into One Buc Place last year, he felt like he had to be Mr. Perfect. Not a hair or a field goal out of place. The decision to draft him so high, presumably made by general manager Jason Licht, was immediately put through the blender. On puree.

The pundits at ESPN ripped it. The statistics website Pro Football Focus slapped a D grade on the pick, saying "there are much better players on the board."

Heck, even Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks recognized there was a problem when he confronted Aguayo at the Bucs' rookie orientation.

"How'd you feel when everyone said they should not have picked you that high?" Brooks asked him in front of teammates. "You felt (ticked) off. Don't lie to me! 'I'm going to show them.' C'mon, man, that's what you felt. Then when you got here, you were nervous."

"I knew what I could do," Aguayo said. "There was a little anger, but I knew."

Brooks countered, "Then you thought Jameis (Winston, Aguayo's teammate at Florida State) was down there, so I'll be all right."

Though Licht has taken sole responsibility for the decision, it always felt like somebody else put their hand on the scale. Maybe Winston. Maybe the Glazer family. We'll never know.

Why else would a team trade a third-round pick (74th overall) and a fourth-rounder (106) to move up 15 spots and take Aguayo in the second round (59)? In all likelihood, Aguayo still would've been on the board in the third round.

Sure, Aguayo was a Lou Groza Award winner as the best placekicker in college. If he had fulfilled his promise, the Bucs would not have had to address the position for maybe 10 years.

But Florida State was such a powerhouse when he was there, especially with Winston at quarterback, that Aguayo rarely had to make a pressure kick. Furthermore, there were plenty of reasons to question his leg strength.

In 2015 at FSU he connected on only 5 of 9 field goals from 41 yards and beyond. Aguayo had attempted only six kicks of 50-plus yards during his college career. So when Aguayo went 4-of-11 from 40 yards-plus last season, should that have been so shocking?

His longest made field goal as a rookie was 43 yards. Was it the added pressure of having to live up to such a lofty price tag or just bad scouting? My guess it was a whole lot of the first and a little of the second.

The life of an NFL kicker is lonely. Make or miss. No coaching is involved. That's why they call kickers specialists.

But after watching Aguayo struggle to make a league-worst 71 percent of his field-goal attempts in 2016, the Bucs hedged their bets in the offseason. They signed veteran free agent Nick Folk, guaranteeing him $750,000.

Folk will never be confused with Sebastian Janikowski. He is a career 81.3 percent field-goal kicker and hasn't exactly torn it up during training camp. But at least he's not Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Wide Right. Folk made his only attempt Friday against the Bengals and was good from 45 yards.

Aguayo was a $2 million mistake. But it's more than the money. It's the other positions and players needed that got away.

Aguayo's release doesn't mean his career is over. It's very likely a team claims him off waivers.

Mike Nugent was drafted in the second round in 2005 and made it through four years with the Jets but got cut by the Bucs and Cardinals before finding a real home with the Bengals. Matt Bryant wasn't drafted, played for three teams in three years and is still kicking, having made his first Pro Bowl for the Falcons at 41.

Aguayo put on a brave face after Friday's game. When he was released Saturday morning, only Licht, Koetter and Hard Knocks were in the room.

That might be the unkindest cut of all.

     
   
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