December 4, 2011; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Connor Barth (10) kicks a 44-yard field goal during the first half against the Carolina Panthers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Analysis: Tampa Bay Buccaneers re-sign Connor Barth

Per Adam Schefter, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have signed offseason priority Connor Barth to a four-year deal worth $13.2 million ($3.3 million per year) with $4 million of it being guaranteed. The star kicker was identified by the team as a priority to lock up this offseason, with center Jeremy Zuttah being the other priority. Both have received four year deals, with Zuttah moving to center after the signing of star left guard Carl Nicks to a monster deal and the release of under-performing veteran Jeff Faine.

Barth was franchised earlier this offseason and would have been due $2.6 million for this season, so locking him up was smart. It is a lot of money to be paying a kicker, but most elite kickers are paid quite a bit anyway. Although the value between a replacement level kicker and an elite kicker isn’t as pronounced as at other positions, this contract is in line with what other kickers of Barth’s ability get paid.

Last season, Connor Barth proved to be one of the most accurate and effective kickers in the league by going 26-28, and he is one of the stars at the position. At 26, Barth is an identifiable franchise figure on the special teams side with this deal, and kickers can be important for a fan base. Just take a look at former Carolina Panthers and current New Orleans Saints kicker John Kasay.

Having a powerful leg is important, but having great accuracy from deep  and being able to consistently connect on long kicks is an incredible asset to have. It’s sort of like looking at quarterbacks with strong arms who can hit deep passes (Eli Manning comes to mind), as opposed to a quarterback with a lot of arm and little accuracy (Rohan Davey).

Connor Barth was an incredible 13-14 on field goals between 40-49 yards, and he was also 2-3 from kicks beyond 50. Having accuracy on short kicks is also key, and Barth converted a perfect 11-11 on kicks below 40 yards. He has never missed an extra point in 95 career attempts.

The Buccaneers kicker has progressively gotten better over the past two seasons and broke out as one of the better kickers in the NFL after hitting 82.1% of his field goals in 2010. He has been a perfect 27-27 in the past two seasons on kicks below 40 yards and vastly improved after going 6-10 on field goals from 40-49 yards last year.

The Bucs made Connor Barth a priority, and they have finally paid him his due and taken out the franchise tag. It’s easy to fault a lucrative deal to a kicker, but it’s worth the money given the impact that he has on a game. Barth is one of the top kickers in the NFL right now, and he is just 26 with pinpoint accuracy. In fact, it is safe to say that he is one of the three most accurate kickers in the NFL right now.

You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.

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Tags: Carl Nicks Carolina Panthers Connor Barth Eli Manning Free Agency Jeff Faine Jeremy Zuttah John Kasay New Orleans Saints Rohan Davey Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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