The Tampa Bay Buccaneers used a steep investment in kicker Matt Gay this spring, selecting him in the fifth round. It looks like it may be paying off.
Flashback to 2016 and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have just traded back into the second round to make another selection. Kevin Byard? Yannick Ngakoue? Neither; the Buccaneers selected Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo with a second round pick.
Byard and Ngakoue are now Pro Bowlers, Byard the richest safety in NFL history, Ngakoue set to see a healthy payday while the Buccaneers have struggled off the edge and at safety. While the analytics and data are well against utilizing any draft pick on special teamers, a second round pick is certainly too steep of a price.
The battle of a kicker is so mental that once a kick is missed, there is no telling how many more until the mind gets straightened out. This was the case with Aguayo, missing seven field goals and two extra points as a rookie; he did not get a second chance with the Buccaneers after being cut shortly into the 2017 offseason.
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Fast forward to April, the Buccaneers are on the clock in the fifth round after selecting Iowa edge rusher Anthony Nelson the round before. The pick is in and it feels like deja vu: Matt Gay, kicker, Utah. Failing to learn their lesson, the Buccaneers used another draft pick on a kicker with a load of talent still on the board.
While a fifth round pick is less steep than a second, how could the Buccaneers select another player who is easily expendable, should he miss three out of four kicks? Cairo Santos came to Tampa Bay last year, filled in nicely, and received an extension this offseason; why was it necessary to use such a high asset on a kicker?
Now fast forward a bit further to Saturday’s practice; Gay lines up the kick, the snap and hold are good, he makes solid contact and it goes through the uprights. From 62 yards away. He has also hit from 57, 52, 60, and 58; there is no doubt Gay has a booming leg strapped to his body.
The kicking woes of the Buccaneers have been long and hard to endure. Since cutting Matt Bryant, who went on to have a successful career with the division rival Atlanta Falcons, Shane Andrus, Mike Nugent, Connor Barth, Rian Lindell, Patrick Murray, Aguayo, Nick Folk, Chandler Catanzaro, and Santos have made their way through Tampa Bay.
While drafting a kicker is not a wise choice for an NFL team to make, it may have been a necessary one for the Buccaneers. If Gay continues to boom the ball, he could quickly become a fan favorite in Tampa Bay as he continues to battle with Santos in training camp. Spoilers: teams do not draft kickers to cut them, Gay is going to win.
Gay has missed a few kicks and some extra points in practice, but the real test begins this week when the Buccaneers open up their preseason with a trip to Pittsburgh on Friday. It would be thrilling to see Gay drill one from 60 up north under the Friday night lights against the Steelers this week.