Chase McLaughlin, K
One of the moves the Bucs needed to make this offseason to help solve a $55 million salary cap situation was to move on from kicker Ryan Succop. It was a necessary move that helped free up some cash for the front office but it created a pretty notable void in the depth chart.
It’s a hole that has yet to be filled, but not for a lack of trying.
When Succop was cut, some believed the Bucs could wait for the draft and take a guy like Michigan’s Jake Moody. He ended up getting selected by the 49ers on the second day of the draft, four rounds higher than he was projected.
Moody would have been nice but the Bucs had already made a move at kicker. Chase McLaughlin was signed after being released by the Indianapolis Colts and appeared to be in the driver’s seat to be the Bucs starting kicker. Then the team signed former Georgia Bulldogs fan favorite Rodrigo Blankenship and everything changed.
Blankenship hasn’t outright won the starting role, but expectations have since shifted in terms of how realistic it is that he ends up in that position. He was simply invited to Bucs minicamp but was soon signed to an actual contract. That’s the first sign that the Bucs at least intend to have a kicking competition this summer to see who is worthy of the gig.
That’s trouble for McLaughlin, as it’s the exact opposite of a vote of confidence. To be fair, McLaughlin replaced Blankenship in Indy when the latter was released last year so it’s familiar territory. That could also mean Blankenship is ready to get some revenge and is kicking with a purpose knowing that he won’t get many more opportunities like this in his career.
If there’s a tangible tiebreaker it’s Blankenship’s big leg. Between the two, Blankenship has the ability to make longer kicks and that could be what ends up working in his favor. The Bucs offense sorely needed a big leg last year, which is something Succop struggled to provide despite his accuracy from closer range.
Blankenship has accuracy issues but it now appears he’s the one in the driver’s seat to be the Bucs kicker and McLaughlin’s stay in Tampa Bay might be a short one.