TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ decision to bring in Nick Folk to compete with Roberto Aguayo for the kicking job sends a powerful message — no matter where a player is drafted, even a second-round draft pick from 2016, if he’s not performing up to snuff, he’ll be replaced. It also sends a strong message to a fan base that, at times, became frustrated with Aguayo’s inconsistencies. It says, “We mean business.”
Here is more on the move:
Terms: Terms were not immediately available.
ESPN 150 ranking: None.
Grade A: In 10 seasons, Folk has made 62 of 87 career field goals from 40-plus yards (72.1 percent) whereas Aguayo was just 4-of-10 (40 percent) from that same distance last year. Folk also has made 23 field goals from 50-plus yards in his career. Is he perfect? No. In fact, he missed two extra points in one game last year. But he’s shown he can be far more effective at longer distances than Aguayo, whose longest field goal in 2016 was 43 yards. Aguayo was one of five NFL kickers this season not to attempt a field goal from 50 yards out.
What it means: Aguayo isn’t getting cut tomorrow. But the NFL is a bottom-line business, and he was drafted to be the automatic kicker he was in college. A repeat of his struggles last season won’t cut it, and head coach Dirk Koetter and general manager Jason Licht both were very clear about that. Folk has a wealth of experience. At the very least, he can push Aguayo through whatever mental and mechanical hurdles he’s dealt with, and he can be a mentor. Or he could replace Aguayo.
What’s the risk: The move may chip away at Aguayo’s confidence, but it also could bring out the competitor in him, and “compete” is something Koetter is constantly preaching. He wouldn’t be consistent with his players if Aguayo wasn’t having to fight for his job in training camp. That’s why Folk was brought in, and that’s why kicker John Lunsford was signed to a futures deal in January. It would have been far riskier to not bring in competition, trusting that Aguayo will recover from last season’s miscues.