If the bold move the Buccaneers made in signing veteran free-agent kicker Nick Folk as competition for Roberto Aguayo came as any great surprise to you, it probably shouldn’t have.
Bucs general manager Jason Licht strongly hinted that just such a move was coming during the NFL Scouting Combine a couple weeks ago when he was asked during a chat with reporters about Aguayo’s struggles last year.
“He was a rookie, 21 years old,’’ Licht said of Aguayo. “He had to learn that he’s not doing this for fun anymore, that there are a lot of people depending on him now.
“But we’ll continue to get competition for him and look for the best competition we can find for him. Or, he might end up being the competition for somebody else.’’
That may be the case right now. The Bucs didn’t just bring Folk in to push Aguayo. A team confident it can reach the playoffs this year, they brought him in to replace Aguayo…if necessary.
The questions that have to be asked then is how long will the Bucs allow this competition to go on? Will it last only through training camp and the preseason? Or could it last into the regular season?
The latter scenario may not make much sense. It would all but require the Bucs to carry two kickers, which is well out of the ordinary, but the Bucs are a team that may be able to make that work.
Remember, the Bucs kept three quarterbacks on their roster each of the last two years. That’s is not necessarily out of the ordinary, but it is not always a necessity either.
If they cut that back to two and structure their roster at other positions in a similar fashion this year they could create a spot for a second kicker, who would probably be used as a kickoff specialist.
And that specialist would probably be Aguayo. Though Folk finished the 2016 season with the exact same distance average on kickoffs as Aguayo (63.2 yards), he recorded just 39 touchbacks to Aguayo’s 52.
Folk, in fact, ranked third worst in the league in touchbacks last year. If the Bucs truly value touchbacks as much as they suggested when they first drafted Aguayo, it might make sense to keep him around.
The bigger issue the Bucs have to concern themselves with here, though, is the value of the second-round draft pick they spent to get Aguayo in the first place.
Picks that high are harder to find than veteran kickers and to let Aguayo go now would not only be an admission that they wasted the pick, it might prove to be a bit hasty as well.
Look, a lot of young kickers struggled out of the box. Sebastian Janikowski missed a greater percentage of the field goals he attempted as a rookie (68.8) than Aguyao (71.1) did, and Adam Vinatieri (77-percent) came close.
But both eventually found their range, and the likelihood is that Aguayo will find his, too.
It would be best if he finds it soon, like before the start of training camp, but if it takes a little longer, the worst outcome for the Bucs will be that he finds it while wearing someone else’s uniform.