TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren’t letting their epic draft blunder with kicker Roberto Aguayo keep them from addressing the position in the NFL draft.
Three years and two days after the Bucs infamously traded a third-round pick to move back into the second round to make Aguayo the highest-drafted kicker since Mike Nugent in 2005, they selected Matt Gay out of Utah in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL draft.
Coach Bruce Arians’ response when asked about the move moments later on ESPN?
“We need to score more points,” he said.
“Kicker’s a very important position. It’s one of the most important positions on the team. Right now, we have a coach that really believes in kickers and the importance of it, [he] stresses it,” said general manager Jason Licht, who drafted Aguayo along with previous head coach Dirk Koetter.
“When Bruce was hired, we had several discussions about what we were going to do to refine the ways that we do things in terms of finding a good kicker,” Licht said. The Buccaneers also brought in a former NFL kicker — a rarity on NFL coaching staffs — in Chris Boniol.
Aguayo played just one season after finishing a league-worst 22-of-31 on field goals and missing two extra points. He was cut during the 2017 preseason.
Many would argue that Aguayo has never landed on his feet. He has since bounced around the league, signing with the Chicago Bears, Carolina Panthers and Los Angeles Chargers. He’s currently a free agent.
When asked if Aguayo’s struggles and the pressure he played under as a high draft pick gave him pause about drafting another kicker — a position many teams choose to address in free agency and by holding kicking tryouts — Licht pointed to other positions.
“You wouldn’t say the same thing for a receiver, if a receiver didn’t work out a couple years ago that you took in the second round, would you be afraid to take a receiver in the fifth round? No,” Licht said. “This is a very, very important position.”
Licht was asked if the need for a kicker somehow superseded the need for bolstering the right side of the offensive line, an area the Bucs did not address in the draft despite perceived needs.
“Sometimes the board, the way it is, you may not see someone that can do that. We drafted some other good players, by the way,” he said.
None will be watched more closely, though, given Tampa Bay’s struggles at the position. The Bucs have had 10 kickers kick in at least one regular-season game since 2009, more than any other team in the league. Even Gay admitted he was surprised when his phone rang so early.
“Honestly, kind of what I was seeing and what I felt was maybe sixth to seventh round, maybe even undrafted,” Gay said. “So when I got the call, I looked at the board, it was a Tampa number and I looked at the board and saw that they were two picks away and was kind of like, ‘No way, not right now.’ Just kind of shocked and overcome with emotion. It was amazing, honestly.”