The Buccaneers drafted kicker Roberto Aguayo last year for a simple and obvious reason: To shore up their kicking game. Unfortunately, Aguayo struggled, which only brought more scrutiny to the team's decision to trade up and use a second-round pick to fill a need that often isn't addressed until the sixth or seventh round, or in free agency.
Aguayo converted 22 of 31 field-goal attempts as a rookie (71 percent), the longest -- a 43-yarder -- coming in his Week 1 debut. For some perspective, Aguayo's conversion percentage ranked dead last among all NFL teams. The Ravens' Justin Tucker was first, converting on 97.4 of his attempts. It's why, in the offseason, Tampa Bay signed former Jets kicker Nick Folk. Aguayo did the only thing he could; embrace the competition.
"It is motivation," Aguayo told PewterReport.com last week. "When I was in college there would be walk-on kids come in and I didn't know who they were or if they were good or whatever. But whoever they were, it was always a competition for me. Just seeing someone else out there trying to compete. I like it."
Things got off to a rocky start for Aguayo; during OTAs last week, the second-year kicker went just 1-of-4 on field goal attempts. The good news: The goal posts were narrower than regulation goal posts so Aguayo was aiming at a smaller target. The bad news: Folk went 4-of-4.
So while this isn't how Aguayo would have mapped out his offseason, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter is all for it if it ultimately means stability at the position.
"The competition has definitely started. I know everybody feels it," Koetter said, via the Tampa Bay Times. "There's a little tension when we're going through that. That's a good thing. That's a good thing. This is pro football, there's supposed to be competition."
This doesn't mean the Bucs are ready to give up on Aguayo; as the Times points out, the Raiders' Sebastian Janikowski, a 2000 first-round pick, converted just 68.8 percent of his attempts as a rookie; 17 years later he's at 80.4 percent.
"You know, last year when we had the punter competition, I was kind of nervous about that," Koetter continued. "Just like you said, is it going to come down to one punt? But just as time went on, even though it was a close competition, it did sort of work itself out.
"But you know, when you think about how many kicks a guy gets in a year, really the difference between an 85 percent kicker and 75 percent over the course of a season is probably a couple kicks. So they all matter."