Quite possibly the only thing dumber than squandering a second-round pick on a kicker is doing so on a guy who can’t kick.
That exactly is what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did in last year’s NFL draft by grabbing Florida State University’s Roberto Aguayo with the 59th overall pick. Not only did the Bucs boggle the minds of every rational analyst by doing so, they actually traded up and gave away a fourth rounder in the process.
Despite being universally mocked, general manager Jason Licht was proud of his bamboozling of the rest of the league by pulling off what was in his mind a huge coup. Aguayo was after all the most successful kicker in college history and his “mighty mortar” kicks would surely thrill the crowd at Raymond James Stadium.
Licht had suffered through some of the most wretched kicking in recent history early in his Tampa tenure and you can bet that quarterback Jameis Winston was lobbying hard for his Seminole buddy.
But college success doesn’t always transfer over into the big leagues.
It didn’t take long before the reality set in that it was a monumental blunder. Aguayo was horrible in the preseason but due to a lack of competition had owned the job from the minute that he was drafted.
As the year progressed and with the Bucs incredibly having turned it around to challenge for a playoff spot it was clear that coach Dirk Koetter was adjusting his gameday decisions in order to stay out of situations where the errant Aguayo would blow the game.
Aguayo would go on to finish the year with a dismal 71 percent conversion rating – dead last in the NFL.
While hindsight is always 20-20 it is apparent now that Licht is admitting that he blew it and by jumping the gun on Aguayo he passed up on at least two players that could have shored up the lines or added depth in the receiving game.
On Friday – as this year’s draft approaches – the Buccaneers brought in veteran kicker Nick Folk to challenge Aguayo.
— Peter Schrager (@PSchrags) March 18, 2017
It’s a near certainty that barring injury, Folk will win the starting job and young Aguayo will go on to live in infamy as one of those legendary draft day brain-farts that often end up costing general managers their jobs.
Chalk this one up as a good move for Tampa Bay which appears to have finally turned the corner after years of futility in the post-Tony Dungy/Jon Gruden era. The choice of Koetter to replace the lethargic Lovie Smith seems to have ended the coaching turnstile and the guy has done wonders in developing Winston who was a turnover machine early in his rookie year.
The Buccaneers finished 9-7 and just barely missed the postseason. It can be argued that Aguayo cost them at least one game which would have been the difference maker and put Tampa Bay into the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
With a rapidly improving squad that should be even better this year and that has a good chance at making the playoffs, the last thing that Tampa Bay needs is a kicker who can’t be trusted to come through in the clutch when ice in the veins is needed instead of a scattershot foot.
While there is still the possibility that Aguayo could suddenly transform himself into a young Adam Vinatieri it isn’t likely and his next gig could very well be in arena football.
Give credit to the organization for quickly acknowledging a major screw-up and moving on which hasn’t always been the case in the past.