Yesterday, the Buccaneers copped to making a mistake, cutting ties with kicker Roberto Aguayo. That would hardly be a story at all, given that kicker is not a headline-grabbing position, if it weren’t for the magnitude of that mistake.
We have spent most of the offseason talking about this Bucs team as a potential rival for Atlanta, given the very real talent on the squad, and they deserve their kudos for building up a greatly improved roster in a stacked NFC South. The Aguayo decision is a reminder that the people running this team either grandly overrate their own intelligence or are pretty damn dumb at times. Take your pick.
Aguayo, you’ll recall, was selected in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft. The Bucs traded a third and fourth round pick to move up for a kicker, a move so frankly stunning and out of step with how the NFL values the position that all you could do was laugh. Unless you were a Bucs fan, of course, because the less rational elements of that fanbase immediately sprang to the defense of the front office and declared that Aguayo was going to be a great in the league.
The Bucs, for their part, were apparently convinced that Aguayo was going to be a historically great kicker. That put an enormous amount of pressure on the rookie, at a position where so much of what you need to do is done in isolation and with considerable pressure already involved. Aguayo was shaky through training camp and preseason, had some real shaky moments in the actual season, and looked shaky again during 2017 training camp. The Bucs brought in veteran competition—for a guy they traded up into the SECOND ROUND for a year ago—which seemed to ruin his confidence further. He missed two kicks in the first preseason game, and that was that. The Bucs sunk three draft picks into a kicker in is unquestionably one of the five or ten dumbest draft moves in league history.
On one hand, it’s fun to laugh at a division rival for doing something so colossally dumb and paying the price for it. Believe me, I spent plenty of time doing that yesterday. But you have to feel for Bucs fans, who have been starved for success and were desperate to see this move work out because of the significant downside if it didn’t. You have to feel even worse for Aguayo, a genuinely great kicker in college who now has ruined confidence and may or may not ever get a shot to salvage his career.
Have nothing but contempt for the Buccaneers themselves, though, and hope that the Falcons never forget the vital axiom that few players are worth selling the farm for, and none of them have ever been a kicker.