Say what you want about Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht, but you have to give him credit for not doubling down on a high-profile mistake.
The Bucs cut placekicker Roberto Aguayo on Saturday, the day after the struggling Florida State product missed a 47-yard field goal and misfired on an extra point in the team’s 23-12 setback to Cincinnati in the preseason opener for both teams.
Normally, moving on from a placekicker isn’t that big of a deal for any NFL team unless it’s Baltimore and Justin Tucker, but Aguayo was perhaps the best college kicker to come along in years when Licht traded up in the second round of the 2016 draft to select him.
Anytime you use a premium pick on a devalued position like that, it puts you in the crosshairs a little bit. Aguayo didn’t exactly live up to his promise as a rookie, missing nine field goals and a pair of extra points, an inordinate amount of miscues in today’s game for any kicker, never mind one who came into the league with a reputation for uncanny accuracy.
Instead, Aguayo’s 71 percent field-goal accuracy was the worst in the NFL last season.
Many GMs simply would have handed Aguayo a mulligan and hoped a year of getting used to everything at the professional level would spawn significant improvement this time around, but Licht went the opposite route, bringing in legitimate competition in the form of veteran Nick Folk, who was given a $750,000 guarantee, indicating this was far more than just a camp leg.
It was a real battle, one that was expected to last throughout the preseason because of the elimination of the 75-man cutdown.
Instead, Folk won it with consistency during practice in a rout. He also made his only attempt against the Bengals, a 45-yarder that happened to be two yards longer than Aguayo’s longest successful kick in 2016.
Aguayo never had the biggest leg in the world to begin with, so if he wasn’t going to be one of the most consistent options in the game from say 45 yards in, this was simply unsalvageable, something echoed by coach Dirk Koetter after Friday’s game.
“You know, I keep saying it, I can’t say it anymore,” Koetter said. “If you’re a kicker, you’ve got to make your kicks.’’
Giving up on any second-round pick after only one season is difficult for any general manager. Add in the position here and the fact that Licht actually went up to go get Aguayo, and it made it even more unlikely that the plug would be pulled.
So while you’re rightly lampooning Licht for this pick, take a minute to actually laud him as well. Every GM in this league misses on certain players and the prudent decision in the personnel world is always to move on from a mistake, not exacerbate it with obfuscation.
Licht did exactly that.
As for Aguayo, perhaps a change of scenery will turn him back into the guy he was at Florida State. That probably was never going to happen in Tampa, however.
– John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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