The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' placekicking job is up for grabs for the second year in a row, and the competitors are awfully familiar.
On Wednesday evening, the Buccaneers announced that they had agreed to terms with veteran kicker Connor Barth, who had been released by the Denver Broncos earlier in the day. The team confirmed that agreement while noting that the official announcement would come on Thursday after a contract had been signed. At that point, the team would need to make a reciprocal transaction to keep the preseason roster at the prescribed limit of 90 players.
Barth's return to the Buccaneers creates a sequel to last year's kicking battle, when rookie Patrick Murray won the job over the veteran incumbent, who had missed the previous season due to injury. Barth later signed with Denver and made 15 of 16 field goal attempts over five games and another two of two in the playoffs.
Murray won the job a year ago with a strong training camp and preseason performance (two of two on field goals in preseason games) and justified the team's decision with a very good rookie campaign. The former All-America at Fordham made 20 of his 24 field goal attempts, including his last 13 to finish the season, marking the longest active streak in the NFL. Murray's active run of 13 in a row is the fourth-longest streak in Buccaneers' history, a list that is topped by the 25 straight Barth made between 2011 and 2012.
Murray also made all 31 of his extra point tries last fall, while Barth was 16 of 16 in that category, including the playoffs. However, the NFL has moved the line of scrimmage for extra points back to the 15 in 2015, increasing the level of difficulty from what is essentially a chip shot to a 33-yard field goal. Murray is three of four in extra point tries this preseason, having pulled one wide left in the Bucs' win over Cincinnati on Monday night. Barth made both of his extra point tries with the Broncos over the past two weeks.
Barth also made both of his field goal tries this preseason, though both of them were from closer than 30 yards. Murray is 2-4 so far this preseason, having made from 32 and 53 yards and missed from 42 and 50 yards.
Barth has played the majority of his six-year career in Tampa, with stops in Kansas City and Miami before joining the Bucs and last year's run with the Broncos. He arrived midway through the 2009 season and immediately rectified a rough kicker situation in Tampa with a second-half run that included one of the best games ever for a Buccaneer kicker. In a November game at Miami he hit from 50, 51 and 54 yards to become the first player in team history, and just the fourth in league annals, to nail three 50+-yard field goals in the same contest.
Both Barth and Murray have shown the ability to connect from long range. Barth has made 13 of 20 field goal tries of 50 or more yards, including six of nine for the Buccaneers in 2012. Murray got six tries from 50 or more yards during his rookie season and nailed five of them.
Barth and Murray are also the two most accurate kickers in franchise history (minimum: 10 attempts). Barth's Buccaneer register includes 91 successful field goal attempts in 108 attempts, for an .843 percentage. Murray's 20-of-24 rookie campaign works out to an .833 success rate.