Should Connor Barth be worried about kicker competition?
At one point in his career, kicker Nate Kaeding was one of the best in the NFL at putting it through the uprights – during the regular season. So when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed him this offseason, the move made sense right?
Not to current Buccaneers kicker Connor Barth.
Since Barth joined the Buccaneers in 2008, the North Carolina alumnus has connected on 84 percent of his field goals with a long of 57 yards. Meanwhile, Kaeding drilled 86 percent of his field goals during his first seven seasons in the NFL, all spent with the San Diego Chargers. It’s a slight upgrade in terms of accuracy, but Kaeding also comes with a bit of baggage.
Throughout his NFL career, Kaeding has been notoriously bad when the playoffs roll around. During the postseason, Kaeding has made just 53 percent of his field goals, as composure in the clutch seems to elude him. Need an example? Just check out his 0-3 performance against the New York Jets in 2009.
Not that the Buccaneers have made the playoffs since 2007, but they can hope, right?
Kaeding is also coming off of a string of injuries that have held him to only 10 field goal attempts over the last three seasons. After tearing his ACL on the first play of the 2011 season, Kaeding was placed on the IR list and replaced by Nick Novak. He won back his job in 2012, but a groin injury in Week 4 brought his time with the Chargers to an unfortunate end.
The Miami Dolphins picked Kaeding up near the end of the 2012 campaign, where he converted on only one of his three attempts. He became a free agent once the regular season was over.
The only reason – and it’s an insignificant one – that the Kaeding signing makes a bit of sense is his effectiveness as a kickoff specialist. Michael Koenen currently handles the Buccaneers’ kickoffs, but could be a cap casualty. If the Buccaneers do sever ties with Koenen, they could turn to Kaeding to inherit the kickoff duties. Still, it would seem like a waste of a roster spot.
Barth’s $2.3 million salary is fully guaranteed in 2013, so unless he tanks during the preseason, cutting him in favor of Kaeding seems doubtful. More than anything, the Buccaneers likely signed Kaeding to give themselves some insurance in the kicking game.
In the end, Kaeding is nothing more than a camp leg. Barth need not worry; his spot is safe in 2013.