Connor Barth cleared for practice

Matt Stamey-US PRESSWIRE

Connor Barth is ready to play, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should strongly consider releasing him, instead.

Kicker Connor Barth has been cleared for practice, according to Pewter Report. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker missed all of last season with an Achilles injury suffered in a charity basketball game, causing the Bucs to sign Lawrence Tynes. Who then contracted MRSA, which led to an ugly dispute with the Bucs over the cause of his injury (which is still not resolves, as far as I know). And all of that led to the Bucs going with Rian Lindell as their kicker for the season, who then missed a couple of crucial kicks during the season.

With Connor Barth healthy, the Buccaneers at least have a reliable field goal kicker. Barth is set to make $3.15 million this season, between his salary and per-game roster bonuses. That's a rich contract for a kicker who doesn't handle kickoffs.

While Lindell's misses from last year sting, It's also important for the team to not overreact to Lindell's "inaccuracy" last season. The difference in accuracy between NFL kickers is minimal, and Lindell was pretty close to average -- it's just that the timing of his misses made them stand out more in people's minds. Moreover, there's some statistical evidence that for kickers already at the NFL level, accuracy is much less of a differentiating skill than kickoff distance.

Barth is a good, accurate kicker -- but those guys are not all that hard to find, and the fact that he doesn't (/cannot) handle kickoffs greatly diminishes his value. It would be very unsurprising to see the Bucs go with another kicker this season, whether that be an undrafted free agent, another veteran or a drafted rookie. That could save them as much as $2.5 million, and that's nothing to sneeze at.

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