The Tampa Bay Times played some connect-the-dots today, and suggested that kicker Connor Barth could be getting ready to sign a long-term deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This makes sense: the Bucs and Barth have been working on a long-term deal during the offseason, and the franchise tender was only offered to Barth after they couldn't close the deal before the draft. The fact that Barth is flying to Tampa today, but hasn't signed his tender yet could suggest a long-term deal is imminent, and getting a deal like that done is certainly the goal of both sides.
But is Barth really worth a long-term deal? I would suggest he is not, despite his excellent skills as a field-goal kicker over the yeas. Barth has been reliable both in clutch situations and over full seasons. While no kicker hits 100% of his field goals, Barth has come close and has improved each season. So, why would I not give Barth a long-term deal?
There are a few reasons for this. For one, he's of no use to the Bucs on kickoffs, an area where a lot of kickers are of added value. But Tampa Bay has punter Michael Koenen to handle the kickoffs, and Barth was never all that good at kickoffs anyway. Secondly, field goal kickers are not consistent from year to year. Kickers will lead the league in field goal percentage one year, then regress the next year. Paying a kicker for his performance as a field goal kicker is somewhat misguided, then. Third, it's relatively easy to find a competent field goal kicker on the street. Oh, sure, at times you'll find a stinker - but quality kickers hit the market very, very often. Remember last year's Pro Bowl kicker, David Akers? He was picked up off the street after the Eagles cut him. Simply put: kickers aren't worth investing a lot of money in, because they're easily replaced.
If the team pays what Barth is asking for - a reported $3 million per year or more - they're sinking around $6 million per year into their two specialists. That's nearly 5% of the total salary cap. The Bucs don't have to be especially careful with their salary cap yet as they still have a significant amount of cap room, but that will change at some point in the next few years. And when it does, these contracts won't look like good deals, they'll look like burdens.