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More hints that Michael Koenen and Connor Barth are on thin ice

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have two of the most expensive specialists in the NFL, but not the production to go with it.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Only the Denver Broncos spend more on their specialists than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They pay Michael Koenen $3.25 million per year to be a below-average punter and an elite kickoff specialist. They pay Connor Barth $3.3 million per year to be a decent kicker who can't handle kickoffs. Combined, they produce the equivalent of a good kicker and a terrible punter for the price of two Pro Bowlers.

From a simple value-for-money perspective, replacing either Barth or Koenen has made sense for years. And now we're seeing more and more evidence that the Bucs are looking to replace their two overly-expensive specialists. JoeBucsFan reports that the Bucs worked out veteran kicker Rob Bironas and rookie punter/kicker Anthony Fera today. That doesn't mean they'll sign either player, but clearly they're looking at alternative, or at least some insurance for Barth and Koenen.

More than that, Koenen was not present as the team's kickoff specialist on yesterday's unofficial depth chart -- possibly because they already know that Koenen's very good at it, and they want to see Barth handle kickoffs. During practice, Patrick Murray was handling punts while Mike Glennon was holding on field goals. That was because Connor Barth and Michael Koenen were both given a rest in practice, but it's also giving Murray a chance to win either the kicking or the punting job.

During his post-practice press conference, Lovie Smith deflected some of that speculation. "We have two guys who we pay a handsome fee to, and we expect them to perform at a certain level. And they have, we think they're very good."

It's far from a certainty, but saying goodbye to either Michael Koenen, or Connor Barth, or even both of them would make a lot of sense.