After 10 years of being one of the most consistent kickers in the NFL, the Atlanta Falcons just outright released former Buccaneers kicker Matt Bryant and he is now an unrestricted free agent.
So should the Bucs sign him or not? That is the debate here.
First, the argument FOR signing him.
Every Tampa Bay fan knows about it. No Tampa Bay fan likes to talk about it. The kicking curse. It started back in 2009 when the Buccaneers released Bryant and replaced him with Mike Nugent, the first of ten different kickers over the next 10 seasons. And there was no good reason for Tampa to let him go. He was coming off of a 2008 season where he hit 32 of his 38 field goals, 35 of 36 extra points and finished in the top 5 in scoring while helping the Bucs to a 9-7 record. Since then, he’s made 89% of his 282 field goal attempts while the Bucs 11 kickers only made 77% of their 300 field goal attempts. He made 21 of 22 field goals in 2018 including two, a 57-yarder and a 37-yarder, to beat the Bucs in their two games. Maybe bringing him back would please the football gods and they would end the pain and misery that’s been the Bucs kicking game over the last decade.
New Bucs head coach Bruce Arians just hired Keith Armstrong as his new special teams coordinator. Armstrong has spent the last 10 years in Atlanta with Bryant as the special teams coordinator there. The familiarity between the two of them would definitely make the transition easier for Bryant which would allow him to do his job…make kicks.
HE’S STILL GOT IT
Yes, Bryant is 43 years-old and he’ll be going into his 18th NFL season, but the dude can still get it done. In fact, he’s had three of his top six highest kicking percentages in the last three years including a career best 95% in 2018. In the last three years, he’s 25 of 26 from 40-49 yards out and 18 of 22 from 50+ yards so he still has the leg.
It’s always great to see the Bucs sign a waived player or steal a free agent from an NFC division rival. In this case it would be the Atlanta Falcons, who just released Bryant because of salary cap issues. The positive side of this is that for the two times that the Bucs and Falcons meet next season, Bryant would have some extra incentive for kicking well in those games.
Now here’s the argument AGAINST signing him.
Sure 40 may be the “new 30” in regular society, but in the NFL it’s ancient. Matt Bryant is 43 years-old and will turn 44 in May. Yeah, he’s old. He’s really old when you compare him to Cairo Santos, the Bucs kicker from 2018, who is only 27 years-old. Santos is an unrestricted free agent now, but the Bucs did just sign another young kicker from the German Football League named Phillip Andersen who’s also 27 years-old. He’s probably just camp competition for either Santos or Bryant, but with the Bucs hurting for cap space they may stick with the younger, cheaper option.
Bryant has stayed relatively healthy throughout his 17 year career playing all 16 games in 11 of those seasons. However, last year he did miss 3 games with hamstring and back issues and I can say from personal experience that it don’t get better with age. Injuries tend to happen more often and they are harder and take longer to recover from.
Normally the Bucs wouldn’t be too concerned about paying a vet like Bryant almost $2 million a year, but this year is different. They are broke as a joke when it comes to the salary cap. There’s a big wage gap between Bryant and the rookie Andersen who would be making around $500k next season.
At 43 years-old, Bryant is a temporary solution to what has been a long term problem for the Buccaneers. He can’t kick forever. He may have a couple of seasons left in the tank, but what then? Start the whole process all over again? Maybe if they do sign him, the plan is to stash the rookie Andersen on the practice squad for a year or two until he’s ready to take the reigns from Bryant. If that’s the plan, the I might be on board with that. But if they don’t have a plan in place for life after Bryant, then they’re better off going with the young Buc.
Well, there you have it. My arguments FOR and AGAINST signing the 43 year-old Matt Bryant to be the Bucs kicker next season. My personal opinion is that if they think the rookie Andersen has some potential, but they don’t want to put ALL of their eggs in that rookie basket then signing Bryant makes sense. They have to have a contingency plan in place in case he gets injured or ready for when he retires. However, they also can’t put ALL of their eggs in the Matt Bryant basket either.
What’s your opinion? Tell me what you would do if you were Jason Licht. I can’t wait to see what Bucs fans are thinking about this situation!
Until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!