The next player up in my “Welcome Aboard” series is an NFL veteran with 10 years of experience who was brought in to compete for a starting job, and from the looks of it so far in OTA’s he could very well win it. Nicholas Alexander Folk has been a consistent kicker and a constant professional for his entire career and he will be pushing second year kicker Roberto “Ya Never Know” Aguayo all summer long through the end of training camp. So far, Folk’s presence is causing Aguayo to crumble underneath the pressure of an actual kicking competition. If it keeps up, Folk will have a new home and Tampa Bay will have a new kicker.
During the 2016 NFL Draft, Jason Licht made a surprising trade with Kansas City sending the Bucs third round pick (#74) and a newly acquired fourth round pick (#106) to the Chiefs for their second round pick (#59) to take Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo. Licht’s hope was that the most accurate kicker in NCAA history could cure the team’s kicking woes and secure that position for the next decade or so. That hope never came to fruition as Aguayo made a league low 71% of his field goals in 2016 going 4 of 11 on kicks of 40+ yards and missing two extra points. Hence the arrival of Nick Folk in Tampa.
Folk went to the University of Arizona and was taken in the 6th round of the 2007 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys where he spent 3 seasons and made 80% of his field goals and 100% of his extra points. He was voted into the Pro Bowl after his rookie season where he made 26 of 31 field goals and 100% of his extra points. His second year was even better when he went 20 for 22 on field goals and again hit on 100% of his extra points. His final year in Dallas was the worst of his career when he went 6 of 14 from 40+ yards. He then went to the New York Jets where he spent the next 7 seasons and finished 2nd on their all-time scoring list. With the Jets, he never made less than 76% of his kicks averaging 84% during his time there. He made every extra point of his career (311 of 311) until the 2016 season when he went 24 of 26 for a 92% accuracy rate. He’s 23 of 39 from 50+ yards and 62 of 86 from 40-49 yards with a career 81% field goal percentage. On the flip side, Aguayo was 4 of 11 from 40+ yards and his longest field gaol made was from 43 yards out.
Folk was signed to a one year deal worth $1.75 million, but only $750K of it is guaranteed. Aguayo has $428K of guaranteed money left on his deal. During the first two OTA practice sessions on the accuracy goal post which are much more narrow than regulation, Aguayo went 5 of 9 while Folk went 9 for 9 on attempts from the same distances. Either way, the Bucs will be paying one of these guys to kick for another team this season. Yes, Folk is almost 10 years older than Aguayo, but his 2016 season was statistically the second best season of his career making 27 of his 31 attempts for 87% including 5 of 7 from 40+ yards as well as 24 of his 26 extra point attempts. Age clearly won’t be an issue during this competition. And let’s be clear, this IS a competition. Jason Licht has shown that he’s not afraid to cut ties with high draft picks if they’re not what’s best for the team (Austin Seferian-Jenkins). If Folk continues to make his kicks while Aguayo continues to miss his, the Bucs will have a new kicker in 2017 and Roberto “Ya Never Know” Aguayo will be looking for a new job somewhere else. Until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!