Monday, November 20, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs vs. Roberto Aguayo? Bears pick up cut kicker

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TAMPA — One day after the Bucs parted ways with former second-round pick Roberto Aguayo, Tampa Bay fans had another twist to ponder on Sunday: Aguayo kicking against the Bucs? In Week 2, at Raymond James Stadium?

Aguayo, the former All-American at Florida State, was claimed off waivers by the Bears, where —- in another wrinkle — he'll compete with veteran Connor Barth, who was cut by the Bucs last year after they drafted Aguayo.

The move does have some financial benefit for the Bucs — by claiming Aguayo, the Bears are assuming his rookie contract, which means the Bucs are off the hook for what was $428,000 in guaranteed 2017 base salary for Aguayo. The Bears are now responsible for that, whether he makes the team or not, an investment that suggests he'll have a real chance to challenge Barth for Chicago's kicking job.

The Bucs and Bears have had plenty of reunion drama in recent years, with then-Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith coaching against and losing to his old team in 2014 and 2015, and safety Chris Conte getting a pick-six against his former team in last year's 36-10 Bucs win. The upcoming game on Sept. 17 should also likely feature former Bucs backup quarterback Mike Glennon, who signed a three-year, $43.5-million deal with the Bears, going up against his old team.

The Bucs had their own Aguayo aftermath Sunday, adding another kicker to challenge Nick Folk during training camp when they signed former Saints and Rams kicker Zach Hocker.

Hocker, 25, was a seventh-round pick of the Redskins in 2014 but never played for Washington. He kicked for the Saints and Rams in 2015, going 10-for-14 on field goals with a long of 51 yards and 12-of-13 on extra points. He was in camp with the Bengals last year but was among their final cuts.

Folk, with $750,000 guaranteed on his contract, is now a strong favorite to be the Bucs' kicker for 2017. Aguayo was cut after missing an extra point and field goal in Friday's preseason opener. By adding Hocker, the Bucs can split reps in practice and keep competition in the preseason with Folk.

Hocker has played in the Tampa Bay area before. After his college career at Arkansas, he played in the 2014 East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field, hitting three field goals, including a 56-yarder. He faced the Bucs once with the Saints in 2015, missing an extra point and a 42-yard field goal in a 26-19 Bucs victory.

Contact Greg Auman at gauman@tampabay.com and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.

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