Roberto Aguayo Released by Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistAugust 12, 2017

Aug 31, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Roberto Aguayo (19) watches the time clock during the second half of a football game against the Washington Redskins at Raymond James Stadium. The Redskins won 20-13. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers released kicker Roberto Aguayo, the organization's second-round selection in the 2016 draft, on Saturday after continued struggles early in his NFL career.

Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times was the first to report the news, and the Bucs later confirmed, per ESPN's Adam Schefter

While the Buccaneers will bring in another kicker, Nick Folk is now the starter, says coach Dirk Koetter, per Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times: "As of right now, Nick's going to be our kicker."

Aguayo missed an extra-point attempt and a 47-yard field goal Friday during a 23-12 preseason loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Aguayo became the first kicker drafted inside the first two rounds since the New York Jets took Mike Nugent with the 47th overall pick in 2005. Although taking a specialist that early comes with an inherent risk, the gamble was understandable.

Tampa Bay had four kickers over the previous four seasons, and none of them did enough to lock down the starting job for the long term.

Meanwhile, Aguayo put together a tremendous collegiate career at Florida State. He connected on 69 of his 78 field-goal attempts (88.5 percent) and made all 198 of his extra points across his three seasons with the Seminoles, which included a national title in 2013-14.

Warning signs emerged early in his tenure with the Bucs, though.

Auman of the Tampa Bay Times noted the 23-year-old kicker also failed on three attempts in a joint practice with the Cleveland Browns during 2016 training camp and missed an extra point and two field goals in the preseason.

Things didn't improve as the regular season got underway. He made just four of his first eight field-goal tries through five games and missed an extra point. The only bright spot was making the game-winning kick to upset the Carolina Panthers in Week 5, which the NFL showcased:

After that memorable moment, the rookie talked about the level of scrutiny and how he tried to remain positive while working through the issues, per Alex Marvez of Sporting News.

"Definitely in the NFL you get a lot of criticism, which I found out early," Aguayo said. "But at the end of the day, I've learned to let that go in one ear and out the other. You just have to laugh at it. I know what to do. I've done it at Florida State. It is a rough start, but I know what I'm capable of."

Tampa ended up sticking with him for his entire rookie year, but he connected on just 71 percent of his field-goal attempts (22 of 31) and didn't make any kicks from beyond 50 yards.

The Bucs signed the veteran kicker Folk in March to provide competition, which further showcased Aguayo's wavering support within the front office. The team ultimately decided to cut its losses.

Folk is now in line to be the team's kicker in 2017.

Another team could claim Aguayo off waivers. He wouldn't represent an upgrade based on his numbers, but his collegiate performance does suggest his future could still be bright if he can get through this initial wave of problems, whether they be physical, mental or both.

If he goes unclaimed, there will likely be a lot of interest from teams seeking to add him to their practice squad. Suitors would hope he's able to get himself back on track away from the spotlight before getting his second chance on an NFL roster down the line.