According to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' official website, kicker Connor Barth will miss the entire season due to a torn Achilles' tendon. Barth suffered the injury while playing in a charity basketball game.
As polarizing a position as it may be, losing their franchise kicker is a damaging blow to Tampa Bay's postseason odds.
The Buccaneers displayed Barth's value last year, signing him to a four-year contract worth $13.2 million. Barth responded by converting 84.8 percent of his field goals and becoming the most accurate kicker in franchise history.
Per Andrew Brandt of ESPN, Tampa Bay hasn't decided what to do with Barth's salary.
With a devastating injury to the part of his body that matters most to his career, it's unclear what this means for Barth's future in Tampa Bay.
What is clear, however, is the Bucs have dreams of reaching the postseason and becoming a contender. They acquired Darrelle Revis, have a star at running back with Doug Martin and work under a head coach, Greg Schiano, with undeniable potential.
Losing a veteran like Barth doesn't offset those strengths, nor does it eliminate Tampa Bay from the postseason—it simply makes their road a little more difficult.
Power, Accuracy and Consistency
During the 2012 NFL regular season, Barth converted 28-of-33 field goal attempts for the Buccaneers. He also made a perfect 39-of-39 extra-point attempts and hit 90.0 percent of his field goals during the fourth quarter.
Most importantly, Barth was able to land kicks from all over the field.
18 of Barth's 28 field goals made were from at least 40 yards away, tying for the league lead in that regard. Six of those field goals were from 50-plus yards, which placed fourth among all kickers.
That type of power and accuracy doesn't grow on trees.
Kickers may be viewed as less-than-prolific players on NFL teams, but Barth gave Tampa Bay confidence that they could walk away with points if they crossed an opponent's 40-yard line. As a part of his 40-plus yard mastery, he converted two field goals from at least 55 yards away, including a 57-yard blast.
If that's not enough, four of his five misses came during a four-week span—during the other 12 weeks, he was 24-of-25.
Lawrence Tynes' Range
Lawrence Tynes is popularly known as one of the heroes from the New York Giants' past two Super Bowl titles. As the Giants' fanbase will unbiasedly tell you, however, Tynes is a streaky kicker who struggles to convert deep attempts.
It's also worth noting that Barth made more kicks from 50-plus yards and out in 2012 than Tynes has in his past four regular seasons combined.
To replace one of the best long-ball kickers in professional football, the Bucs have landed a player with limited range. Tynes certainly has the postseason pedigree, but in terms of contributing when it matters for 16 consecutive games, there's reason to doubt his ability.
Something that wouldn't have been the case with Barth.
Barth has a more powerful leg than Tynes and, as he's progressed as a player, has become more consistent. There's no question which player we'd rather have in the Super Bowl, but right now, Tampa Bay is a young team looking to grow as a unit.
Losing an important member of their roster is a major setback that could expose their youth on offense.
Doug Martin was a Rookie of the Year candidate and Pro Bowl selection during the 2012 regular season. He picked up 1454 yards and 11 touchdowns, carrying the Bucs throughout the season and becoming one of the best red zone players in the NFL.
Martin is also a second-year player that defenses will be game-planning for in ways they never did during his rookie campaign.
If there was a consistent quarterback in front of Martin, this wouldn't be much of an issue. He could still find holes as a runner, catch passes out of the backfield and guide Tampa Bay's offense to postseason-caliber results.
Unfortunately, consistency isn't a word in Josh Freeman's vocabulary.
During the 2012 regular season, Freeman picked up an impressive 4,065 yards and 27 touchdowns. Unfortunately, he also completed just 54.8 percent of his passes, threw 17 interceptions and committed 10 fumbles.
If any team lived by the moniker of "Take the points when you can get them," it would be Tampa Bay.
Their defense is improved, Freeman has upside and Vincent Jackson is an elite receiver. Even with Martin, however, Tampa Bay is a team that trusts their kicker's ability to convert long field goals and maintain momentum.
Last year, Barth proved to be more than capable by converting 28 field goals, including 18 from at least 40 yards away. Not only does this display his proficiency, but it shows just how well he fits this team, as he can pick up points when Tampa's young offense inevitably falters.
To lose that source of offense is a damaging blow for a team with a quarterback that struggles to consistently move the ball up and down the field.
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