Less than 24 hours after the Denver Broncos released Connor Barth, the Wilmington native found a spot at an NFL training camp as the former Hoggard High School standout is headed back to the Florida Gulf Coast after signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers late Wednesday night.
Barth confirmed the news on his twitter account “@contbarth” just before 9 p.m. eastern time on Wednesday. “Looking forward to coming back home @TBBuccaneers #SiegeTheDay #tampa
Prior to his stint in Denver, Barth was released midway through camp in 2014 by now second-year Tampa coach Lovie Smith. He missed the entire 2013 season after injuring his Achilles tendon during an off-season charity basketball game in Wilmington. The 29-year old was originally signed by the Kansas City Chiefs as an undrafted free agent in 2008. Barth currently holds the highest field goal percentage in Buccaneers franchise history, a record he achieved during the 2011 season. He also broke another franchise record during the 2012 season in which he made 25 consecutive field goals.
The Buccaneers signed Barth to a two-year contract as he will battle with Patrick Murray in a repeat of last year’s preseason competition. Tampa kept Murray in 2014 and the rookie went 20-for-24 on field goals, but missed two attempts this preseason and most recently failed to convert an extra point attempt during Monday night’s game against Cincinnati.
Barth supplanted Brandon McManus on field goals and extra points after 10 games in Denver last year following a mid season skid for the then first-year kicker. He hit 15 of his 16 field-goal attempts down the stretch, but struggled on kickoffs in his first game as a Bronco, which brought McManus back to the 53-man roster to handle kickoff duties.
As the offseason progressed, Broncos’ Special Teams Coordinator Joe DeCamillis consistently stated that he would prefer to only keep one punter and one placekicker, and not carry a kickoff specialist. That loomed over the competition between McManus and Barth and lingered throughout training camp.
Barth continued to be steady on placekicks, at which he was perfect during preseason play. But he struggled on kickoffs, and couldn’t match the consistent distance and hang time of McManus, who routinely gets the football into the end zone with hang times of 4.2 seconds or more. Barth’s kickoffs were often in the 3.75-3.95 second range, including two kickoffs of 3.80 seconds in Seattle on Aug. 14, which resulted in long returns, including Tyler Lockett’s 103-yard touchdown jaunt.
Four days after the Seahawks game, Barth drilled a 65-yard field goal in practice moments after McManus clobbered a 70-yarder through the uprights. But after that practice, DeCamillis made it clear that kickoffs would also matter in the competition.