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Xavier Beitia vs. Matt Bryant
This time last year, Tampa Bay’s kicker position was up for grabs. Bryant and Todd France battled it out in training camp and preseason, and Bryant emerged as the winner.
The Bucs made the right decision in keeping Bryant over France. He did, after all, drilled 21-of-25 (84 percent) field goal attempts last year.
But even after a strong outing in his Tampa Bay debut, Bryant didn’t appear to be a top priority in free agency. In fact, the Bucs attempted to sign Green Bay Packers free agent K Ryan Longwell before they dropped out of the bidding war for his services.
The Minnesota Vikings eventually signed Longwell, which turned Tampa Bay’s attention back to Bryant, who inked a long-term deal with the Bucs just a few hours after Longwell signed with the Vikings.
Tampa Bay was pleased with Bryant last year, but the team is concerned with his history of hamstring injuries. He even missed a game last season due to that type of injury, and the Bucs are hoping it doesn’t become a recurring problem.
That’s why the Bucs signed Beitia during the offseason. The former Florida State and Jesuit High School kicker actually auditioned for the Bucs when Bryant was sidelined last year, but the team opted to sign France instead.
Beitia has a strong leg, and his accuracy has improved quite a bit since his collegiate kicking days. In fact, Beitia out-kicked New York Jets second-round pick Mike Nugent in training camp last year, but the fact that the Jets had a high pick invested in Nugent led to the team’s decision to release Beitia during preseason.
Assuming he stays healthy in training camp and preseason, Bryant should win this job. However, Beitia could make things interesting, just as he did last year in New York.
Advantage: Matt Bryant
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