TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hope they’ve solved their kicking woes.
Free agent Chandler Catanzaro becomes the latest kicker to get an opportunity to stop a seemingly never-ending carousel of potential solutions, finalizing a three-year, $9.75 million contract on Friday.
The Bucs also formally announced the signing of veteran defensive lineman Mitch Unrein, who got a three-year, $10.5 million deal after spending most of the past three seasons with the Chicago Bears.
Catanzaro, meanwhile, has also kicked for the Arizona Cardinals and New York Jets during a four-year career. He’s converted 84.4 percent of his field goal attempts. Since entering the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2014, he ranks eighth in the league with 103 made field goals and seventh with 461 points scored.
“I looking forward to taking advantage of the opportunity and just doing what I have the past four years,” said Catanzaro, who spent three seasons with the Cardinals for moving to the Jets in 2017. “I think I’ve proven I belong. I think my career stats say that.”
The Bucs have been searching for some stability at the position since 2013. The team has used six different kickers over the past five seasons, including second-round draft pick Roberto Aguayo in 2016 and Nick Folk and Patrick Murray a year ago.
The hope is the strong-legged Catanzaro not only will be dependable on field goals and extra points, but improve the team’s kickoffs as well. The 27-year-old had a 67.2 touchback percentage on kickoffs with the Jets, seventh-best in the NFL.
The fifth-year pro made 25 of 30 field goals and was 29 of 29 on extra points in 2017.
Since Connor Barth handled Tampa Bay’s place-kicking duties from 2009 to 2012, the Bucs haven’t had a player hold the job for consecutive seasons.
Murray served separate stints in 2014 and 2017, and Barth returned for a second stint in 2015 before general manager Jason Licht surprisingly traded up to select Aguayo in the second round of the 2016 draft.
Folk was signed in free agency last winter to replace an inconsistent Aguayo. He struggled, too, before spending much of last season on injured reserve. Murray returned for his second stint with mixed results, especially on kickoffs.
Catanzaro said he’s “definitely aware” of Tampa Bay’s kicking woes, but noted: “I wasn’t here during that time, so I’m looking forward to doing my thing this season.”
“I’m never complacent,” he added. “I’m always looking to get better.”
Unrein spent four seasons with the Denver Broncos from 2011 to 2014. The following year, he played two games for the San Diego Chargers before being released and signing with the Bears.
In 95 career games, including 24 starts, Unrein has 4 1/2 sacks and one fumble recovery.
The 30-year-old is the second defensive lineman the Bucs have signed in free agency this week, joining former Eagles tackle Beau Allen.