With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers having released former second round pick Roberto Aguayo on Saturday, many commenters here have expressed an interest in having the team bring him in as competition for Blair Walsh, apparently unconvinced that Walsh is fit to handle the kicking duties for the Seattle Seahawks this season. While this might seem like a great idea under the mantra of “Always Compete”, it neglects several key factors regarding Aguayo and the ability of the Hawks to simply sign him, and the ramifications if the team were to bring him in as camp competition through the channels which are available as of this moment.
The most basic of these factors is the simple fact that Aguayo is still on his rookie contract. Thus, he is not a free agent in spite of having been waived by the Bucs. Because he does not have enough experience to simply become a free agent upon being waived, Aguayo is subject to waivers, and therefore in order to bring Aguayo in as camp competition for Walsh, Seattle would have to put in a waiver claim on him. Once these claims are processed, if any teams do submit a waiver claim, the team that is awarded Aguayo on waivers will be responsible for taking over the remainder of his rookie contract and the impact of taking on that rookie contract is twofold.
First of all, as a second round pick Aguayo’s 2017 salary is above the minimum salary for a second year player, with him slated to earn $634,208 versus the minimum for a second year player of $540,000. Now, while this $94,208 is not a huge amount, keep in mind that due to injuries and unforeseen cuts a couple of years ago the Hawks ended the season with barely $11,000 in available cap space. Every dollar counts, and while the Seahawks currently have plenty of room available under the cap, a rash of serious injuries early in the year could quickly eat up that cap space.
The next major piece to evaluate in this matter is the structure of Aguayo’s contract. As a second round pick Aguayo has a contract that is in part fully guaranteed. In particular, Aguayo has $428,000 in fully guaranteed salary this season. If the Hawks - or any other team - put in a waiver claim on Aguayo and are awarded his services, but then decide they don’t have any interest in him before the end of this season, that team could still be on the hook for the guaranteed money. Specifically, if any other team were to bring in Aguayo off waivers, take a look at him for the next month and then cut him when rosters are pared to 53 in September, if no other team were to claim Aguayo after being cut a second time, that team would get to pay Aguayo $428,000 over the next seventeen weeks for doing absolutely nothing.
Thus, claiming Aguayo off waivers to bring him in for a free look, might turn out to be anything but a free look. In fact, it could end up costing a team almost as much for a player who isn’t even on the roster as it is likely to cost the Hawks to pay the guy who is currently slated to be their starting left tackle. That is not a wise use of resources, and makes it seem unlikely to that Seattle would have an interest in claiming Aguayo on waivers.
Now, if Aguayo clears waivers, the team could easily bring him in for a workout and then make a decision about what they would like to do. However, even if Aguayo clears waivers there is are a couple of issues that are major red flags for anyone with experience kicking the ball. The first of these is the simple fact that Aguayo is simply not that good. There’s no need to go through everything, but as a junior at Florida States in 2015 (Aguayo skipped his senior year in order to enter the draft) he made 80.8% of his field goal attempts, which would have tied him for 31st in the NFL in field goal conversion percentage that season. In addition, for his college career he made only 23 of 32 kicks from 40+ yards, which is 71.9%, while Walsh has converted almost that well (24 of 34 for 70.6%) against NFL competition during his five-year career from 50+ yards.
Moving beyond Aguayo’s inability to actually put the ball between the uprights either in college or the NFL over the last two seasons, one other item sticks out like a sore thumb: He has extremely limited experience kicking in cold weather environments. Weather greatly affects how easy, or how difficult, it is to make a kick because items like air density and humidity impact the flight of the ball. Looking at the locations where Aguayo has kicked in the past is not impressive when it comes to kicking in adverse weather conditions. Ideal conditions for kicking involve a temperature in the mid 70s with high levels of humidity, and as a native of Florida he grew up kicking under these ideal conditions. He played high school football just outside Orlando before going on to Florida State, where he continued his kicking under very kicking-friendly conditions.
Even when Aguayo played on the road in college, he was not forced to kick in the cold. During his three years kicking at Florida State he only played in five road games that took place after November 1, and those five games were played at Wake Forest in North Carolina, at Clemson in South Carolina, in Miami and twice in Gainesville. That leads to a minimal amount of experience kicking in cold weather entering the pros, and then even at the NFL level last season Aguayo was rarely not asked to kick in anything other than good kicking conditions. Of the eight road games the Bucs played in 2016, half of them were in domes (Atlanta, Arizona, Dallas and New Orleans), and the remaining games were Carolina in early October on a 66 degree day, in San Diego on a 72 degree day, and in Santa Clara on a 68 degree day. The only time Aguayo was asked to kick in temperatures below 50 degrees was at Kansas City. For that game the temperature was 46 degrees at kickoff and warmed up to a high of 52 degrees around halftime of the game, with the temperature staying above 50 through the final whistle.
All of this combines to convince me that Aguayo simply isn’t worth any kind of invite to Seattle as camp competition for Walsh, especially not through waivers and risking several hundred thousand in guaranteed money. Considering everything, if something happens to Walsh and he is unable to play for the Hawks or his accuracy goes out the window, I hope they try to talk Josh Scobee out of retirement or look at kickers other teams cut at the end of camp before they give Aguayo a look.