‘Bring on the competition’: Connor Barth ready for Roberto Aguayo duel
BOURBONNAIS — On Sunday, Bears kicker Connor Barth had a job to do. On Monday, he had a job to win.
The difference was evident in the Bears’ final practice at Olivet Nazarene University. The day after the Bears claimed kicker Roberto Aguayo off waivers from the Buccaneers, Barth was Mr. Perfect, going 12-for-12 on field-goal attempts, including one between 50 and 55 yards.
No way that’s a coincidence, right?
‘‘Well, what else am I supposed to do? I’ve got to do something here,’’ Barth said. ‘‘There’s two ways you can take it. You can either have a mental breakdown and go into a hole and it’s over, or you can step up. My parents always said, ‘Bring on the competition.’ And that’s what I’ve always done.’’
The Bears, who aren’t shy about creating awkward competitions on their roster, already seemed to reap the benefits of bringing Aguayo to camp. But while Barth’s performance was notable, the more intriguing option in this scenario is Aguayo winning the job.
Aguayo was a three-time All-American at Florida State and a second-round pick by the Bucs in 2016. He was only the second kicker to be drafted in the first three rounds since 2000, when the Raiders took Sebastian Janikowski in the first round.
Aguayo, though, struggled to live up to that draft status. He made only 22 of 31 field-goal attempts (71 percent) in his rookie season, the lowest percentage among qualified kickers in the NFL. He was 4-for-10 from 40 to 49 yards and 0-for-1 from 50 yards or longer. His longest field goal was 43 yards.
The Bucs cut him Saturday after he missed an extra point and a 47-yard field-goal attempt in their preseason opener Friday.
‘‘It’s unfortunate,’’ Aguayo said. ‘‘What we both wanted, it just never flourished. I’m excited to be here with the Bears and excited for this fresh opportunity and a new start.’’
‘‘Fresh’’ and ‘‘new’’ are clearly the operative words in that sentiment. Aguayo clearly is ready to move on and restart his career after his lofty draft status hovered over him with the Bucs.
‘‘They picked me wherever they picked me,’’ Aguayo said. ‘‘I want to go out there and do my job. I just focus on being in the present . . . and what I’ve got to do here. I’m excited to be here.’’
The Bears are hoping to benefit by getting Aguayo on the rebound, a fairly typical path to success for many kickers. It might be that Aguayo will blossom without being burdened by his draft status.
‘‘We’ll find out,’’ coach John Fox said. ‘‘We’ll let him compete here. It’s a fresh start. We won’t put too much stock into what happened in the past, just what he looks like moving forward.’’
It’s not exactly a free roll for the Bears, but it’s one worth taking because they have $20.2 million in salary-cap space. Aguayo will cost them $428,000 of cap space if he’s cut and nobody signs him. Barth’s ‘‘dead-cap’’ number is $155,000 if he’s cut.
If there indeed is a mental hurdle to be cleared, Aguayo will be strong competition for Barth.
‘‘I know what works and what doesn’t,’’ Aguayo said. ‘‘Some days I’m perfect; everything is rolling. Some days they don’t go in. It’s a matter of building consistency. That’s the main thing I’m working on now. Because I know I can do it.’’
Follow me on Twitter @MarkPotash.