TAMPA, Fla. — New Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Chandler Catanzaro is the Bucs’ eighth kicker in six seasons, but their struggles at the position — including swinging and missing badly with second-round draft pick Roberto Aguayo in 2016 — aren’t looming over his head like an imminent storm.
“I’m pretty aware [of the Bucs struggles],” said Catanzaro, 27, now in his fifth season. “Being a kicker, we’re in a pretty tight knit, close…almost fraternity. So we’re definitely aware but I wasn’t here during that time so I’m kind of looking forward to doing my thing this season. I’m really excited for the opportunity and very thankful.”
2018 NFL free agency
Kirk Cousins. Jimmy Graham. Andrew Norwell. This class is already wild. Here’s everything to know.
The Bucs believed in Catanzaro enough to reward him with a three-year contract worth $9.75 million, including $3.75 million guaranteed. By comparison, the Bucs’ last kicker Patrick Murray was on a one-year deal worth $540,000 with no guaranteed money. Nick Folk, a 10-year veteran before he got to Tampa, was on a one-year deal worth $1.75 million with $750,000 guaranteed.
“I promise you — it’s hard to believe — but I put more pressure on myself than anybody ever can or will, to succeed and to kick well and to do my best and to reach my potential,” Catanzaro said. “I hold myself to a very high standard, higher than anybody has ever or will ever hold me to. So that’s enough for me.
“I’m just focused on doing my best in my process and my routine. I rely on my routine so outside circumstances don’t really affect me as much. I’m very reliant on my process, routine, preparation. I work very hard at what I do. I watch a lot of film. I work hard in the weight room. So I’m focused on more of those things, and we’ll let the results take care of themselves.”
The Bucs were 3-7 in one-score games last year. Five of their 11 losses came in games with a three-point margin or in overtime. In Week 5 against the New England Patriots, Folk missed three field goals, and the Bucs lost 19-14. The Bucs also had three missed extra points last year, while Catanzaro didn’t miss any with the Jets.
“The extra points, that was a big thing for me last year,” Catanzaro said. “I think repping it more in practice and treating it like a 33-yard field goal instead of having that label as an extra point, I think that was big for me. I went 29-for-29. I’m definitely happy with the way that went. I’m excited to keep that going here.”
Catanzaro has made 84.6 percent of his career field goals in games decided by one score or less. By comparison, since 2013, Bucs kickers have made 77.1 percent of their field goals in games decided by seven points or fewer, second-to-last in the league in front of only the Cincinnati Bengals.
He also has long-range ability, something the Bucs have lacked the past two seasons, going just 37.5 percent of field goals from 50-plus, third-worst in the league. Since 2016, Catanzaro’s made 62.5 percent of his field goals from 50-plus yards. That includes a 57-yard field goal last season in a 17-14 win over the Cleveland Browns. In 2016, he drilled a 60-yard field goal in a loss to the Buffalo Bills, as well as making kicks from 54 and 56 yards. Those kicks did wonders for his confidence.
“I have kind of gotten more comfortable from that long range,” Catanzaro said. “The weather is good here, it’s pretty warm, so it should be conducive to pretty long kicks. We’ll see. Bottom line is, whenever a coach sends me out there, I expect to score. I hold myself to a very high standard. Whenever I get on the field, I’m expecting myself to score points for the team and help.”