ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — The Denver Broncos have switched kickers again, waiving first-year pro Brandon McManus and signing Connor Barth, who hasn’t kicked in an NFL game since 2012.
Barth, 28, won a competition with 38-year-old Jay Feely at the Broncos complex in suburban Denver on Tuesday.
The Broncos were in the market for a new kicker after McManus clanked a 33-yard field goal off the right upright in Denver’s 39-36 win over Miami on Sunday. His miss followed a seven-minute drive that stalled when Peyton Manning tripped on third-and-1 from the 7 for a sack.
Cameras caught several of McManus’ angry teammates throwing their helmets in disgust when the Broncos came away empty.
That blunder came on the heels of a game in St. Louis where the Broncos passed up field goal attempts of 54 and 55 yards indoors.
“Obviously, I’m disappointed in being released, but I thank the Broncos for giving me the opportunity to play for such a great organization and team,” McManus said in a text to The Associated Press.
“Not too happy with myself with how I went out missing that FG against the Dolphins, but will only use it as motivation to get better and come back better than before,” McManus added. “I’ve been set back before and I will get back up and play in this league again.”
McManus’ longest field goal was from 44 yards, and he didn’t really get the chance for a pressure kick for the AFC West-leading Broncos.
While solid on kickoffs, McManus was 9 for 13 on field goal attempts. His 69.2 percent conversion rate was dead last among NFL kickers, ranking ahead of only Nate Freese and Alex Henery, both of whom were released by Detroit earlier this season.
Barth, who spent four of his five seasons in Tampa Bay, has plenty of experience in crunch time, although not for a team with quite the Super Bowl aspirations of the Broncos (8-3).
Barth has made 84 percent of his career field goal tries. He was the most accurate kicker in Buccaneers history but missed all of last season after tearing the Achilles tendon in his right foot during a charity basketball game. He returned this year but was beaten out by rookie Patrick Murray.
In his last season in Tampa Bay, Barth made 85 percent of his kicks and was 6 of 9 from 50-plus and 12 of 13 from 40-49 yards.
The Broncos had the league’s best kicker last year in Pro Bowler Matt Prater, who made 25 of 26 field goal tries, including an NFL- record 64-yarder against Tennessee.
He had a poor preseason, however, and was suspended four games for violating the league’s drug policy by drinking alcohol. The Broncos acquired McManus from the Giants for a seventh-round draft pick in 2015. They decided to keep him over Prater, who subsequently signed with Detroit, where he’s made 12 of 16 field goal attempts.
At the time, the Broncos said they liked McManus’ strong leg and high ceiling. But the decision to part ways with Prater also had to do with money. They saved nearly $2.3 million off this year’s cap and $3.25 million off next year’s with Prater’s release.
There was some speculation the Broncos could sign a veteran kicker but still keep McManus as a kickoff specialist — his 48 touchbacks on kickoffs ranked second in the league. That would have meant finding a roster spot elsewhere and injuries have thinned the team’s depth.
Barth wasn’t used on kickoffs by the Bucs in 2011 or ’12 and in 2010 he had just one touchback on 78 kickoffs for Tampa Bay.
McManus is not unlike many young kickers who stumble in the pros before finding a foothold. What made his situation different is that he was playing for a team on a Super Bowl-or-bust mission.
“We’re a performance-based business and regardless of what your job description is you’re expected to perform,” coach John Fox said Monday.
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– By Arnie Stapleton, AP Sports Writer
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