The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the step necessary Monday to make sure the most consistent field goal kicker in franchise history will continue to wear pewter and red in 2012.
Connor Barth, whose 84-percent field goal mark ranks first among all Bucs kickers, was given the franchise tag, which prohibits the potential free agent from hitting the open market later this month.
The move marked the Bucs first use of the tag since Antonio Bryant was franchised in 2009, but it came as no surprise as general manager Mark Dominik vowed earlier this offseason to do everything necessary to retain Barth.
"We obviously like Connor Barth a lot,'' Dominik said during last week's scouting combine in Indianapolis. "He's done a good job for us since he's been a Buccaneer. We think so much of him that we're not going to let him (become an) unrestricted (free agent).''
Barth, 25, made $1.835 million last year when he ranked second in the league in field-goal percentage (92.9) after connecting on 26 of 28 field-goal tries and all 23 of his extra point attempts.
"I have been negotiating with the Buccaneers on a contract for Connor. It is my hope that our negotiations will continue and result in a long-term contract that will reflect Connor's status as one of the elite kickers in the National Football League," Barth's agent, Rob Roche, said in a statement. "Connor enjoys being a member of the Buccaneers organization and appreciates the great fans of the Buccaneers."
For his career Barth has made good on 63 of 75 field-goal tries, including three of five from 50 yards or longer, and hit on every one of his 71 extra point attempts.
The tag means Barth is guaranteed a salary of $2.6 million for the 2012 season, which is the average of the top five salaries for kickers throughout the league, but it does not prohibit further negotiation toward a long-term contract.
Barth came to the Bucs as a free agent on Nov. 3, 2009 and made an immediate impact when he tied an NFL record by kicking three field goals of 50 yards or more during a loss to the Dolphins on Nov. 15.
Since then Barth has made 59 of 70 field goal tries, including 49 of 56 the last two years for an 87.5-percent success rate that has established him as one of the league's more consistent kickers.
The move with Barth came just hours after the Bucs re-signed fellow projected free-agent Jeremy Zuttah, who started 14 games at left guard last year, to a four-year contract.