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Barth's accuracy gives him nod over McManus


In the end, the Broncos decided they couldn't wait on Brandon McManus to snap out of his placekicking slump.

Tuesday, they opted for the veteran steadiness of Connor Barth, who last kicked in the regular season two years ago for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before missing the 2013 season after tearing the Achilles tendon in his kicking leg before training camp.

Barth lost a preseason competition to Patrick Murray this summer, but left having re-established credentials that he set during his four seasons with the Bucs. He left Tampa Bay as the most accurate placekicker in club history, hitting 84.3 percent of his field-goal attempts in four seasons there.

The biggest question on Barth revolves around kickoffs, which he has not handled on a full-time basis since 2010. Barth worked briefly on kickoffs this summer, with one touchback in two attempts in the Bucs' preseason opener at Jacksonville.

Eleven of Barth's 162 kickoffs went for touchbacks during three seasons of that work with the Chiefs (2008) and Buccaneers (2009-10).

However, Barth's last extensive kickoff work coincided with the last three years when kickoffs came from the 30-yard-line. They were moved in 2011, the same year Tampa Bay signed punter Michael Koenen to also handle kickoffs.

Barth's average kickoff length in 2009-10, the two years he handled kickoffs for the Bucs, was 62.5 yards.

For the future beyond this year, the importance of kickoffs may drop further if a proposal to move kickoffs to the 40-yard-line is resubmitted. Last year, owners voted down that proposal, but as player safety continues to be a concern, it could be revived.

Those are long-term concerns. For the short term, Barth will need to be on point, whether it's with distance or with high kickoffs that allow the Broncos' coverage team to get downfield. In the Chiefs' last five games, kickoff returners Knile Davis and De'Anthony Thomas have averaged 45.0 yards on their 10 returns, with seven covering at least 40 yards and four of at least 45 yards.

Connor Barth, who previously played for Kansas City and Tampa Bay, signed with the Broncos on Tuesday.

Kickoffs were where McManus flourished during his 11 games as Denver's kickoff man. He was third in the league in touchback percentage at 75 percent, although that percentage dropped to 52 percent away from Denver's mile-high altitude, a percentage that might have been higher if the Jets' Walter Powell had not opted to return all five kickoffs hat went into the end zone in Week 6.

But McManus' struggles on field-goal attempts grew in recent weeks. His 33-yard miss off the right upright in the second quarter against Miami on Sunday was the Broncos' shortest miss in one day short of two years.

After hitting his first four field-goal attempts this year -- three of which were from 24 yards or closer -- he went 5-of-9, beginning with a 53-yard miss against Arizona in Week 5. From outside 30 yards, he hit three of his last seven attempts.

The Broncos dealt a seventh-round pick to the New York Giants once they opted to keep McManus over Matt Prater after a four-game suspension. The move was made in the hope McManus would develop, while in the process providing a significant savings under the salary cap that could have eased the crunch looming as they try to re-sign a slew of key players this offseason.

But while McManus' leg strength was never in question, the team decided that it couldn't wait on his accuracy to come around in the midst of what it hopes is a push for a second consecutive Super Bowl trip, which at any point could live or die on one swing of a placekicker's foot.

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