ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --With guard Evan Mathis signed, the Broncos had to make one corresponding move to get down to 90 players.
The team released Connor Barth on Wednesday morning, leaving Brandon McManus as the only placekicker on the roster.
Barth supplanted McManus on field goals and extra points after 10 games last year following a midseason skid for the then first-year kicker. Barth hit 15 of his 16 field-goal attempts down the stretch, but struggled on kickoffs in his first game as a Bronco, which brought McManus back to the 53-man roster to handle kickoff duties.
Special Teams Coordinator Joe DeCamillis studied McManus' work in the weeks after he was hired, and felt that his slump was easily explained.
"He's just like any other player -- young," DeCamillis said Aug. 18. "Unfortunately, you look at kickers and they should make everything, right, whoever they are. If they haven't done it a bunch yet, they're going to have those hiccups. You have to be able to come back from it and hopefully he did."
As the offseason progressed, DeCamillis consistently stated that he would prefer to only keep one punter and one placekicker, and not carry a kickoff specialist. That loomed over the competition between McManus and Barth and lingered throughout training camp.
Barth continued to be steady on placekicks, at which he was perfect during preseason play. But he struggled on kickoffs, and couldn't match the consistent distance and hang time of McManus, who routinely gets the football into the end zone with hang times of 4.2 seconds or more. Barth's kickoffs were often in the 3.75-3.95 second range, including two kickoffs of 3.80 seconds in Seattle on Aug. 14 which resulted in long returns, including Tyler Lockett's 103-yard touchdown jaunt.
Four days after the Seahawks game, Barth drilled a 65-yard field goal in practice moments after McManus clobbered a 70-yarder through the uprights. But after that practice, DeCamillis made it clear that kickoffs would also matter in the competition.
"You're hoping you're going to get a little separation and both of them made it. It's a tight competition," DeCamillis said. "Just like we said, though, the kickoff thing's going to come into play for whoever that guy is. You have to be able to do both."
And for now, it will be McManus who handles double duty.