Tampa Bay signs kicker Cundiff as insurance

Protecting themselves against the possibility that incumbent Matt Bryant could bolt in free agency, the Tampa Bay Bucs have signed former Dallas Cowboys kicker Billy Cundiff, who struggled through an injury plagued 2005 season.

Contract details were not immediately available.

Cundiff, 25, was one of the NFL's top young kickers until he suffered a quadriceps injury in training camp last summer, an occurrence that forced the Cowboys to release him with an injury settlement to his contract. He eventually re-signed with Dallas in mid-November after rehabilitating, but converted only five of eight field goal attempts in six games, and was released before the season finale.

The four-year veteran, who originally entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent, has converted 60 of 82 field goal attempts and all but one of his 101 extra point tries in his NFL career, for 280 points. In 2003-2004, Cundiff made 43 of 55 field goal tries and emerged as an excellent kicker.

Dallas ended up using three different kickers in 2005 and the position was a problem area for most of the season.

After years of inconsistency in the placement game, the Bucs saw Bryant stabilize the position last season, in his first year with the team. But the formerly itinerant Bryant, who had kicked for three different teams before signing with Tampa Bay last spring, is eligible for unrestricted free agency in less than three weeks.

Even in a free agent market that features several high profile placement specialists, Bryant figures to draw solid interest if the Bucs don't extend his contract before the start of the signing period.

Bryant made 21 of 25 field goal tries in 2005 and his 84.0 percent success rate was the 10th best in the league. Bryant was especially effective from long range, converting on 11 of 13 tries from 40 yards or more. He also made all 31 extra point attempts, and averaged 62.7 yards on kickoffs, with five touchbacks.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.