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April 24, 2010 @ 11:55 am
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New Blood Means Big Trouble For Bucs Veterans

Written by Scott
Reynolds
Scott Reynolds

Scott
Reynolds

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Tampa Bay's drafting of two defensive tackles and two wide receivers in the first four rounds has put familiar veteran players such as Chris Hovan, Ryan Sims and Michael Clayton in jeopardy of losing their roster spots as the Bucs look to get younger and better on both sides of the ball.
The sheer number of quality selections in Tampa Bay’s 2010 draft spell trouble for veterans at multiple positions – most notably wide receiver and defensive tackle.

The first-round selection of Oklahoma’s Gerald McCoy assures that he will be vying for the starting three-technique defensive tackle job. Barring an injury or a greater than expected learning curve, McCoy will be on the field as a starter on opening day.

Tampa Bay came right back near the top of round two and drafted UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price, who will start off playing nose tackle in addition to backing up McCoy at the three-technique spot. Roy Miller, last year’s third-round selection, will likely be the opening day starter at nose tackle due to his experience, but will have to fend off Price to do so.

The drafting of two defensive tackles plus the development of Miller will undoubtedly make the battle for the final roster spot at the position an intriguing one. Veteran Chris Hovan, who will be 32 in May, has been a starter at nose tackle since 2005, but his production has waned as he has gotten older.

ProFootballTalk.com was reporting that the Bucs were shopping him to other teams on Saturday, but his $4 million salary might make it impossible to deal him. However, Hovan – along with underachievers Ryan Sims and Dre Moore – is a candidate to be released prior to the start of the season.

If Hovan is not traded, he is the odds-on favorite to make the team as the fourth defensive tackle because of his work ethic, leadership and experience. He may have to take a pay cut in order to remain a Buccaneer, though.

While Sims is also making six figures and would be a candidate to be released or traded due to his salary, he is probably the best player of this veteran group. ProFootballTalk.com is also reporting that Tampa Bay has him on the trading block.

The Bucs came away with receivers Arrelious Benn from Illinois and Mike Williams from Syracuse in rounds two and four, and both are viewed as starting-caliber wideouts. Both are locks to make the 2010 roster along with last year’s seventh-round steal, Sammie Stroughter. Maurice Stovall, a restricted free agent, is also considered to be a favorite to earn a roster spot due to his size (6-foot-5, 220 pounds). That’s four receivers with only one or two spots remaining.

Those in contention for the final spot(s) include Reggie Brown, who was acquired in a trade with Philadelphia in March, Mark Bradley, Chicago’s former second-round pick, Mario Urrutia, Terrence Nunn and return man Micheal Spurlock.

Tampa Bay has really soured on veteran Michael Clayton, the team’s first-round pick in 2004, an overpaid disappointment that has struggled with a plethora of dropped passes and injuries over his Buccaneers career. Clayton will almost assuredly be released prior to the start of the season after producing a career-low 16 catches for 230 yards and one touchdown after signing a five-year, $23 million contract.

At cornerback, the drafting of Vanderbilt’s Myron Lewis in the third round puts the squeeze on several young corners on Tampa Bay’s roster. Aqib Talib and Ronde Barber will be the starters and Lewis will be in contention for the nickel corner role. That means that Elbert Mack, who was last year’s nickel cornerback, Derrick Roberson, Brandon Anderson, E.J. Biggers, who spent last year on injured reserve after being selected in the seventh round of the 2009 draft, and Stoney Woodson will be vying for two roster spots. At this point in time, Mack, Roberson and Biggers must be considered the favorites.
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