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April 25, 2012 @ 10:20 am
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Pewter Confidential 4-25

Written by Mark
Mark Cook


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What happens if USC tackle Matt Kalil fall in the Bucs' lap at No. 5? Why is this season so crucial for quarterback Josh Freeman, and how does his first three years in the league compare to other Bucs QBs? Of the nine top five picks in franchise history who ranks as the best – and worst?
Mark Cook offers up his insight and the latest inside scoop on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from his sources at One Buccaneer Place and around the league in the Pewter Confidential, which appears on PewterReport.com weekly.

The Case For Kalil

Drafting offensive linemen rarely gets the crowd excited in New York City on draft night. Rabid, face-painted fans wearing their team’s jerseys usually have a look of disdain when commissioner Roger Goodell starts his words at the podium with, ‘with the ___ pick in the draft the ___ select offensive lineman ___.’

Groans and scattered boos normally follow. And who can blame them? Offensive linemen aren't a “sexy” pick, and don’t normally generate much excitement. But at the same time, other than perhaps quarterback; offensive linemen are the most important pieces of any team’s offensive system.

If somehow USC tackle Matt Kalil were to fall to the No. 5 pick the Buccaneers currently occupy, surely there will be a contingent of fans that absolutely lose their minds. Remember the 2006 draft when the Buccaneers took Davin Joseph then went back-to-back on the offensive line selecting Jeremy Trueblood in the second round?

Six years later, the Buccaneers' leading rushers averaged 4.13 yards per carry, and Joseph has represented the Buccaneers in two Pro Bowls.

There are several reasons that Tampa Bay fans should be excited to see Kalil on the board at No. 5 if it happens. First and foremost is his immense talent. At 6-foot-7, 306 pounds with 4.99 40-time, Kalil is almost a freakish athlete. And Kalil has room on his frame to even add more muscle and weight. A superb pass blocker, Kalil gave up zero sacks last season for the Trojans. A strong run blocker, Kalil has all the natural ability to get even better in his pro career.

Although Donald Penn has performed nicely for the Buccaneers, his play slipped a bit in 2011. Of course when you are in the midst of a 10-game losing streak it is hard to blame players for occasionally losing focus. Another concern for fans and even management was Penn’s weight gain that seemed to increase as the season went on. No one is suggesting Penn is ready to put be put out to pasture, but you can be assured at that the presence of Kalil will only make Penn a better football player.

Another thought if the Buccaneers wind up with Kalil, is to allow him to compete with Trueblood for the starting position during training camp. Fans have been unimpressed with Trueblood for the most part during his six seasons is Tampa, but even the biggest Trueblood skeptics would have to admit he is an upgrade over former Buccaneer enigma Kenyatta Walker. Trueblood is also in the last season of a two-year contract signed on the eve of the 2011 training camp.

Tackles, like any draft pick present a potential gamble. The Buccaneers have been blessed and also burned with first round offensive linemen. For every Paul Gruber and Randy Grimes, there is a Charles McRae and a Walker. But by many accounts Kalil is, other than Andrew Luck, the safest of any of this season’s top five talents.

General manager Mark Dominik will need to address the tackle position sooner or later. And addressing it in free agency is nearly impossible. The tackle position, particularly the left tackle who protects right-handed quarterback’s blind side, is a premium position in the NFL and anyone with average to above average talent seldom if ever make it to the free agent market.

One more thought that should be taken into consideration is the lack of depth the Buccaneers currently have at tackle. If Donald Penn goes down this year, who replaces him in the lineup? Demar Dotson, who for 15.5 games in 2011 was behind James Lee on the depth chart?

Chris Riley, who has zero game action in the NFL? Jamon Meredith, who has is now on his sixth NFL team since coming into the league in 2009? The thoughts of an injury to Penn or Trueblood is probably keeps Dominik, head coach Greg Schiano and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan tossing and turning when trying to get some sleep at night.

So Kalil fits a major need for the Buccaneers, potentially as a starter in 2012, but if nothing else by adding tremendous depth and a future 10-year plus corner stone at tackle. While it may be wishful thinking that Kalil will be there at No.5 when Tampa Bay takes their turn on the clock at approximately 8:35 p.m. Thursday night, if he somehow falls in Tampa Bay’s lap, hopefully those in red and pewter who make the trip to New York will keep the groans and boos to a minimum.

Freeman’s Future
As the 2012 season approaches many eyes will be on quarterback Josh Freeman. Entering the fourth year of a five-year contract, the former Kansas State star is entering somewhat of a make-it or break-it season.

A source within the organization told PewterReport.com that the Buccaneers would love to lock Freeman up to a long-term deal long before he is eligible to be a free agent after the 2013 season. The Saints see how the distraction of an unhappy quarterback can be, and the source cited the issues that placing a franchise tag on a quarterback can cause not only in the locker room but also to a team’s salary cap.

In fairness to Freeman this will be the third offensive coordinator in four seasons (Jeff Jagodzinski, Greg Olson, Sullivan). Not many quarterbacks succeed under those circumstances. And Freeman was extremely hampered by a poor defense in 2011 that usually put the team in a hole early causing the Buccaneers to chuck the game plan by the end of the first quarter.

Freeman's overall numbers are pretty decent when looking at them as a whole. Freeman has completed 60.5 percent of his passes for 8,898 yards with 51 touchdowns and 46 interceptions and a QB rating of 79.0. But the consistency is what the organization will be looking for. The question will be is Freeman closer to the 2010 QB that finished with a 95.9 rating or the one who posted a 74.6 QB rating in 2011 while throwing 22 interceptions?

Looking back at other first round quarterback draft picks by the Buccaneers, Freeman’s numbers are head and shoulders above the others through the first three years of their careers.

• 1978 Doug Williams – 7,014 yards passing, 45 touchdowns, 28 interceptions, 58.6 QB rating

• 1987 Vinny Testaverde – 7,454 yards passing, 38 touchdowns, 63 interceptions, 59.3 QB rating

• 1994 Trent Dilfer – 6,066 yards passing, 17 touchdowns, 43 interceptions, 53.7 QB rating

How Freeman rebounds under the tutelage of offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ron Turner will be a huge for not just the organization, but also Freeman’s bank account. No one is expecting Freeman to put up Drew Brees numbers in 2012, but they must be better than last year in order for Tampa Bay to improve over last year’s 4-12 record. It appears everything in now in place for Freeman to succeed – a quality offensive coordinator, a legitimate No. 1 receiver in Vincent Jackson and an offensive line with three Pro Bowlers.

Bucs Draft History – Top 5 Picks
Nine times in their 35-year history the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have held a top five selection in the NFL draft. Some have been tremendous, while others have been – well – complete busts. Making mistakes in the later rounds can be made up through free agency or the following year, but poor drafts with top 5 picks can absolutely doom a franchise.

With the draft coming up this week, and the Buccaneers selecting in the top five, let's rank all the franchises draft picks in the top five from worst to first.

9. RB Bo Jackson – 1986 No. 1 selection
What a total disaster from the beginning. Bo Jackson was a two-sport superstar at Auburn University and the 1986 Heisman Trophy winner. But Jackson was not impresses with the Buccaneers recent history (6-10 in 1984, 2-14 in 1985) and according to some stories of legend, Jackson wasn’t fond of Hugh Culverhouse either, particularly after the Buccaneers flew him to Tampa in a private plane which ended up being a violation of the NCAA, costing Jackson the remainder of his senior baseball season at Auburn. Against the advice of many, Culverhouse insisted on selecting Jackson assuming his bluff to play professional baseball was a way to get more money from the Buccaneers. Culverhouse did his part offering Jackson the richest rookie contract in NFL history at the time, but Jackson took his talents elsewhere – and the rest they say is history.

8. LB Keith McCants – 1990 No. 4 selection
McCants, out of the University of Alabama, was another bumble by the Buccaneers front office in 1990. Coming into the draft with injury concerns, particularly with his knee, McCants was still selected by Tampa Bay. McCants ended up playing only three seasons in Tampa, collecting just 12 sacks. The former Crimson Tide star bounced around the league for four more seasons, playing in handful of games, notching just 1.5 sacks over those four years. A side note – the next player selected after McCants in the 1990 draft was USC linebacker Junior Seau, a future Hall of Famer.

7. DE Gaines Adams – 2007 – No. 4 selection
Adams had all the physical tools to be a exception outside speed rusher, but during his time in Tampa he was never able put it all together or developed an inside move to counter the league’s better offensive tackles. Adams played 37 games for the Buccaneers and collected just 13.5 sacks during that time. Adams was traded to the Chicago Bears in 2009 and passed away unexpectedly in January of 2010 of an undetected heart defect.

6. DT Gerald McCoy – 2010 – No. 3 selection
McCoy still has at least another season to move up – or down – on this list. Filled with potential, McCoy has battled two torn biceps in his first two seasons in the league, which ended his 2010 and 2011 seasons prematurely. During his limited action McCoy has recorded just four sacks in his two abbreviated seasons for Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers are counting on a healthy McCoy in 2012 and look forward to seeing exactly what type of player they have in the 2010 third-overall pick. One more season with a major injury may spell the end of McCoy’s Buccaneers career.

5. QB Vinny Testaverde – 1987 – No. 1 selection
Testaverde was an All-American and Heisman Trophy winner his senior year at the University of Miami leading the Hurricanes to the national championship game against Penn State. The Buccaneers didn’t reach when selected him No 1 overall in the 1987 draft, as Testaverde was easily the highest-rated QB in that year’s draft class, but his career in Tampa was filled with expectation he could never attain. Fairly or unfairly, Testaverde became the face of a futile franchise. Testaverde did get a measure of revenge later on, setting several NFL records related to his longevity in the league, including the NFL record for having thrown a touchdown pass in 21 consecutive seasons, the most losses by a starting quarterback with 123, and throwing touchdown passes to an NFL record 70 different players.

4. RB Ricky Bell – 1977 – No. 1 selection
Ricky Bell was the NFL’s overall No.1 draft pick in 1977 by the Buccaneers despite future Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett being available. But Tampa Bay coach John McKay at USC has coached Bell and the familiarity was the determining factor in the selection of Bell. The former USC star rushed for 3,057 yards and 16 touchdowns in his Buccaneers career, including having a monster season in 1979 when Bell rushed for 1,263 yards, helping lead the Bucs to their first playoff appearance. Bell was traded in 1981 to the San Diego Chargers and played his last season in 1982. Bell died in 1984 of heart failure caused by the rare disease dermatomyositis.

3. RB Cadillac Williams – 2005 – No. 5 selection
Williams was the third-rated running back in the 2005 draft behind Ronnie Brown and Cedric Benson. After one season it appeared the Buccaneers had made a wise selection when the former Auburn star rushed for 1,178 yards and six touchdowns and won the A.P. Rookie of the Year Award. Williams struggled somewhat with nagging injuries the following season unable to duplicate his rookie success. In 2007, Williams suffered a devastating injury against the Carolina Panthers and although he made a miraculous recovery, he hasn’t rushed for 1,000 yards since. Williams signed with the Rams as free agent prior to last season as served as a backup running back to Steven Jackson.

2. OT Paul Gruber – 1988 – No. 4 selection
Gruber was one of the few bright spots during some terrible times in Buccaneers history. A first-round choice in 1988, Gruber played his entire career in Tampa Bay, and most likely, had he played for a better team, would have made several Pro Bowls. Instead, he just came to work with his lunch pail everyday doing exactly what was asked of him.

1. DE Lee Roy Selmon – 1976 – No. 1 selection
Selmon, Mr. Buccaneer himself, was known as the “gentle giant.” The first-ever draft pick in franchise history was also the best pick in franchise history. An unselfish player who left it all on the field, Selmon was a ray of sunshine even during the 0-26 start. By 1977, Selmon was beginning to get noticed around the league and in 1979 was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year. Selmon went on to six consecutive Pro Bowls and to this day is still the franchises all-time sack leader with 78.5. Selmon retired after the 1984 season and continued to work in the community and help build the USF football program until his unexpected death due to a stroke last September.

Last modified on Tuesday, 01 May 2012 15:29

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  • avatar

    Strong rumor the Jets are looking to move up to #4 to select Trent Richardson. Big win for the Browns if that happens. They add a number of additional picks in this and next years draft. If the Bucs cannot draft Claiborne due to the Vikings then I'm almost sold they stay put and draft the MLB Luke from BC. That's my prediction. Even if Kalil is still on the board. I'm holding serve with Claiborne at #5. I think Minnesota ideally would like to trade down, but will stay put and draft Kalil.
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    Charley Casserly of CBS Sports and NFL Network is reporting that the left tackle-needy Buffalo Bills “would like to trade up” to draft USC’s Matt Kalil, and are willing to surrender a second-round pick to close the deal. I would take Kalil without hesitation if he fell to the Bucs at #5 and their targeted picks are off the board. However, if he is there at 5, our opportunity to trade down goes way up if that is the plan!
  • avatar

    bucballer: While you're pointing out flaws in the PR editing department; allow me to point out your own typo. It's Lee Roy, not Leroy as Hugh Culverhouse always called him. I suggested a long time ago about the possibility of both Claiborne and Richardson being gone and leaving Kalil for the mighty Bucs at # 5. My view is that you don't pass up a LT like Kalil. Whether he plays on the right side or left side initially would be up to our coaching staff to decide; but I would be inclined to shift the rotund Penn to the right to form an monster unit that would perhaps be the best in the league. What a downer to have an article regurgitating our 1st round blunders on Draft Day. Talk about killing the mood. Let me bring it down even further and remind everyone about the top five and some 1st overall draft picks traded away. # 1 pick in 1978 traded to Houston who selected RB Earl Campbell. # 1 pick in 1979 traded to Chicago who selected DT Dan Hampton. # 1 pick in 1983 traded to Chicago who selected WR Willie Gault. # 1 pick in 1984 traded to Cincinnati then to New England who selected WR Irving Fryar . #1 pick in 1992 traded to Indianapolis who selected LB Quentin Coryatt. Don't you miss those days? I called them the Jeopardy Draft Picks where the answer is in the form of a question. After each one I'd scream Who?, Why?, What are they thinking?, Are you kidding me? It was most troubling to hear a name called who wasn't even listed in Mel Kipers blue book. Let the excitement begin.
  • avatar

    I wouldnt be upset in the least if Kalil fell to us at 5. Though word on the street is that he needs to add some muscle, he reeks of long term potential..~at the end of the day,they gonna pick who they gonna pick~whoever it is~good luck young BUC....
  • avatar

    Mark we love your work on PR,just couldn't resist a little jab.
  • avatar

    Leroy Semon! Really PR how about some editing! The caption under the picture should read "Selmon". He's only the greatest player this franchise has ever had! Enough quantity, more quality!
  • avatar

    Honest mistake. Sorry, I suppose I'm the only one who has ever done that. Over 2,000 words of quality thoughts and that is what you take from it? Tough crowd I suppose. Thanks for the heads up though.
  • avatar

    All I want to know is when we're in huge need of a quality cb how in the hell we allowed Atlanta to trade for Assante Samuel for a 7th round pick??? A FREAKIN 7TH ROUND PICK!!! That sh!t makes no sense! If Claiborne and Richardson are gone then Khalil is the safe pick but my sexy pick would be Blackmon. Jackson won't be here more than two years and then we keep it moving with a new no1 receiver who will be well seasoned. When it comes to Keuchly I'm hesitant he's just another Barret Ruud not Brian Urlacher.
  • avatar

    Mark you don't draft a franchise LT and put him on the right side,that's moronic. You media guy's over think things. Should the Buc's draft him with what is really the 3rd pick in the draft he'll be lining up next to Nicks day one, book it. Penn will compete with Trueblood, or be traded. Really Mark, move him to the right side?
  • avatar

    I would trade Penn immediately if we got Kalil, but it's not going to happen anyway. My prediction is that if we don't trade down we will take Barron. Why? We do have LB's & CB"s, but at SS we got nothing. The biggest need is SS and Mark Barron could be the next Ronnie Lott.
  • avatar

    Moronic? If you don't have a decent player then maybe it is crazy. Kalil played right tackle his first year at USC, and the whole point in my opinion is to have more depth. The readers on here seem ready to ship JT out on the first bus back to BC. So why not let him compete on the right side and see what happens? He can play either but right now the weak link is on the right side. I don't know if you plug a rookie in on Freeman's blindside right away. but hey maybe he would be an upgrade immediately over Penn. Just listing some options surferdudes.
  • avatar

    LLLLUUUUUUUUKKKKKKKKKEEEEEEEE!!!!!!! That is who we need to take, because he is going to be a beast at linebacker, which we need. We do not need a OT this year, we NEED DEFENSE!!!
  • avatar

    I agree that Penn can be moved to the right side . . . ; emmit smith did well behind a mammoth oline . . . for much of his career. I don't think we really need to draft a hb; but, there are some interesting ones down low in this draft; Vick Ballard, Alvester Alexander, Mike Smith, and probably some more( I keep think Ganoway). Of course, we should draft safety, linebacker, cb's before even thinking about these other guys.
  • avatar

    I would hope the bucs would take him without a second thought
  • avatar

    Yes, Kalil is not exactly what we urgently need, but that is not what the draft is about and we certainly can use him. Trust me they will find a way to get him on the field. With him in the line and the rest of the cast, just about any running back would do well.
  • avatar

  • avatar

    If Claiborne and Richardson are off the board and Dominik and Schiano aren't enomored with the top rated players left at #5, I say trade down. If a trade doesn't happen, pick the highest rated player available, regardless of position. Dominik needs a strong draft. Otherwise, both he and Hickey could be out the door.
  • avatar

    Good points in the article about the LT position. Latest predictions (for what they're worth) have Kalil dropping maybe past the first five picks. I like Kuechly as the Bucs' pick; but what about this: Given that it's a QB passing league, what if the Bucs select WR Blackmon (if available) & put him, Jackson and Williams on the field together. THAT would be some trio! We could theoretically outscore the other teams and provide Freeman with the maximum weapons possible. It also might make up for our lack of TEs. Just a thought.
  • avatar

    Warren, good idea except they would hardly be playing because our poor Defense would be out there most of the time. We have to address the Defense.
  • avatar

    I don't want the pick to be a WR, but as you mention it, I prefer Michael Floyd. I love his size that will give DB's fits and believe he is NFL ready. I see Blackmon as boom or bust, but Floyd will excel, especially in the red zone.
  • avatar

    I almost want to go long with Horse, we have a lot of pressing needs, and LT is not one of them...But, Kalil is just too good to pass up. I would select kalil, if he is still on the board at #5, unless somebody offers up a can't refuse huge trade. Something like a mid 1st rd swap with a 2 and a 3 or 4 added in to ease the sting of losing our #5 pick...I could live with that kind of a deal.
  • avatar

    Pat Kirwin, former NFL excutive and current Sirius NFL pundit, ranks the value of player positions this way. 1. QB 2. Backside (usually left ) OT 3. Nose tackle 4. Left OG. Games are still won in the trenches. Kallil would be a franchise future left tackle. Either he or Penn could play right tackle. With that line my late grandmother could rush for 100 yards a game.
  • avatar

    Vinny Testaverde set the record for most losses by a starting QB?... I never knew that. Thats a pretty embarrising statistic is it not?. QB's most important statistic is wins and losses. Just 1 more day, CANT WAIT!! Go Bucs!
  • avatar

    SilenceTheCritics; yeah but the Coach was Ray Perkins.
  • avatar

    Seeing that picture of Mr. Selmon makes me feel sad that he is gone.
  • avatar

    Looking at all those bad picks in the 1st round, maybe we should trade into the 2nd. If Freeman has another bad year, Freeman along with Dominik and Hickey should be gone. No more excuses please!
  • avatar

    As much as I like Kalil if he is available, I would trade down if possible. I know Kalil would fill a needed hole of consistency at LT, but the needs at LB, SS, CB are to great.
  • avatar

    i'm pretty sure penn can play the right side, see both tackle postions get upgraded kalil>penn and penn>trueblood two birds one stone and that there is a badass line folks
  • avatar

    If nothing else, smokescreen so you trade with the Rams
  • avatar

    Mark, I couldn't agree with you more. While Penn has played well the past few years, his weight appears to becoming an issue. Also, I do not see him getting any better than what he is now. Kalil would simply be a coup for our team. Go BUCS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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