Despite what is perceived as a lack of depth on the defensive line by some Bucs fans, PewterReport.com has learned that Tampa Bay has no interest in free agent pass rushers John Abraham or Dwight Freeney.
Since the departure of last year's leading sacker, defensive end Michael Bennett, who had a career-high nine QB captures before moving on to Seattle in 2013, some have suggested the Bucs look to bring in some veteran help to replace him. And while there are some attractive free agent names still available such as former Colts star Dwight Freeney and the Falcons' John Abraham, sources have told PewterReport.com that the Buccaneers will not be adding either to the roster.
First and foremost going into the decision is the dynamics of the locker room. Abraham would not be a great fit inside the Buccaneers locker room due to character concerns, evidenced by the fact that Atlanta doesn't want him back. Despite recording 10 sacks last season, and a recent report stating the Falcons are considering bringing him back, it is highly unlikely Abraham ends up back in Georgia. Atlanta replaced Abraham with former Giants standout Osi Umenyiora this offseason, and that should speak volumes. Add in the fact that Abraham has not had any serious offers coming close to matching his asking price – reportedly two-years for $10 million – shows that teams around the league have shunned the highly productive defensive end for a reason.
Tampa Bay’s management and coaching staff – and most NFL teams for that matter – put a ton of stock on how players fit into the organization. The old cliché “one bad apple spoils the whole barrel” is something Tampa Bay has taken to heart over the past two seasons. There has been a conscience effort to bring in not only talented football players, but also high-quality character players. Under head coach Greg Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik, the duo have overseen two straight drafts consisting of several former college team captains. Players with questionable character, such as Kellen Winslow, Tanard Jackson, Brian Price and Aqib Talib, left a bad taste in the mouths of those inside the walls at One Buccaneer Place, along with a large segment of fans.
The concerns over Freeney are minor compared to Abraham, but management also has some questions about how the veteran would fit in with such a young locker room, and didn’t feel his production in 2012 (five sacks) warranted his asking price of $4-5 million per season.
And even if the Buccaneers, or any team in the league could overlook the unspecific issues, Abraham is closing in on 35, and Freeney is 33. Both are viewed as a situational pass rushers, most likely to just come off the bench on third downs. At $4-5 million per season, a player commanding that type of salary would be expected to be in the starting lineup. Paying a one-down player that much money is rare in the NFL, and is something the Buccaneers have no plans to start doing.
The fact that a Freeney or Abraham would be expected to start based on the salary and high profile of each player is also a factor in not signing one of the two. Tampa Bay is confident that Da’Quan Bowers and Adrian Clayborn can attain the same results – or even better numbers – than Freeney and Abraham. The organization views adding either player as a deterrent to the growth and development of Bowers and Clayborn, two players that the Buccaneers spent high draft picks on. Clayborn was a first-round pick in 2011 and Bowers was drafted in the second round of that year.
The final reason the Buccaneers aren’t interested in either Freeney or Abraham is the organization feels with Bowers and Clayborn, along with the addition of draft picks William Gholston and Steven Means and veteran Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, they have adequate depth at the defensive end position and the ability to get to the quarterback with their current roster of defensive linemen.
Defensive tackle Akeem Spence also factors into the equation to a degree, as Tampa Bay feels Spence will be an upgrade over Miller as far as getting pressure on the quarterback. While Spence may come off the field on some third-down passing situations, the fact is Drew Brees and Matt Ryan are just as likely to throw on first and second down as they will on third down. Tampa Bay believes Spence will develop into an excellent run-stuffing, space-eating player, but also one that can disrupt the quarterback – unlike Miller. The team expects Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy to see fewer double teams in 2013, which should also help improve getting pressure on the quarterback.
There are still some that look at Tampa Bay's defensive line as a weakness and there is no question there is a lot to still prove an a bit of gamble to rely on mostly untested players. The Buccaneers will be keeping their fingers crossed that both Bowers and Clayborn will develop into the players they think they can be, and that Gholston and Means will also be able to contribute. While there is still a possibility that a veteran could be brought in before training camp, Bucs fans shouldn’t expect to see Freeney or Abraham in pewter and red this fall.
Copyright © 2011 Pewter Report, PewterReport.com and Pewter Insider. All rights reserved. PewterReport.com, the official site of Pewter Report, is an independent source of news and commentary and is not affiliated with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the NFL.