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February 15, 2014 @ 6:26 pm
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5 Ways Smith Is Equipped To Attract Free Agents To Bucs

Written by Scott
Reynolds
Scott Reynolds

Scott
Reynolds

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What are the five ways new Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith can help lure free agents to Tampa Bay? Does he have the clout to persuade high-profile free agents to come to the Bucs for less money? Find out in this PewterReport.com article.
As the Buccaneers prepare for free agency, new head coach Lovie Smith is well equipped to help the team attract some firepower to help Tampa Bay build a playoff contender. PewterReport.com identifies five ways Smith can lure free agents to One Buccaneer Place starting on March 11.

1. Rebuilding? Smith’s Been Here, Done That
New Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith was on Tony Dungy’s initial staff in Tampa Bay in 1996 and helped the team turn the corner from being perennial losers to perennial playoff contenders from 1997-2001. That first-hand experience will help guide the next turnaround in Tampa Bay.

Are the Bucs in a rebuilding mode? In some ways, yes, due to the fact that the team will likely be starting a second-year quarterback and have some inexperience at some positions. But Tampa Bay has enough pieces in place to make a playoff push in 2014, and that will be intriguing to free agents he’s trying to sell on the idea of suiting up in pewter and red. He has also assembled a great coaching staff with some big names, including offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, linebackers coach Hardy Nickerson, defensive line coach Joe Cullen and tight ends coach Jon Embree among others.

Smith can sell the notion that the 2014 Buccaneers are where Tampa Bay was in 1996 during the first year of the Dungy regime because he was there. In fact, the current team is probably in even better shape because the Glazers are now championship owners with a Super Bowl trophy from the 2002 in the lobby of their world-class facility. Add in the fact that the team has been able to lure several high-profile players, such as wide receiver Vincent Jackson, guard Carl Nicks and free safety Dashon Goldson in free agency and Tampa Bay should be in the running for any free agent it wishes to pursue with Smith at the helm of the organization now.

2. Play Defense With Other All Pros, Pro Bowlers
If the Bucs attempt to court Minnesota Jared Allen in free agency, or perhaps Chicago’s Julius Peppers if he’s released in salary cap-related move in the coming weeks, that defensive end will want to know who he’s playing with. That was the situation with former Bucs legend Simeon Rice when he was being courted by Dungy, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli. They used playing next to Pro Bowl defensive tackle Warren Sapp and in front of linebacker Derrick Brooks to help lure Rice to Tampa Bay.

Playing next to two-time Pro Bowler and All Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and in front of All Pro linebacker Lavonte David should be desirable to the likes of Allen, Peppers or perhaps Chicago defensive tackle Henry Melton, a former Pro Bowler, whose career got off track last year.

In the secondary, Darrelle Revis just came off his fifth Pro Bowl berth and is considered to be one of the greatest and most respected cornerbacks in the NFL. Goldson is a two-time Pro Bowler and strong safety Mark Barron is regarded as one of the up-and-coming talents in the NFL. Why wouldn’t a player like Chicago’s veteran cornerback Charles Tillman want to come to play with such a talented supporting cast?

3. Become A Pro Bowler Under Smith
There are three things that motivate NFL players: winning championships, developing into a Pro Bowl player and money – and not necessarily in that order. Smith believes that players want to get better and if that happens they’ll make more money and put themselves into position to win championships.

In Chicago, Smith had 15 players make the Pro Bowl or the All-Pro team under his watch from 2004-12, including linebacker Lance Briggs (seven Pro Bowls, one All Pro), linebacker Brian Urlacher (four Pro Bowls, two All Pros), center Olin Kruetz (three Pro Bowls, one All Pro), defensive tackle Tommie Harris (three Pro Bowls), return specialist Devin Hester (three Pro Bowls, three All Pros), Peppers (three Pro Bowls, one All Pro), Tillman (two Pro Bowls, one All Pro), cornerback Tim Jennings (two Pro Bowls), linebacker Brendan Ayanbadejo (two Pro Bowls), wide receiver Brandon Marshall (one Pro Bowl, one All Pro), guard Ruben Brown (one Pro Bowl), wide receiver Johnny Knox (one Pro Bowl), cornerback Nathan Vasher (one Pro Bowl), defensive back Corey Graham (one Pro Bowl) and Melton (one Pro Bowl). That’s an attractive part of Smith’s sales pitch when it comes to convincing free agents to come play for Tampa Bay.

“This is what I’ve found from men: They will do whatever you ask them to do if you look them in the eye and they feel like you know what you’re talking about and you have a plan,” Smith said. “I never had a hard time. I’ve dealt with very few players I haven’t been able to motivate and get them to do what we ask them to do. They’ll listen. Way back when, when I was a younger coach, I thought it would be so much harder coaching NFL players than junior high or high school players. It’s the complete opposite. I think the easiest player there is to coach is an NFL player. Most of them are making a lot of money; they like their life and they want you to help them continue to make that. As far as how we’re going to motivate them, the same way. No one will play harder than we will. We’re going to be a physical football team and, for me, if somebody isn’t, I go to them and we’re going to get them to do it. It’s kind of as simple as that.”

4. Smith Could Usher In The Clout Discount
With an 81-63 record as head coach of the Bears with three playoff appearances, including a trip to the Super Bowl in 2006, Smith is one the most respected coaches in the NFL. Earning high marks from players and fellow coaches he’s served with and under, including Dungy, Smith has the track record, charisma, integrity and commanding presence that free agents will find appealing. That alone will help lure some free agents, including some former Chicago players like Tillman and Hester, to Tampa Bay.

Former head coach Greg Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik were able to attract some high-profile names to Tampa Bay to play for a coach who was unproven at the NFL level, but had to pay top dollar to seal those deals. With Smith’s clout, the Bucs may be able to snare some free agents without having to break the bank.

Rice was a Pro Bowler and a two-time All Pro in Arizona and took less money as free agent in Tampa Bay to play for Dungy, Kiffin, Marinelli and play with Bucs greats like Sapp, Brooks, strong safety John Lynch and cornerback Ronde Barber in 2001. While the Bucs seem two or three years from being a Super Bowl contender at the earliest, Smith may be able to sway top notch free agents from going to far lesser teams for more money because of the type of man and coach he is.

5. The Great State of Florida Sales Pitch
The fact that free agency takes place in March when temperatures are typically in the 70s and 80s in Tampa only helps Smith and the Buccaneers’ cause. While several northern states can experience freezing temps and snow in March, Florida’s weather is downright balmy and tropical and ideal to play in. Not to mention that the grass field at Raymond James Stadium is often ranked as the league’s best playing surface.

Throw in fishing, boating, beaches and theme parks aplenty, and there are plenty of recreational activities for free agents and their families to do while living in the Tampa Bay area with entertainment-rich Orlando just an hour and a half away and that’s another key selling point.

With the departure of Schiano, Dominik and head trainer Todd Toriscelli, the Bucs have put the MRSA debacle of the 2013 season in the rearview mirror. One Buccaneer Place has gotten a clean bill of health, so playing in a place that had an outbreak of MRSA last season is now yesterday’s news.

But perhaps the best news is that Florida does not have state income tax, so that players get to keep more of the money that’s in their contracts. Having that extra five or 10 percent by playing in Florida instead of New York or California (10.3 percent for every dollar over a $1 million per year earnings) could mean the money – we’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars for contracts worth millions – to buy their parents a house or send their own kids to college. Showing free agent targets the economics of signing with Tampa Bay will be a huge part of Smith’s sales pitch in March.

Last modified on Sunday, 16 February 2014 10:30
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COMMENTS

  • avatar


    I agree totally surferdudes, I think this team is on the cusp of being not just a playoff contender, but a mainstay as a top tier team, and by accomplishing that, we have to focus on the foundation of any team, and that's the offensive line. If we can restructure the OL in FA and make it a team strength, then I believe we instantly become a playoff team even before the Draft, the running game and protecting our QB was a big reason for many of the losses last year, if we can give Glennon the right coaching, coupled with another year under his belt, and/or picking up an established QB who's well equipped to manage a game, then I feel we instantly become a team to be reckoned with, so build up the OL/DL, the rest will be adding depth, along with a great coach who will undoubtedly garner respect from his players in Smith, and perhaps even adding a new flashy logo can all add up to a REAL new day in Tampa Bay!
  • avatar


    I'm sorry Horse but I would disagree, especially about Allen. He had more sacks last year than anyone on our team. Pairing him with GM could extend his career two or three years. I really think he would be an outstanding addition to our defense.
  • avatar


    I think this is a great article and I agree that we have an edge in attracting FA's. Whether we need a bunch of FA's and if so on what side of the ball should they be playing is a different article and debate altogether. Like other have posted, it just depends on the state of our team, who the FA is and how much he wants to play here.
  • avatar


    The draft is where you get your stars and free agency is where you fix your mars. As an example look at the Patriots. Almost all of their stars came from the draft. Their free agents (the successful ones any ways) are good players that could fix an area of weakness immediately. That is what we need to do.
  • avatar

    Come on guys. A combination of good drafting and picking up free agents to fill key spots is have how championship teams are built now days. Even Seattle picked guys like defensive ends cliff avril and Michael Bennett and pick up wr Percy harvin. If the team is crafting contracts the right way there should be no reason the should not use most of the salary cap every year.
  • avatar


    Since Dom neglected to draft mid round O linemen the last five years where we have no depth we're going to have to bring in some vet help. The F.A. that makes the most sense would be Mack if he isn't tagged. Who ever our Q.B. is having a pro bowl center would really help. Zuttah could back up, and compete for guard. Then use the 7th pick on a L.T.. What took Sanchez's Jets to the AFC title was Mangold at center Ferguson at L.T. Strong up front, and great defense, we can be good quick even with Glennon using this formula.
  • avatar


    I agree totally surferdudes, I think this team is on the cusp of being not just a playoff contender, but a mainstay as a top tier team, and by accomplishing that, we have to focus on the foundation of any team, and that's the offensive line. If we can restructure the OL in FA and make it a team strength, then I believe we instantly become a playoff team even before the Draft, the running game and protecting our QB was a big reason for many of the losses last year, if we can give Glennon the right coaching, coupled with another year under his belt, and/or picking up an established QB who's well equipped to manage a game, then I feel we instantly become a team to be reckoned with, so build up the OL/DL, the rest will be adding depth, along with a great coach who will undoubtedly garner respect from his players in Smith, and perhaps adding a new flashy logo can all add up to a REAL new day in Tampa Bay!
  • avatar


    I agree that FA should not be the first option in building a team. In a perfect situation, FA ought to be that place you go for that one player or two that completes the puzzle and pushes a team into the playoffs or over the top. It seems like we went from cold turkey to complete overdose in FA the last few years. In retrospect – not wise. It held us back when we didn’t use FA at all and we’ve generally overpaid or not gotten commensurate results from big ticket players we’ve acquired recently. I do like the idea at this point of signing value players (maybe not Tier 1) that can step in right away and play or provide quality depth at key positions. Because of our previous administration, we have superior talent playing in one spot and a severe drop off in talent playing next to him. So to be competitive in the shortest time possible, naturally FA becomes the first place to look. My opinion, I think because we are one or two players on defense from having a full deck, FA may be the way to go this year. But the offense is a completely different story. Here is where we should build through the draft and not expect miracles the first year. Problem is we’ve had a lot of “first years” and no winner and fans are impatient. But I think we find ourselves in the same boat if we go whole hog (we’ve got cap money) into FA this year to try and fix all of our problems! However, I’ll be the first to admit it will be tempting because there are lots of prime beef on the hoof in FA this year. So be wise and Go Bucs!
  • avatar


    I'm still not a big proponent of building a team through Free Agency. It just rarely lives up to the hype and the big headline in the local newspaper. A few seasons ago Dominik signed Jackson, Nicks and Wright to huge contracts. One could argue that only Jackson was anywhere near our expectations. Last season it was Goldson whose impact was felt more by the penalties and Crabtree who was nearly as invisible as Teo Shoeshine. Sure there are success stories like Reggie White and a few others. But the risk doesn't often match the reward. Smith is so right about his approach to motivating players. Defining expectations and helping and encouraging men to achieve them is the first step. Cutting them is the last resort. Many don't respond to the "beat-down" ways of some whose idea of coaching is an out of control tirade. I always say, "You can be demanding without being an a-hole."
  • avatar


    $$Cash$$ FA's are trying to hit their big contract. Period. Everything else is dressing. Lovie DID fill out a coaching staff very quickly. We just saw how tough that can be when you are unknown. Schiano took forever...and took everybody. So coaches--I'm totally on board with Lovie's appeal. FA's are following the $$. Exceptions are FA's that really want a ring. They're looking at Real Contenders. Unfortunately, that isn't the Bucs'...Yet. The Patriots are the only team I've consistently seen FA's take less $$ just to play for a coach. But hey, next year is a brand new season & I like to see new things.
  • avatar


    Scott, another great article. If you ever get tired of your present job, you would make a heck of a GM yourself. I think you hit every selling point for Free Agents! Horse I fully understand your point, and I would normally want young Free Agents with plenty of years to play for the Bucs, but I am all for hiring Jared Allen for a one year contract, even if he is on the down side of his career-I think Gholston is going to end up the starter we need as our Strongside DE. What we need is Jared Allen prepared to start from day one and help us create pressure with the front four. Then as the year goes by and Gholston fills in on both DE positions and sometimes a DL on passing downs, and gets even stronger in the weight room, and gets coached up by our excellent DL Coach, and gets to watch all the moves from a Master like Jared Allen, I expect Gholston to blossom into a great starter once Allen retires at the end of his career. Of course if we could snag Hardy, I would love that too, but I look for Carolina to keep him happy.
  • avatar


    owlykat; I see your points.
  • avatar


    "No one will play harder than we will. We’re going to be a physical football team and, for me, if somebody isn’t, I go to them and we’re going to get them to do it. It’s kind of as simple as that.” I can't wait to see what they can get out of D. Bowers!
  • avatar


    BTW, did I say there is no state income tax? God I miss that.
  • avatar

    Unless his name is greg hardy, I'm not signing anyone durring the first few days of free agency and over paying. There will be plenty of good and cheap players as free agency moves on. Hopefuly we get some Oline help.
  • avatar


    I met coach Smith Thursday night at One Buc Place at a meet and greet held by the Buc's. A real nice guy, you can see why players want to play for him. Looking forward to this season and many more under Lovie.
  • avatar


    I hope we don't pick up players that have past their peak. I would prefer to pay for players in Free Agency like what we have gotten the last two years. Some we over paid and some we traded too much, but they could still play close to their top peak level. I believe that Peppers and Allen are past their prime.
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