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March 8, 2012 @ 7:00 am
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2012 Free Agency Preview

Schiano Should Only Guarantee Two Starting Spots In Tampa Bay

WRITTEN_BY Scott Reynolds Scott Reynolds
Scott Reynolds

Scott
Reynolds

Publisher
Pewter Report’s Scott Reynolds writes that new Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano should send a powerful message to the team and open up all of the starting jobs to competition except right guard and kicker in 2012.
If new Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano wants to immediately change the culture at One Buccaneer Place when the team takes to the practice field during the first week of April for the Bucs’ initial round of OTAs (organized team activities), he needs to start things off without a depth chart. Because Tampa Bay has a new coaching staff, it gets an extra mini-camp and that would be the ideal time to really shake up the youngest and most immature team in the NFL.

In fact, Schiano should send out a memo to every Buccaneer player on the roster in advance of that mini-camp that aside from the team’s lone Pro Bowler, right guard Davin Joseph, and the team’s franchise tag player, kicker Connor Barth, ALL starting spots are officially open.

Joseph was the only player deemed to be great by the league, hence the Pro Bowl berth after the 2011 season. And with Barth nailing a team-record 92.5 percent of his field goals in 2011 and the team placing the franchise tag on him, to say he’s not a starter would be utterly foolish.

The message that all 11 starting spots are open on defense and that 10 out of 11 starting jobs are available on offense would send to a team that was obviously way too complacent in 2011 – as it lost its last 10 games – would be absolutely stunning. It would also remind the Buccaneers that there are no allegiances and no favorites with regards to Schiano and the new coaching staff, and be prepared to work hard or be disappointed.

Everyone gets a fresh start. Every Buccaneer gets a clean slate. Everyone gets the chance to make a first impression with Schiano and the new position coaches and coordinators.

If opening up the starting spots doesn’t invigorate and revitalize the roster of existing players, nothing else probably will.

Defensive end Adrian Clayborn should be put on notice that despite leading the team in sacks with 7.5, forced fumbles with three and leading all defensive linemen with 54 tackles during a sensational rookie season, it wasn’t good enough to help the Buccaneers get more than four wins in 2011.

There should be an open competition between long-time team captain Jeff Faine and newly re-signed lineman Jeremy Zuttah for the starting center position.

General manager Mark Dominik should not trust right tackle Jeremy Trueblood to play well in a contract year and give him a competitor to fight for the right to start at that position. Dominik made that mistake last year at weakside linebacker and strong safety, thinking that Geno Hayes and Sean Jones would have enough incentive to play great football by being in a contract year without legitimate competition.

Instead, each player proved to be a huge disappointment and the move backfired on Dominik and the Bucs as the backups behind Hayes and Jones weren’t good enough to replace either of them.

Tanard Jackson, who will be in a contract year in 2012, should be put on notice that Cody Grimm, Larry Asante and Ahmad Black have just as much of a chance to be the starter at free safety in September as he does.

Gerald McCoy, who has yet to live up to his draft billing and his potential due to winding up on injured reserve the past two seasons with biceps tears in each arm, would have to prove he’s better than Frank Okam and John McCargo for the right to start.

Dekoda Watson and Adam Hayward should realize that just because Quincy Black is fresh off a huge contract extension in 2011 and will be making $5.5 million in 2012 that in no way, shape or form would he be guaranteed to start or even make the team in 2012. The strongside linebacker position, along with every other spot on defense, is open.

Ronde Barber, one of the franchise’s all-time greats, should be told that if he wants to re-sign with the Bucs for another year at age 37 that he will have to earn a starting spot. No exemptions for legends.

Any rookie selected in the 2012 NFL Draft by Tampa Bay from the first to the seventh round should be told to be prepared to compete to start this season and to not just try to make the team.

When it comes to free agency, Dominik and Schiano should be forthright in telling even the biggest of available names that they will have to compete for the right to start. If Stephen Tulloch gets signed, he’ll have to fend of Mason Foster for the right to be the starting middle linebacker.

Vincent Jackson would have to beat out Mike Williams, Arrelious Benn, Dezmon Briscoe and Preston Parker for the right to start at wide receiver.

Carl Nicks would have to emerge the victor in a battle with Zuttah and Ted Larsen to start next to Donald Penn at left guard.

Because the Buccaneers have over $60 million worth of salary cap space at their disposal and so many of the players currently on the roster are so cheap because they are so young, Tampa Bay could justify not starting their high-priced free agent signings. If Jackson’s arrival pushed Williams and Benn to greatness and they performed better than the former San Diego wideout in the preseason, there’s nothing wrong with starting them and making Jackson the third wide receiver if that’s how it went down fair and square.

Logically, Josh Freeman would get the benefit of the doubt to start at quarterback given his experience, but free agents Jason Campbell, Rex Grossman, Vince Young or Dan Orlovsky would be told by Schiano that it would be an open and fair competition for the right to be under center in Tampa Bay. The Bucs need a good, veteran quarterback that can step in and legitimately win games and be capable of getting the Bucs to the playoffs if something should happen to Freeman.

The message Schiano would need to send to lure a good, experienced quarterback to Tampa Bay in free agency is that every Buccaneer would have to earn their keep and their starting job – even Freeman. Come on down and compete with him.

Salary, draft status, athleticism and talent should mean an awful lot less than they actually do in the NFL. The only thing that should matter is production, and that’s what Schiano should be preaching.

Do you earn your salary? Do you live up to your draft status? Are you maxing out your athleticism and your talent? If not, you’re not good enough to start and there will be a more productive player seizing the opportunity.

The message Schiano would send to Tampa Bay’s younger, cheaper players would be that no matter how big the name or how big the contract of the player signed in free agency, last year’s Buccaneers starters and backups would still have a legitimate chance to compete for the right to start in 2012 under the new regime. This bold move would earn Schiano a great deal of instant respect and foster an extreme amount of competition in Tampa Bay.

There is nothing more than the Buccaneers need as much as competition right now to fast track the team’s overall improvement.


Last modified on Monday, 12 March 2012 09:26

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Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds

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COMMENTS

  • avatar

    Not sure you want to give potential free agents visiting OBP any "tough/big talk"about competition. It will be hard enough to land key players as it is. I do agree with the premise otherwise.Solid stuff as usual,SR.
  • avatar

    If tough talk about competition would tip a FA hand away from coming to Tampa then good riddance. The Bucs need competitors not divas.
  • avatar


    Its not being a diva if you already earned your position. No FA is going to earn their way to the top and then come somewhere where they have to split reps with a practice squad scrub to "earn" what they already earned.
  • avatar


    I agree with Jonbuc. I also say a blanket statement should be made that everybody has to earn their spot whether there is someone there to give them stiff competition or not. That includes Joseph and Barth. It's too fine a line making that statement with one player and not another. I'd like to be a fly on the wall in the room when Schiano tries to tell McCoy with a straight face he can only be a starter if he can beat out Okam. They'd both be laughing before the sentence was ever finished.
  • avatar

    i love it!! great article and tremendous ideas Scott. I really hop the new HC does exactly what you laid out as a blueprint. Brilliant!
  • avatar


    great "idea" but will it happen?
  • avatar


    Free Agency opened two days ago and so far all we have to show for it is a washed out 3rd Round Draft Choice that Cincy let go. Perhaps Shiano is already telling free agents what you suggested. Of course I hope the only free agent gets real good teaching and is able to return to his old form from college before his injury, but that is a big gamble. I sure was not impressed with the TE we took last year out of Tennessee which is why we have no 4th round pick this year. He sure wasn't worth moving up for, at least based on last year's performance. Otherwise, Scott, you are right on in this article, as usual. I sure hope we can get at least three top free agents at Guard, Middle Linebacker, and Corner Back.
  • avatar


    free agency starts on Tuesday not 2 days ago
  • avatar


    I would have also added koenen to the list of safe jobs
  • avatar

    Sorry but that list is flawed. Freeman, Williams, Penn, Joseph, the punter, the kicker all have spots. McCoy and Clayborne have spots. Foster has a spot (although it might be at OLB). Everything else is up for grabs and even some of the guys I mentioned know they have to perform better or lose their spot. The relaity is and ALWAYS will be unfortunately, draft status & salaries do play a part.
  • avatar


    I also think that those guys have earned the right to play. The only one that I might have my doubts about are Williams. He may not even be the best receiver currently on the roster. McCoy has had the injury problems, so we haven't seen a ful season yet. However, he's definitely the best DT on our team currently. And he played solid last year before the injury. Same with Foster, wasn't great, but was our best LB. He was a rookie too, so that means he should get another shot. Even if it's at OLB. Everyone else can fight it out. Also, just because you've earned the right to start already, doesn't mean that you can't lose that right if your play is awful.
  • avatar


    Barber compete for his spot? Was that a joke?
  • avatar

    It's all about leverage..and the Bucs don't have a ton these days. For example, let's say JM Too becomes a free agent in his field. Might he go work at Taco Bell or Jack In The Box if Wendy's tells him that he will have to compete for the right to wear the drive-thru headset? Probably unless he's a competitor and not a diva.
  • avatar


    While I think we all realize that more than Joseph and Barth have secured starting spots; the point is that with the players we have the team only won four games, with them and could do little worse without them. I always say that until we get a half-dozen Pro Bowl players we will continue to struggle. There are few players on the roster who can thump their chest right now.
  • avatar


    Good article. (Assumed the omission of Koenen wasn't intentional.) // 3sk
  • avatar

    They shouldn't say things that aren't true. By doing so you lose credibility. Simply put there are a handful of starting positions that are secure entering the offseason workouts. With that said this staff should absolutely encourage an environment of competition and rewarding the best player not the biggest contract. That takes time to develop, trying to artificially create it by making grandiose statements is a mistake. Lead from the front not with words but with actions.
  • avatar


    Truth is if Barth misses 8 out of 10 attempts and Joseph comes into camp 40 pounds overweight they two should have to start from scratch. I love this article... one of the things that has always pissed me off is when you read that a player has to start because we pay him a fortune. Basically this is how the system should work every year. Everything goes back to "Reset" and everyone earns their position on the depth chart. Fortunatly there are players who are perennial top producers so we anticipate that they will start this year. If you want to see how tangible the peformance levels are just look at how many 1st rd draft picks fail and how many 3-4 round picks wind up starting. Money, durability, overall team strength, and even the guy who plays next to you has an influence on your year to year performance. Thats not to mention the coaching staff and the schedual you face. Great article, true real world perspective. Go Bucs
  • avatar


    I wish I had some cheese with me because I definitely brought the whine. Does any other member, remember the day when your $$ bought you a magazine AND some online content? Brand new coaching staff. Washington/Rams switch. Pro days going on everywhere. An "unknown" corner from FL blows up the combine. (I know he's a little tall for you guys, but still...) With all due respect, you're just posting old intel. Your posting multiple links to an online magazine I already have access to. If only I knew how to use a computer I wouldn't need all of this. Is there a holiday I'm unaware of?
  • avatar


    I agree with the premise of the article for the most part. My only disagreement's are that Adrian Clayborn should be guaranteed his starting spot. He earned it with his production and consistent effort. It's important motivation for all players to see someone deserving, get rewarded. Also, if we sign Nicks, he's gotta be the starter day one. In fact, I can't see any top free agents signing without being guaranteed a starting spot.
  • avatar


    great call, Scott. Only disagreement I have is with Nicks. If we were lucky enough to sign him then he has no competition! I would just hope that it would be more of a competition then what we had last year at MLB.
  • avatar


    I like this article. Now we may see some actual hustle!!
  • avatar


    I like it. I love it. I want to see more of it! Just what the team needs....glad you included Freeman. Think you should have added Koenen to the "protected" list of Barth and Joseph.
  • avatar


    I would exclude no one. I think with new coaches, they have every right to examine everyone without any bias. Let's start over. We all know that there are certain players that will be there at the end, no matter what. The fact of the matter is, we have a lot of talent. It was utilized in the bars with "Rah", and not on the field. I still think we have a lot of talent that just needs some adult supervision, but adult supersivision that has some knowledge. I could not believe that our last offensive coordinator was our offensive coordinator. He was, at best, a quarterback coach, and not a good one at that, and then he had to take over a offensive coordinator. Not his fault, but we should have caught that after the first season. I am optimistic, but if the middle of the interior of the defensive line doesn't measure up, we are in trouble.
  • avatar


    Not sure if that would be the best way to introduce yourself to a new team... I would think a more fair and balance discipline would be Schiano's approach. Make no mistake, Barber (if he wants to), Penn, Clayborn, Price (if healthy), McCoy (if healthy), Koenen, and any big free agent or early draft (Claiborne hopefully) signings will be starters. I'm sure Schiano will have a lengthy sh*t list but some guys are clearly strong players with good heads on their shoulders.
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