SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, Pewter Report publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place:
FAB 1. MORE LINEUP CHANGES ARE NEEDED FOR BUCS TO SUCCEED
The Buccaneers made a few roster moves on Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline, shipping strong safety Mark Barron to St. Louis for a fourth-round pick and a sixth-rounder, and trading linebacker Jonathan Casillas and a sixth-round pick to New England for the Patriots’ fifth-round pick. Don’t blame general manager Jason Licht for getting a fourth- and sixth-round pick for Barron. That’s what the market said he was worth. The fact that he was originally drafted with the seventh overall pick means that he was overvalued and didn’t live up to the hype. Here’s what Tuesday’s deals mean to the Bucs roster in 2014 and in 2015.
While Major Wright has plenty of experience and will likely start opposite Dashon Goldson in the interim, the Bucs really like young reserve safety Bradley McDougald a lot and he’s one step closer to seeing the field now that Barron is gone. At linebacker, Danny Lansanah had a firm grasp of the starting strongside linebacker role, and the Bucs like backup Brandon Magee, who is injured right now, quite a bit in a reserve role.
Barron and Casillas netted the Buccaneers three draft picks in 2015 to help Licht and head coach Lovie Smith restock the roster next spring. Here’s where Tampa Bay’s draft pick situation looks like for next year.
Round 1 – Tampa Bay
Round 2 – Tampa Bay
Round 3 – Tampa Bay
Round 4 – St. Louis (trade involving SS Mark Barron)
Round 5 – Tampa Bay
Round 5 – New England (trade involving LB Jonathan Casillas)
Round 6 – St. Louis (trade involving SS Mark Barron)
Round 7 – Tampa Bay
The Bucs are without their own picks in the fourth round (Tampa Bay sent its pick to New England for LG Logan Mankins) and the sixth round (Tampa Bay sent its pick to New England with Casillas for a fifth-rounder).
Now that the trade deadline has come and gone, there won’t be many more impactful roster changes in Tampa Bay. Like all general managers, Licht knows that there aren’t saviors on the street in November and December. The Bobby Raineys of the world are few and far between, and Tampa Bay was lucky to pluck him off Cleveland’s waiver wire at midseason last year.
While the Buccaneers roster won’t get much of a shake up until the offseason, the depth chart could see some change. Actually, the depth chart should see some change based on the team’s disappointing and dismal 1-6 record.
Because Lovie Smith has control over the depth chart, these are the moves I would make if I were Tampa Bay’s head coach.
The first move I would make is to cut guard Garrett Gilkey to send a message to the Buccaneers locker room that poor play won’t be tolerated and comes with serious consequences. I would have made that move on Monday and pointed out to the team that Gilkey played just four plays at right guard subbing in for Patrick Omameh and got two holding penalties on back-to-back plays with the first one wiping out a 16-yard catch by Rainey that picked up a first down.
Two holding penalties in four plays – are you kidding me? That’s not Buccaneers football. Time to send a message and shake up a locker room that seems too laid back and too relaxed.
In 114 snaps this season, 66 at right guard in place of Mankins and 48 at left guard subbing in for Omameh, Gilkey has given up one sack, two hits and five hurries. Omameh hasn’t been a juggernaut at right guard, giving up one sack, one quarterback hit and 10 QB hurries, but he’s played in far more snaps than Gilkey and it’s time to help the continuity on the right side of the offensive line. But it wouldn’t be with Omameh at right guard.
I would move left tackle Anthony Collins, who has been beaten like a drum the last two weeks against Baltimore and Minnesota where he surrendered a sack in each game, to right guard. Collins has experience playing guard in Cincinnati and his experience could give the Bucs a better edge on Sundays than Omameh, a first-time starter, can.
Collins, who signed a five-year deal worth $30 million, including $9 million in guaranteed money, has been a bust as a left tackle, leading the Bucs in penalties (six) and QB hits (10). It’s time for him to either move inside to guard or move to the bench and it’s time for the Bucs to move Demar Dotson to left tackle and insert rookie Kevin Pamphile at right tackle.
That might happen this week against Cleveland out of necessity as Collins has missed some practice time with a foot injury, although it’s been Oniel Cousins that has been taking practice reps at left tackle. But even if Collins were healthy, this is a move that needs to happen. Dotson has played left tackle at times in the preseason and has the frame, wingspan and footwork to protect a quarterback’s blind side. It’s time to give him a shot to see if he can play left tackle because Collins hasn’t proven to be the answer.
It’s also time to bench running back Doug Martin, who teams inquired about prior to the trading deadline. The reason why he wasn’t traded is because it was believed that Martin, who was a first-round pick in 2012, didn’t fetch more than a late-round pick. Although he wasn’t shipped out prior to the draft, I could see Martin getting traded in the offseason or on draft day next year.
Bobby Rainey has only started two games this year when the oft-injured Martin was out, but he’s been twice as productive. In five starts, Martin has failed to rush for at least 50 yards in any of those games.
Rainey and rookie Charles Sims, who is coming back from ankle surgery, bring more speed and elusiveness than Martin has, and that’s key with the offensive line not faring well in run blocking this year. With Martin suffering a sprained ankle last week against Minnesota, we could see the Rainey-Sims show out of necessity this Sunday.
The last lineup change I would make would come on defense where I would bench defensive end Michael Johnson to send a message. The big free agent signing inked a five-year deal worth $43.75 million, including $18 million in guaranteed money and has produced just 15 tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble, but most of that production came in the Steelers game.
Johnson didn’t record a single stat against New Orleans, although he did pressure quarterback Drew Brees into an interception. He had two tackles against Baltimore and two tackles and a tackle for loss against Minnesota. Johnson is paid an average of $8.75 million to pressure and sack opposing quarterbacks, and he’s done a poor job of it.
Perhaps benching him in favor of Jacquies Smith, who had a pass breakup and was credited with a QB pressure, would serve as a much-needed wake-up call. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Johnson actually had a season-high six QB hurries in 52 snaps and a QB hit that somehow escaped the NFL statisticians.
According to the same website, Smith had four QB hurries in just 27 snaps on Sunday against Minnesota. I want to see more of the 6-foot-4, 260-pound Smith.
I don’t expect the Buccaneers to make most of these roster and depth chart moves, but they should be considered to help jump-start this team that seems to be sleepwalking through the season. There appears to be a malaise in the locker room, and there are whispers that some players are taking advantage of Smith’s laid back persona and ways, especially coming off a regime that was micromanaged by Greg Schiano.
Yet the players seemed to play harder for Schiano – likely because he demanded it. He benched and cut the team’s starting quarterback, Josh Freeman, for goodness sake because he wasn’t playing well enough. That move played a role in Schiano losing his job, but it was the right thing to do.
Quite honestly, the only players that I see play with a relentless passion on defense are defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Clinton McDonald and linebacker Lavonte David, who gave a fiery, emotional pre-game speech to the whole team prior to Sunday’s home loss to Minnesota.
Barron called the Tampa 2 defense deployed by Smith and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier “passive,” and he’s right. But his play was quite passive through the first seven games of the year, and that’s part of the reason he’s a St. Louis Ram.
On Tampa Bay’s offense, who knows who is playing hard down in and down out? It’s not as obvious. But what is obvious is that this lineup needs some shaking up and there might be a backup that can rise to the occasion and help.
Maybe it’s Sims. Maybe it’s Pamphile. Maybe it’s Smith. Maybe it’s safety Bradley McDougald. It’s time to find out because this is not a team that is close to winning the division as its head coach is trying to portray. It’s not getting closer to winning games and being a “better product out there on the field.”
This is a 1-6 Buccaneers team that needed more draft picks to help rebuild and dealt two average players for some average draft picks. This is a team that is going nowhere fast with some of the current players in the lineup.
FAB 2. JOHNSON’S LACK OF PASS RUSH IS LETTING THE BUCS DOWN
Of all of Tampa Bay’s free agent signings, the most money was given to defensive end Michael Johnson in the form of a five-year, $43.75-million contract that included $18 million in guaranteed money. The fact that Johnson has only 15 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble on the season to show for it in six games makes him the Bucs’ biggest free agent bust thus far.
In his defense, Johnson has been playing on a sprained ankle that has hampered his production and caused him to miss the Week 2 game against St. Louis. But there are some grumbles from the locker room about Johnson not showing the toughness necessary to push through the pain and movement limitations and max out on the field and produce. One of those players who isn’t grumbling is defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who has been one of Johnson’s staunchest supporters.
“I’ve always said once Mike gets comfortable he’s going to be a force,” McCoy said. “He’s still playing, but he’s not at 100 percent. You kind of got a glimpse of what he can be if he’s at 100 [against Pittsburgh]. He played really carefree. He didn’t worry about anything. He just knew his assignment and he just went. He’s very athletic and has a lot of ability and it showed [against the Steelers]. I’ve been talking to him and he’s just going to keep going from here and building off that.”
Former Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp was critical of Johnson’s lack of production in an interview two weeks ago on 98.7 The Fan with host and former Tampa Bay nose tackle Anthony “Booger” McFarland and co-host Marc Ryan.
“I don’t know what [former Bengals defensive coordinator Mike] Zimmer was teaching him all those years in Cincinnati where he was successful doing that,” Sapp said. “You have to let go of all your old habits and everything that you used to do that made you who you were. You are starting from scratch. Because you are being evaluated by a whole new general manager, a whole new head coach, a whole new defensive coordinator and a whole new defensive line coach. You have to do it their way.”
Sapp noted that Johnson’s first five years in the league were spent in Cincinnati in a different defensive scheme and he has to quickly unlearn what he learned as a Bengal and buy into the Tampa 2. According to Sapp, doing so will allow the Bucs’ pass rush to take off and flourish the way it did when Sapp played alongside speedy edge rusher Simeon Rice from 2001-2003.
“It meant the world,” Sapp said. “I didn’t have to set the stage and take the quarterback off of it. … I used to tell [former Bucs defensive tackle] Chuck [Darby] all the time to push the pocket so the QB can’t step up. Simeon will definitely be there. That’s what they have to get to where [McCoy] and Michael on third down are working like a cohesive unit, and then [McCoy] and Lavonte [David] in the run game with Mason [Foster] and [Clinton] McDonald inside – they have to get those four in the run game to where they get to third-and-7.”
Johnson was supposed to provide the speed and athleticism off the edge that Rice had to make Sapp even more productive inside. Sapp’s pocket push from the inside helped pressures the QB Rice’s way for 43.5 sacks over the three years they played together. McCoy only has three sacks this season after having 9.5 last year, and Johnson hasn’t provided the consistent edge rush the team thought he would when the Bucs envisioned signing a potential double-digit sacker.
Looking at how quickly this new regime is working to changeover the Bucs roster with offseason departures of offensive linemen Donald Penn, Davin Joseph and Jeremy Zuttah and the recent jettison of Mark Barron, one gets the feeling that general manager Jason Licht and head coach Lovie Smith aren’t going to stand idly by and simply allow highly paid players to become unproductive. Even cornerback Darrelle Revis, who made the Pro Bowl in 2013, was deemed to be overpaid at $16 million per season and was released during the offseason.
Yes, Johnson was the hand-picked defensive end in free agency by head coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht, but so were offensive lineman Jamon Meredith and linebacker Jonathan Casillas. Meredith was released in the final roster cutdowns, and Casillas was traded to New England on Tuesday.
Meredith and Casillas didn’t have the enormous salaries that Johnson has, and that would make releasing Johnson more difficult if he didn’t record another sack this season and it ultimately came to that. You just get the feeling from a personnel standpoint that this new regime isn’t going to rest on its laurels with the roster, and that’s probably the lone, refreshing bright spot in this dismal 1-6 start to the 2014 season.
Some general managers will hang on to their mistakes out of ego or pride. It’s hard not to do that when a G.M. is in the spotlight and all eyes are on him. Rich McKay, Bruce Allen and Mark Dominik all did that with certain players during their respective tenures, but I get the feeling that Licht isn’t that way with the way the roster has been turned over.
If Johnson doesn’t produce this year and continues to disappoint, I could see him get released, especially if the Bucs spend their top five draft pick on a player like Nebraska’s Randy Gregory, who is the top pass rusher in the 2015 NFL Draft. Time will tell, but I think we’ll see some of the free agents that Licht, Smith and the front office brought in this past offseason get released next spring because some of them haven’t panned out.
FAB 3. BUCS’ WAY OF STRUCTURING CONTRACTS EASES DEAD CAP MONEY
The saving grace that has kept the Bucs out of salary cap hell – and the thing that will keep it out of cap hell – is the plan put together by Dominik and director of football administration Mike Greenberg, who is Tampa Bay’s capologist. A few years ago the Bucs started a trend that has been mirrored around the NFL by some other teams.
The Bucs don’t often dole out signing bonus money. Instead, Greenberg structures deals that typically feature one or two years worth of guaranteed money in the form of base salaries or roster bonuses – or both.
It’s a credit to general manager Jason Licht that the Bucs are continuing this practice because it greatly reduces the amount of dead salary cap room. The Bucs suffered from a high amount of dead cap room from 2003-2005 from signing bonus-rich deals signed by general manager Rich McKay.
That prompted Bruce Allen, McKay’s replacement in 2004, to have to release Pro Bowl strong safety John Lynch and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Warren Sapp. Allen further extended the salary cap misery for another year or two by signing free agent busts like offensive tackles Todd Steussie and Derrick Deese, guards Matt Stinchcomb and Matt O’Dwyer and running back Charlie Garner.
If some members of the Buccaneers’ large 2014 free agent class are deemed busts and the team wants to change directions it can do so with just a few million worth of dead salary cap room. Here’s a look at how some of Tampa Bay’s free agents’ contracts are structured.
DE Michael Johnson
If he’s released after 2014, Johnson has his $9 million base salary guaranteed and that will be $9 million worth of dead salary room for the 2015 season only. The Bucs can avoid paying him an additional $4 million roster bonus if he’s released before the third day of the 2015 league year next March.
LT Anthony Collins
Collins was given $9 million in guaranteed money, which means that half of his $6 million base salary in 2015 will be his whether he’s on the roster or not. However, the Bucs would free up $3 million in cap room by cutting him as his base salary is $6 million next year.
QB Josh McCown
McCown signed a two-year, $10-million deal that included a $2 million signing bonus and guaranteed his 2014 base of $3.75 million. McCown’s base salary of $4.25 million is not guaranteed next year, but if he’s released the cap savings will be just $3.25 million and the team will have a $1 million dead cap money charge due to the proration of his $2 million signing bonus.
C Evan Dietrich-Smith
The Bucs gave Dietrich-Smith $7.25 million in guaranteed money, and $4.5 million of that has already been paid out in his $3.5 million base salary and a $1 million roster bonus. Dietrich-Smith’s other portion of the guaranteed money – his $3.75 million – only becomes guaranteed if he’s on the roster on the third day of the 2015 league year next March. That means the Bucs can walk away from Dietrich-Smith, who is one of the worst-rated centers in the NFL by ProFootballFocus.com, by then if they so choose without any dead cap money.
TE Brandon Myers
Myers signed a two-year, $4.25 million contract that included a $2 million guaranteed base salary this year. Next year’s $2.25 million base is not guaranteed, so there is no dead cap penalty next year if the Bucs’ want to move on.
CB Alterraun Verner
Out of all of the free agents listed, Verner is playing the best and isn’t in jeopardy of losing his roster spot. Verner signed a four-year, $25.75-million deal that includes a $14 million in guaranteed money. Verner received $8 million of that guaranteed money this year with a $5 million base salary and a $3 million roster bonus. Verner’s remaining $6 million in bonus money only takes effect if he is on the roster by the fifth day of the 2015 league year in March.
Other free agents like offensive lineman Oniel Cousins, linebacker Dane Fletcher, cornerback Mike Jenkins, wide receiver Louis Murphy, safety Major Wright and fullback Jorvorskie Lane among others, only signed one-year deals and thus there is no dead salary cap penalties for any of those players in 2015.
The good news for the Bucs is that the team has an incredibly low amount of dead salary cap money thanks to way Greenberg has structured the players’ contracts over the past few years. By not giving signing bonuses where the proration of the bonus extends over the life of the contract like other teams do, Tampa Bay typically only guarantees the first year or two of the contract.
The first year of a player’s deal is guaranteed because it’s a given that the he’ll be on the team during the year he signs his contract. If he’s a bust, the Bucs’ salary cap is only affected with one year’s worth of dead money and then that player’s deal is purged.
Occasionally, three year’s worth of money will be guaranteed, as is the case with Dashon Goldson, who has $3 million’s worth of his $7.5 million base salary guaranteed in 2015.
FAB 4. McCOY CONTRACT EXTENSION REALLY A FOUR-YEAR DEAL
The Buccaneers surprised everyone with a contract extension for All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who is the face of the franchise. A key cog in Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2 defense, McCoy was already making over $12 million due to the final year of his rookie deal. The third overall pick in 2010 benefitted from being in the last draft class without a rookie salary cap.
Because of the high initial salaries in his rookie deal, McCoy was making more than three-time Pro Bowl Geno Atkins, who signed a five-year, $53.33 million contract last year that averaged over $10.6 million per season and included $30 million in guaranteed money. McCoy’s deal is a seven-year, $95.2-million contract that includes $51.5 million in guaranteed money, a $2.5 million signing bonus and averages over $15.86 million per year.
A closer look at McCoy’s contract shows that only the first four years, including 2014, which sees McCoy’s cap value escalate to a staggering $20.895 million, come with a sizeable amount of dead cap room if he’s released. McCoy’s base salary in 2015 dips from the new $17.5 million mark to just $5 million, but he’s due a $6.5 million roster bonus and there is another $1.995 million option bonus.
In 2016, McCoy is slated to make $6 million with a $6.5 million roster bonus. Releasing McCoy in 2016 would trigger $26.7 million in dead money from the remaining roster bonuses, option bonuses and base salaries in his contract. In 2017, McCoy’s base salary is $13.25 million and that’s what the dead cap money would be if he were to be released, which is why McCoy’s seven-year extension is really a four-year deal. Should the Bucs want to cut McCoy in 2018 after his 30th birthday, that would rid the team of his $12.25 million base salary and only result in $500,000 worth of dead cap space.
Is McCoy anywhere close to being the type of dominant three-technique that Hall of Famer Warren Sapp was in his heyday? Absolutely not. Sapp had 96.5 sacks , including 77 in Tampa Bay, which ranks second behind Lee Roy Selmon’s 78.5 sacks in franchise history. McCoy has just 21.5 in his four years as a Buccaneer, although it should be noted that he missed 13 games during his first two years with two torn biceps.
Perhaps more importantly, McCoy has yet to prove that he can consistently dominate with the ability to take over games the way Sapp could. But in a time in the NFL where there is a shortage of great three-technique defensive tackles, McCoy is the best one and benefited from that distinction with a lucrative contract extension.
At least McCoy paid some immediate dividends on his extension, recording his third sack of the season in Sunday’s 19-13 overtime loss to Minnesota. The 6-foot-4, 300-pounder recently said he’s getting a better grasp of what is asked of him in the Tampa 2 defense.
“Personally for me, I’m starting to get a pretty good feel of what I can and can’t do, who’s behind me and what coverage we’re in to know if I can take a risk,” McCoy said. “To know if I can think simply pass on this play, and if turns to run I can play it late. I’m starting to get a pretty good feel, but there’s still more I have to learn.”
The Bucs are counting on McCoy to become the double-digit sacker that Sapp was three times during his nine-year career in Tampa Bay. McCoy came close last year with a career-high 9.5 sacks, and needs seven more QB captures this season to eclipse that mark.
McCoy’s re-signing wasn’t just about locking up one of the team’s best players on the field. It was about the Bucs establishing a long-lasting identity on defense with McCoy firmly entrenched in a leadership role within the organization and being a positive role model in the community representing the Buccaneers. McCoy’s intrinsic qualities were also a big part of his big extension.
The final item worth noting is that McCoy’s midseason extension allows Licht and director of football administration Mike Greenberg plenty of time to plan for free agency in 2015 and budget accordingly. With McCoy under contract for next season and beyond, the Bucs now know how much room they’ll have available for free agency next year to spend, and that’s a huge help and big burden lifted from the front office.
While McCoy was made the league’s highest-paid defensive tackle in the NFL, that distinction likely won’t last too long. Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh is slated for free agency in 2015 and should get slightly more money than McCoy because he’s been more productive with 31 career sacks, including 3.5 sacks this season.
Where will Suh get his next big payday? Don’t be surprised if it’s in Tampa Bay. The Bucs want to get some nastier players on defense, as I eluded to in last week’s SR’s Fab 5, and they will have the cap room to make a run at Suh in 2015, especially because the Bucs aren’t paying big money at quarterback position.
Could you imagine the defensive tackle tandem of McCoy and Suh inside switching back and forth from playing the three technique and the nose tackle spots to confuse offensive coordinators and offensive linemen? Opponents would have to pick their poison when it comes to choosing which Pro Bowl defensive tackle to double team, and that would greatly bolster Tampa Bay’s pass rush from the inside.
FAB 5. SR’s BUC SHOTS
• The Buccaneers were never going to trade wide receiver Vincent Jackson and received offers for him leading up to Tuesday’s trade deadline, but weren’t tempted to move him. Jackson is in Tampa Bay’s for the rest of this year and for at least 2015 because he brings so much value to the team.
Jackson is a well-respected professional in the locker room and on the field and is a team captain for good reason. He’s also a fantastic role model for Mike Evans, the team’s first-round draft pick, who is also 6-foot-5, 230 pounds. Because of his huge frame, Jackson can still be an effective weapon on offense even as his speed decreases due to his age (31) and he becomes more of a possession receiver.
The other reason why Jackson is so important to the Buccaneers is that the team is using the rest of the season to evaluate whether Mike Glennon is Tampa Bay’s quarterback of the future or whether it needs to spend a first-round draft pick on a QB like Oregon’s Marcus Mariota or Florida State’s Jameis Winston.
While he is in the Bucs’ offensive plans moving forward, Jackson may be asked to take a pay cut next year from his $9.77 million base salary.
• Shame on Bucs quarterback Mike Glennon for opting to run out of bounds a yard short on third-and-6 in the third quarter of last week’s 19-13 overtime loss. That was one of the five consecutive three-and-outs that hurt the Bucs’ ability to score and keep the defense off the field.
Glennon said he thought he got the first down, but at 6-foot-6, 225 pounds, he needs to show more heart, courage and determination when running the ball. Glennon had similar instances of some timid running last year against Seattle and St. Louis. Nothing fires up an offense more than when a quarterback takes charge, shows guts and scrambles for a hard-earned first down.
That’s one part of Glennon’s game that definitely could use improving. Josh McCown would have gotten that first down, and if Glennon doesn’t invest in a do-whatever-it-takes mentality over the next couple of games then McCown may get a second shot under center this year for the Bucs.
• Last week I told you about Memphis linebacker Tank Jakes. Now it’s time to inform you about one of his teammates. Tigers cornerback Bobby McCain, who currently carries an undrafted free agent grade, is someone the Bucs should keep their eyes on.
The 5-foot-10, 195-pound McCain is a playmaker with great instincts and a nose for the football. He scored a touchdown on a 59-yard fumble recovery against Middle Tennessee State this year, and also has three pick-sixes in his career, including a 75-yarder against Duke and a 36-yarder against USF last year, and a 79-yarder against Tulane as a freshman.
McCain had six interceptions last year, and has three this year, including two against Ole Miss four weeks ago. McCain also makes plays on special teams, evidenced by a 95-yard kickoff return against Duke and a 61-yard gain on a fake punt pass against Marshall in a game in which he also had a 52-yard kickoff return.
“Once you get the ball in your hands you expect to score every time,” McCain said. “You just want to make sure you take care of the ball.”
• Bucs rookie wide receiver Mike Evans is looking forward to squaring off against his college quarterback, Johnny Manziel, who was a first-round pick of the Cleveland Browns. This marks the first time that Evans and Manziel, the Browns’ backup QB, will not be on the same team in three years.
“That will be cool – I’m looking forward to it,” Evans said. “We’ll probably go out to dinner the night before. It will be good to see my good friend, although I don’t think he’ll be playing. It will be fun to play against him, but I hope we win.”
• There are some grumblings inside One Buccaneer Place regarding George Warhop’s rotation of Patrick Omameh and Garrett Gilkey at right guard. The sentiment of some is that the needless rotation breaks up continuity on the right side of the offensive line and hurts the offense more than it helps.
Besides, playing two guards is a sign that the team doesn’t have a good one. Perhaps all the more reason to try Anthony Collins at right guard to see if that helps shore up the interior of Tampa Bay’s offensive line.
• A word of caution about Oregon’s highly touted quarterback, Marcus Mariota. While his play on the field has been stellar over the past three years, passing for 87 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions with a 24:1 TD to INT ratio this season, there are some concerns in the scouting community that Mariota may be a product of Oregon’s offense and not the franchise quarterback with a gung-ho personality that NFL teams ideally want.
“Like if you punched him in the stomach, he might apologize to you,” the scout told Sports Illustrated. “I just don’t know if he’s that alpha male that you’re looking for. The kid’s kind of a fly on the wall kind of guy. Physically, he’s really talented, but it’s going to take a little time. If you’re expecting him to come in and be your savior year one, I don’t think that’s going to be it.
“He’s got all the physical talent in the world. He’s a good kid, too. You don’t have to worry about him off the field. All you’ve got to worry about is he too nice?”
While Mariota has been compared to San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick, he doesn’t have Kaepernick’s arm strength, and I think he’s more of an Alex Smith-type player in the NFL.
• And finally, a couple of editorial notes. Our in-depth review of the Bucs’ follies in free agency, “Misses In Free Agency Have Contributed To Bucs’ 1-6 Mark,” got rave reviews this week from our PewterReport.com readers. If you haven’t read that story, take a few minutes to do so now by clicking here.
Also, we have added a mid-week “State Of The Buccaneers” column to PewterReport.com’s season coverage line-up. Each week I highlight what’s right with the Buccaneers and what’s wrong with the Buccaneers for a balanced look at Tampa Bay. If you haven’t had the chance to read one, here is a link to this week’s edition.
And be sure to visit PewterReport.com on Saturday as I preview the Bucs vs. Browns game in SR’s Pick 6. Along with a game prediction, the SR’s Pick 6 is a weekly game preview that looks at six specific aspects of the game and determines which team has the edge.
With the Buccaneers approaching the halfway point of the 2014 campaign, PewterReport.com will feature its annual midseason grades and awards next week. Stay tuned, and thank you, the loyal, die-hard Buccaneers fan for continuing to visit PewterReport.com and make us a trusted source of news and insight on your favorite team.
Scott Reynolds is in his 22nd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com
I’m very confused and wondering what’s going on between you writers at PR. You reported that McCoy got a contract that “will keep a Buccaneer for life” last weekend. Now you say it’s basically a 4-year deal. What’s up with the flip-flop. It’s also quite evident in your coverage of our punter. Some stories talk about how horrible he’s playing, others talk about how he’s being directed to punt directionally and shorter. Confusing messages.
Johnson is not worried about being benched, traded etc.he has got his money just like so many other FA that don’t play up to their FA contracts. Glennon is SOFT, time to move on from a QB with no heart and can’t get out of his own way.
mattym3 – The seven-year contract would keep McCoy in Tampa Bay until he’s 33, which is when he would be close to retirement – IF he plays out every year of that contract. Davin Joseph was signed as a “Buc for life” several years ago, but was released in the offseason due to his performance not matching his play. Same thing could happen to McCoy, which is why the way it’s structured the Bucs can escape dead cap money after four years. Time will tell. As for the performance of Michael Koenen, he has had a disappointing season, but he has been told to punt directionally. He’s just not doing it as well as the team would like. Not many returns – but not much distance, either.
Good Fab 5 Scott. Telling it like it is. The pen must be mightier than the sword with this administration. Lovie is never going to admit that some errors were made in free agency. I understand his reluctance, but don’t approve of his media strategy. You guys, the pen and mic club, must publically embarrass this administration into taking action.
I agree about getting players with attitude and maybe even a few warts. I would put a box of crab legs in the cooler at OBP and draft QB Jameis Winston in a heartbeat. Replace headhunter FS Mark Barron with FS Cody Prewitt/Ole Miss, another headhunter that can also cover deep. WR Dorial Green-Beckham was kicked out of Mizzou and must sit out this year with Oklahoma. Get him! A 6-5 WR that also runs a 4-4 and could possibly replace Vincent Jackson seems like a chance I would take.
No more former team captains that can’t play. Could you even imagine Suh next to McCoy? If we only made one move in FA, I would be happy with that one. The Broncos and the Pats seemed to put up with Talib ok because he can play. Prayer is alright in prayer meeting, but you might want to use pepper spray in bear meeting.
I’m tired of losing. Time for us to win some by any means possible!
Oh, one small point: The bucs do not own their 5th round pick. In the 2014 draft, the Bucs gave the Bills our 2014 7th round pick and our 2015 5th round pick to move back into the 5th round to select Kevin Pamphile. We still have the Ravens 5th round pick that we got for Zuttah and we just got another 5th round pick by exchanging our 6th round pick for their 5th for Casillas. Kinda like moving up 10 spots. Both of our 5th round picks will be at or near the end of the 5th round.
Just noticed that I didn’t name the Pats in the trade for Casillas. Pretty sure everybody knows that!
I agree no mariota Winston is the man winless for Winston should be the catch phrase,and macabee is right if you can somehow get dgb at wideout to pair with Winston and evans look out, but I believe dgb will get drafted in the first round he has way too much talent
Winston is the top QB in the draft, hands down. Bucs are fools if they pass on that kind of talent.
If Licht wants to keep his job, he’ll draft Winston then sit back and look like a genius for years.
Great reporting Scott and I agree with your evaluations and recommendations. Having said that, other than Martin’s injury, none of your recommendations will happen. The real problem is with Lovie Smith and Frasier. Their viewpoints are fixed and they are very arrogant with their excuses for failure. Their “laid-back” personalities just don’t work in the NFL today. The Patriots, 49ers, Ravens, Giants, Eagles, Saints and other winning franchises have the type of coaches that hold players accountable…..and they win!!! I was roundly “hammered” for defending Greg Schiano last year and to all of those who view Lovie Smith as the savior, what do you think now? Coaching failures, arrogance and poor player evaluation has destroyed the BUCS for 2014.
Jameis Winston is a disaster of a human being. He may have an amazing arm and amazing legs, but he is barren between his ears. His legal and disciplinary problems are causing him to evaluate dropping out of school to avoid being kicked out. Give this train wreck millions, free time, and a whole gaggle of yes men, and he’s a heartbeat away from jail at any moment. If the Bucs are smart (big IF), they’ll avoid him like ebola.
Winston is very talented like Williams was, but what make any of you Winston promoters think that once Winston gets his big contract, he isn’t going to be chasing women and ignoring his duties to the Bucs just like Williams did. I don’t see Williams becoming an All Pro with Buffalo either. His poor character plus big money has ruined him just like it will Winston. Great article Scott, specially as to the OL! I totally agree but I also agree with the rumblings against WarFLOP. He is a bigger BUST than our departed Safety.
Excellent Fab 5 Scott. We all know this free agent class has so far been a huge disappointment. Like Horse and some others, I’m most concerned with the offensive line group. The alleged “upgrade” has been anything but. For me, the worst signing has been Evan Dietrich Smith who is just getting his a$$ whipped inside on running plays. Collins seems to be realizing his own shortcomings and is cowering instead of showing a little Donald Penn type spirit. Omameh is “just a guy” who may improve with time, but when Gilkey is taking snaps away that tells me something. Mankins is probably playing out the season and his career before retiring this off-season. We always talk about Dotson’s potential and athleticism which I too believe is better suited for the left side. Move him there now. But I also believe Coach Warhop needs to be held accountable for his unjustified favoritism for ex-Brown players like Cousins and Gilkey. I get that Gilkey and Cousins have some versatility. But that just means they suck at more than one position. Gilkey was brought in as a back-up center but he’s too tall for the position. Bottom line (we certainly hold that distinction)is that this unit needs a complete overhaul including the coach. Fortunately, other than LT who we may already have with Dotson, offensive linemen can often be had in the later rounds and undrafted free agents. Pile up those draft picks Jason! Target big and nasty.
Like your suggestions for line up changes, but would add a few more. First we need a better MLB, and since David, and Foster can both call the D now’s a good time to give someone else a look in the middle. This would also let you see Foster play the SAM where if he plays well he’d be worth resigning. Another move I’d make is moving Verner to the slot. When the Bucs first signed him I thought he’d have the Barber role in this defense where I think he’s more suited. He’s not an ideal outside corner playing man, been beat to much. The problem with all our free agent signings is they were all role players, and subs on their former teams. L, and L thought they were starters, and they’re not. We shouldn’t be disappointed with them. It’s not their fault they were over valued by Smith.
SR you see Mariota and you see Alex Smith? A lot of posters prefer Winston over Mariota? Are you guys kidding me? Mariota’s arm isn’t as strong as Kaepernick’s, but it’s stronger than A. Smith’s, T. Brady’s, A. Dalton’s and half of the other starting QB’s in the league today. Mariota’s personality is just as meek as E. Manning, J. Flacco and R. Wilson and they’ve all won Super Bowls. How can you guys ignore his accuracy, decision making, poise, agility, speed and ball protection skills? A. Rodgers and P. Manning were considered “system” QB’s in college as well. Winston has not played nearly as well this year in the pocket, his athleticism is overrated and he’s proven to be the most immature QB in recent memory. Our need at QB is too glaring to screw this next draft up. Like you guys I’m sick of losing and it’s okay that we have different point of views of how to improve the team. But I’m also sick of s#!+y football players being favored around here over better players available through the draft or favored over better players already on the team. It’s going to be a long 7 months around here because I’m prepared to jump all over anyone to favors Winston or a DE over Mariota. I’d much, much rather be taking the heat now but winning in 3 years than saying “I told you so” in 3 years.
Do not take my willingness to take Winston as a thumbs-down on Mariota. I think Mariota is an excellent choice for QB. On Oct. 27th, you posted an endorsement of Mariota under the blog title “Smith not planning a Bucs QB change”. I followed your post with an endorsement of Mariota also. Please reread if you have the time.
Now to be sure I’m not talking out of both sides of my mouth, my post above is simply saying I would not let Winston’s off-field antics stop me from drafting a player that I believe has exceptional skills. I do believe Mariota has excelled in a system and he would be best served to remain in a similar system if he came to the NFL – an observation voiced by many NFL analysts. Most Oct. 27th post suggested the same. I saw last night’s game and I saw the Arizona game. Similar to Kaepernick, when a containment defense is used his game struggles. Kaepernick is turning the corner now and Mariota is smart and he can do the same thing. But it will take time.
I haven’t decided which QB I would take if we were drafting today. Given the state of the Bucs today, the simple answer would be to take either one. I am simply saying that I wouldn’t let the knock on Mariota’s coming from a system or Winston’s affinity for crab legs scare me away from either QB! Others, I’m sure will differ.
Just a few thoughts on Mariota being knocked as a “system” QB…a knock I still can’t understand by the way….watching last night’s game I saw a QB that 1) could stand in the pocket under pressure, 2) could escape heavy pressure with his feet, 3) could go through his progressions from the pocket, 4) could throw on the run to improvise, 5) could throw more than 20 yards down field, 6) and hit WRs in stride, 7) could make the fade throws, 8) could fire the ball into tight windows, 9) could throw the check-down passes, including screen passes, 10) was unfased by the Stanford comeback in the 3rd quarter, leading his team down field to score TDs and kill Stanford,…..so if that’s some kind of product of a system – a complete QB skill set from physical abilities through mental toughness and leadership – and not just a great QB in the making….I’m good with that too….whatever this “system” knock is, we need more of that in Tampa Bay please!
My post from October 27, 2014 7:13pm
Let’s not just get Mariota, get the whole package. We will need a new OC and who would work better than Scott Frost at the University of Oregon. Frost, 39, is a young successful OC at who plays the up-tempo style of offense that resembles what I can make of what the Bucs wanted to do under Tedford.
Jeff Tedford, should he come back, could be given the old Jimmy Raye title of SR. Offensive Assistant and have him mentor the new young OC. Make the move transparent with the QB, OC, and the offense. Lessen the timeline to put your franchise QB on the field. The worst thing we could do is try to remake Mariota in a new system as the Bucs attempted to do with Freeman after the 2010 season.
Frost is a Chip Kelly protégé and is even a former Buc under Jon Gruden. He is ready to move to the next level and would make the perfect replacement for Tedford. The skill positions are already in place to bring that Oregon high octane offense to the Bucs. If we can’t stop other teams from scoring, then let’s outscore them. Let’s do something big and smart for a change! Go Bucs!
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All for that Mac….let’s hope it happens!
The description of Mariota as “too nice”….where have I heard that before…..hmmmmmm mm mm mm mm……..oh ya, our probowl, superstar, defensive leader, 3-tech DT……I think I’m good with being “too nice”….any other ridiculous complaints about this kid….he is killing Stanford as we speak!
very good article Scott. I don’t believe Mariota or Winston should be our pick if it’s somewhere between one and five. both of those quarterbacks are not ready to start in the NFL. if we don’t trade down then I’m picking an offensive lineman or defensive lineman. We need an impact type of player for our first pick.
Isn’t RG the road grader position? The best run blocker? Isn’t Anthony Collins comically inept in run blocking?
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