Copyright 2009

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Are The Bucs Interested In DE Taylor?
If you've read the Tampa Bay area newspapers you might be anxiously awaiting the arrival of free agent defensive end Jason Taylor, whom both papers have suggested the Bucs have expressed interest in.

Unless something has drastically changed over the last few months, is fairly confident the Bucs are not interested in signing Taylor, who worked with Bucs defensive coordinator Jim Bates for five seasons in Miami.

Taylor, who turns 35 in September, has notched 120.5 sacks during his pro career. The Bucs might appear to be in the market for a pass-rushing defensive end, but Taylor is no longer in his prime, and if signed, would take away valuable playing time from some of the team's younger players, including Jimmy Wilkerson and rookie Kyle Moore.

When Taylor was rumored to be on the trading block last year, one source that is still with the Buccaneers told Pewter Report that the idea of landing Taylor was appealing, but the reality of making a move for a veteran defensive end became less attractive with the more tape he watched because of Taylor's declining skills.

That scouting report came before the Dolphins shipped Taylor to the Redskins, where he was hindered by injuries and recorded just 3.5 sacks before being released this offseason.

The Bucs appear to have a need for a proven pass-rushing defensive end, but general manager Mark Dominik would have a tough time justifying the signing of Taylor to a Bucs fan base that watched the front office cut aging veterans Derrick Brooks, Warrick Dunn, Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard two days before free agency started.

Just in case you're wondering, the same logic likely applies to Tampa Bay's interest in luring quarterback Brett Favre out of retirement, which appears to be none. Favre was released by the Jets earlier this week, but says he will remain retired. The Bucs don't have any interest in bringing Favre in to compete for the starting job.

The Bucs already have five quarterbacks on their roster, and the team plans to bring four signal callers to training camp. has learned that Brian Griese is the odd man out and likely will be released or traded.

That scenario would leave the Bucs with Luke McCown, Byron Leftwich, Josh Freeman and Josh Johnson in Tampa Bay's stable of quarterbacks.

A quick glance at the players still available in free agency shows a potential All-Star team. The problem, however, is each of these players, with the exception of linebacker Leroy Hill and wide receiver Plaxico Burress, who likely will serve jail time as a result of a felony gun charge against him, are past their primes and do not have much to offer teams at this point.

Available Free Agents
QB Brett Favre – New York Jets, 39
QB Brad Johnson – Dallas Cowboys, 40
RB Deuce McAllister – New Orleans Saints, 30
RB Edgerrin James – Arizona Cardinals, 30
RB Warrick Dunn – Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 34
FB Lorenzo Neal – Baltimore Ravens, 38
WR Marvin Harrison – Indianapolis Colts, 36
WR Darrell Jackson – Denver Broncos, 30
WR Plaxico Burress – New York Giants, 31
WR Amani Toomer – New York Giants, 34
TE Bubba Franks – New York Jets, 31
TE Marcus Pollard – Atlanta Falcons, 37
DE Jason Taylor – Washington Redskins, 34
DE Kevin Carter – Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 35
LB Leroy Hill – Seattle Seahawks, 26
LB Derrick Brooks – Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 36
LB Napoleon Harris – Minnesota Vikings, 30
CB Chris McAllister – Baltimore Ravens, 31
CB Patrick Surtain – Kansas City Chiefs, 32
S Dexter Jackson – Cincinnati Bengals, 31
S Mike Brown – Chicago Bears, 31

Dominik and Bucs head coach Raheem Morris are determined to play younger players and build the Buccaneers from within, so don't expect any of the players listed above to wind up in Tampa Bay. Now, if former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden were still in Tampa Bay it could be a different story.

How High Are The Bucs On McCown?
Shortly after Raheem Morris and Mark Dominik were hired as head coach and general manager, respectively, in Tampa Bay, one of their first priorities was to re-sign quarterback Luke McCown, who was scheduled to become a free agent.

Dominik successfully locked up McCown, who signed a two-year, $7.5 million contract with the Bucs before free agency began. Listening to Dominik and Morris, it was clear the Bucs were determined to give the athletic McCown a legitimate shot to win the starting job in Tampa Bay, which was something former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden wasn't willing to do.

McCown, 27, was impressive in place of Jeff Garcia in 2007, which is one of several reasons why the team appeared to be high on him.

But perhaps the Bucs aren't as high on McCown as we were led to believe. Tampa Bay's actions since re-signing McCown would certainly support that notion.

Earlier in the offseason, the Bucs attempted to trade for Broncos QB Jay Cutler, who was eventually shipped to the Chicago Bears. You can't blame the Bucs for wanting to trade for a Pro Bowl quarterback, but it is interesting to note that in its second attempt to pull off the trade with the Broncos, Tampa Bay allegedly offered McCown to Denver as part of the deal for Cutler.

Two weeks before the 2009 NFL Draft took place the Bucs signed Pittsburgh Steelers free agent QB Byron Leftwich to a two-year contract, which wasn't exactly a glowing endorsement for McCown.

Tampa Bay's most recent move was using its 2009 first-round pick to draft QB Josh Freeman. Not only did the Bucs draft a quarterback in the first round for the first time since 1994, they quickly anointed Freeman their "franchise quarterback" for the long term.

McCown has tons of potential and is arguably the most athletic player on Tampa Bay's team. He has a strong arm and good mobility. Whether he can put that all together to prove he's worthy of being a starting quarterback in the NFL remains to be seen.

The Bucs are hopeful they wind up with a situation similar to the one the San Diego Chargers had with Drew Brees and Phillips Rivers a few years ago, but based on their actions the team also has some concerns as to whether McCown, who has just seven career starts, will be able to capitalize on the opportunity to compete for the starting job in Tampa Bay.

Did Tampa Bay Fail To Address Key Needs?
Are you still wondering how Tampa Bay managed to go through free agency and the draft without addressing two key needs on the defensive side of the ball, specifically defensive end and cornerback?

The Bucs claim to be high on fourth-round defensive end Kyle Moore (USC) and seventh-round cornerback E.J. Biggers (Western Michigan). If the Bucs hit on both of those draft picks, critics will owe Tampa Bay's front office and scouting department an apology, but no one can blame the skeptical fans given the Bucs' track record for Day 2 draft picks in recent years.

But the reason why the Bucs did not invest more in defensive end and cornerback is because they couldn't, especially by the time the draft rolled around.

Remember, the Bucs traded their second-round pick to the Browns in exchange for tight end Kellen Winslow. While the tight end position was upgraded, it wasn't a position that was in need of such a significant upgrade with Jerramy Stevens, John Gilmore and Alex Smith on the roster. Yet Tampa Bay invested a premium, 2009 second-round draft pick in adding Winslow to the roster, in addition to a fifth-rounder in 2010.

The same could be said for the quarterback position, especially when Tampa Bay appeared to be high on McCown and signed Leftwich. But by drafting Freeman, the Bucs attempted to upgrade their quarterback position over defensive end and cornerback, which is perplexing when you consider how important the defensive end and cornerback positions are in Bates' scheme.

If Winslow and Freeman live up to expectations these two moves will look genius in hindsight. However, if neither player pans out and Tampa Bay's pass rush and pass defense struggle, you can bet the Bucs will have their fair share of critics, and rightfully so.

Mixed Feelings Over Tampa Bay's 2009 Draft Class
Several Bucs fans have asked us for our impressions of Tampa Bay's 2009 NFL Draft class, so here my take on each pick.

QB Josh Freeman – Had I known the Bucs were willing to trade up in the first round this year, I would have preferred Tampa Bay selected Northern Illinois defensive end Larry English. He went to San Diego with the 16th overall pick in the draft. History doesn’t support Tampa Bay’s decision to draft Freeman. He’s an early-entry junior and completed less than 60 percent of his passes at Kansas State. However, I understand why the Bucs selected Freeman, whom has a unique, previous working relationship with head coach Raheem Morris. The Bucs hadn’t used a first-round pick to take a quarterback since 1994. It was long overdue and makes some sense for a rebuilding team. Freeman has all the physical tools to succeed, and I hope he does for Tampa Bay’s sake because there is a lot is riding on this pick.

TE Kellen Winslow – You have to count him as part of Tampa Bay’s 2009 NFL Draft class since the Bucs gave up their second-round pick to acquire him from Cleveland. If Winslow stays healthy the compensation will be well worth it, especially considering how much Jeff Jagodzinski is planning to use the tight ends in his system.

DT Roy Miller – This could turn out to be Tampa Bay’s best pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Miller is not regarded as a sack machine, but he’s strong and can penetrate and hold up at the line of scrimmage (had 5.5 sacks and 30 QB hits as a senior). Miller appears to be a good value pick in the third round for the Bucs, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he works his way into the rotation as a rookie.

DE Kyle Moore – I understand Tampa Bay’s decision to draft a defensive end, but why a player that had just seven sacks during his collegiate career? The Bucs are in need of a pass rusher, and those sack totals won’t earn Moore that title anytime soon. It was also disturbing to hear Moore say he needed to work on his run defense in the conference call with the local media on Sunday. Given his sack total, that should be his strength.

OT Xavier Fulton – Given Donald Penn’s contract situation and uncertainty surrounding James Lee and how he will fit into the new offense, the Fulton pick makes a lot of sense, especially when you consider his starting experience and versatility. The selection of Jeremy Zuttah and his playing time last year shows you how valuable depth is along the offensive line, and Fulton should provide that and could be groomed into a future starter.

CB E.J. Biggers – I don’t like how Tampa Bay waited until the seventh round, to address cornerback but Biggers is a player I know the Bucs are extremely high on. He has decent size and ball skills (seven interceptions). The Bucs better hope Aqib Talib, Ronde Barber and Elbert Mack stay healthy in 2009 because Biggers might need some time to develop, but he could turn out to be a good pick down the road.

WR Sammie Stroughter
– How could you not love this pick? Stroughter is a bit undersized (5-9, 187) and ran his 40 in the 4.5 range, but he caught over 70 passes in two different seasons, showed great mental toughness by overcoming injury and depression and definitely plays faster than he times in the 40-yard dash. In addition to being a great leader and playmaker at Oregon State, Stroughter was also an explosive return specialist. While he might wind up on the practice squad, I would not be surprised if Stroughter found a way onto Tampa Bay’s 53-man roster in place of Dexter Jackson.

Morris Expects Rebuilding Bucs To Compete
Raheem Morris and Mark Dominik are the youngest head coach and general manager in the NFL at 32 and 37 years old, respectively. If Josh Freeman, 21, plays for the Bucs in 2009, Tampa Bay will also have the youngest starting quarterback in the league.

When the Bucs decide to part ways with quarterback Brian Griese, Tampa Bay will have just six players on its current roster that are 30 years of age or older.

That being said, is there any doubt the Bucs are in rebuilding mode?

With a young team and brutal schedule in 2009, some are saying the Bucs picked a good year to sport their throwback uniforms for one regular season game since the team's play could bring back memories from Tampa Bay's creamsicle days.

In a related note, we're hearing the Bucs likely will sport their throwback uniforms for their home game versus the Green Bay Packers on Novemeber 8. Stay tuned on that front.

Many believe the Bucs will suffer through some growing pains in 2009, but Morris' expectations for the Bucs appear to be higher than people's expectations outside of One Buccaneer Place.

"I see us championship searching," said Morris. "Whenever I stop championship searching I will step off this podium and I won't talk to you guys anymore. We are championship searching every year. All championships, divisional, NFC and Super Bowl. If it wasn't realistic this year I wouldn't be standing here."

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