Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer reported Sunday that Bucs front office people were taking phone calls and entertaining offers in what was being labeled a “fire sale.”
Of course, that report was issued prior to a 0-4 Bucs team upsetting what is considered a very good Cincinnati Bengals squad, 14-13.
But does that one win change anything?
As the NFL’s trading deadline (Tuesday at 4PM ET) approaches the question is, will Tampa Bay move big names to restructure a team some say could be torn apart and rebuilt at year’s end? Certainly, heading into 2006 as defending NFC South champs and with high expectations, that wasn’t even a consideration. But 1-4 begs the question.
As expected, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden was extremely tight lipped about any speculation of trades at his Monday press conference. However, he did acknowledge the Bucs were, “always going to be in a position to make deals” if it can help the team.
“We are looking into some specific players in the league,” Gruden said, acknowledging the fact that the Bucs are actively pursuing potential trades around the NFL. “Not everybody, but we are targeting specific players and the opportunity of acquiring them. And that’s all I can say on that matter. But we’ll see what happens.”
Glazer’s Fox report stated that in speaking to several different general managers around the league, the buzz was the Bucs roster. In fact, the report said league sources had suggested that with the exception of first-day picks over the last couple of years, the Bucs were open to trade negotiation on any player on the team.
The Fox report labeled linebacker Derrick Brooks and cornerback Ronde Barber as untradable due to their contracts and correlation with the franchise. However, players like defensive tackle Anthony McFarland, cornerback Brian Kelly and safety Jermaine Phillips were potential trade bait.
It went on to say that speculation from an NFC general manager was that the asking price for McFarland was a “first-day pick.”
The biggest name to be mentioned by Fox was that of defensive end Simeon Rice. With 68.5 quarterback sacks as a member of the Bucs, Rice is just 10 sacks away from tying Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon’s career franchise record (78.5). The team did let defensive tackle Warren Sapp leave in free agency following the 2003 season when he was only one sack shy of breaking that prestigious mark.
With what some would describe as iconic status, Rice has averaged 11.9 sacks per year as a pro, and he’s first among active players. His 119 career sacks ranks second in the NFL among active players (Michael Strahan – 130). However, through the first six games of the season, Rice has produced only one sack, perhaps putting his production and to some extent, his future, in question.
When asked Monday if any teams had inquired about the availability of Tampa Bay’s players, Gruden refused to disclose what’s been discussed behind closed doors at One Buc Place.
“No, I am not going to speculate on defensive players, offensive players, or future draft picks,” Gruden said. “There are specific guys that we would like to have, that’s all I’ll say. At the same time, we like what we’re doing as a football team. We feel like the last couple games got away from us. Games we should have won, could have won. We’re going to continue to try to and improve our team and defend against the Eagles.”
Brian Kelly’s return to the inactive list in Sunday’s game against the Bengals (turf toe) has some speculating the Bucs might make a move for Buffalo cornerback Nate Clements. A first-round pick of the Bills (21st overall) in 2001 out of Ohio State, Clements has 20 career interceptions and is considered one of the premier players in the NFL at his position.
How ironic it would be if Tampa Bay did make a move for Clements. It was the Bucs who traded their first- and second-round picks in the 2001 draft to Buffalo to acquire the Bills’ first-round pick (14th overall). It was a pick that Tampa Bay used to move up and select University of Florida offensive tackle Kenyatta Walker.
Clements becomes a free agent at the end of this year and the Bills are not expected to pay the high price to keep him. That may prompt them to make a trade in order to get some value for him.