The PR Bucs Monday Mailbag is where PewterReport.com’s Mark Cook answers your questions from our @PewterReport Twitter account. You can submit your question each week via Twitter using the hashtag #PRMailbag.
Below are the questions we chose for this week’s edition of the PR Bucs Monday Mailbag.
Question: With the salary cap taking a dip for likely only one-year due to COVID, can we expect a lot of free agents to sign one-year deals in 2021 and capitalize on a much larger cap increase in 2022?
Answer: Yes, I think we see a lot of players gambling on themselves, and taking one-year deals with, as you said, hopes of a cap increase in 2022. The key will be getting stadiums back to capacity where a lot of the revenue comes from. The TV contracts are set to expire after the 2022 season, which will create a bonanza of cash for the league as well. But there is no guarantee that the salary cap rise in 2022 will be substantial just yet.
Players with contracts set to expire after this season could find it hard to get much of a raise as teams all have to deal with around $25 million less in cap space in 2021. We discussed this on the postgame podcastSunday night, and linebacker Lavonte David was a player we used as an example of someone who might not get maximum value in his next deal due to less money all around with the cap at around $175 million instead of around $200 million. He is one of those examples brought up in the question. Of course at his age (31), he may go for a longer deal with more guaranteed money even if the average annual salary is less that he might get on a one-year deal.
The last person I would want to be in the upcoming offseason is Bucs director of football administration Mike Greenberg – or any cap guy for any NFL team really. This offseason will be the most challenging in all the years I have covered professional sports and perhaps of all time. NFL general managers and cap specialists have the most difficult job of any of the pro sports as the rosters are double what we see in hockey, baseball and other team sports. Next year it gets even harder to manage a 53-man roster.
Question: Did you see any changes in offense vs. Minnesota? I saw same offensive tendencies – overuse of run on first down in the first half, no runs on second down, use of shotgun every third-and- short, no use of tight ends for short passes except for Rob Gronkowski’s touchdown and too many four WR sets and zero play action.
Answer: I will have to go back and watch the game again, but off the top of my head I didn’t see any significant changes in the tendencies from Tampa Bay’s offense on Sunday. But truthfully in Week 14 you aren’t going to be able to revamp an offense in one off week. This is the Bucs offense and they will live and die with it the last three games and hopefully in the playoffs. Quarterback Tom Brady essentially signs off on the game plan each week and is like another coach on the field. He has a lot of input on what happens on game days and clearly he approved of the overall game plan.
Like you, there are things I would like to see more of and less of, but until Bruce Arians calls me up and asks my opinion it really doesn’t matter. Tampa Bay needs a full offseason to evaluate and change things if there ever are going to be many changes to the play-calling and scheme but as long as Arians and Byron Leftwich are here, along with Brady, this is likely what the offense is.
Question: The Bucs defense stepped up, but couldn’t get off the field early. If the FGs weren’t missed the Bucs might have been in trouble. What is missing on defense, and can they fix it?
Answer: Much like the answer to the last question, this far into the season, I think we are seeing what the Bucs defense is, and will be for the remainder of 2020. Certainly the coaches can work on the little things with players to get them in better position, but linebacker Devin White isn’t just going to wake up one morning this season and be good in pass coverage. Sean Murphy-Bunting isn’t likely to have a light bulb just turn on in late December. Outside linebacker Anthony Nelson won’t develop any new moves as a pass rusher at this point in the year, and Rakeem Nunez-Roches won’t all of sudden become Vita Vea, as the Bucs prepare to travel to take on the Falcons this Sunday.
Like the offense, the defense needed another offseason on the field to grow. The 400 to 500 live reps were missed by not having mini-camps and OTAs are being felt, and the CBA doesn’t allow for a lot of practice time once the season begins, so getting reps in for individuals that need to work on specific technique, just doesn’t happen much during the week. At this point it is basically installation of the game plan on both sides of the ball.
The Bucs offense has a better chance of catching fire approaching the playoffs than the defense does. To win some playoff games the Bucs offense will just have to score more points than their opponents and hope the defense can come up with some timely stops as we saw on Sunday against Minnesota with six sacks and a great job on third down.
Question: Are there any two bigger losses than Vita Vea & O.J. Howard ? How much better could this team have been with them healthy?
Answer: While I think O.J. Howard is a heck of a talent, I believe the loss of Vita Vea hurt this team much more than losing the former first-round tight end. Would the offense be better with Howard on the field? I really believe so, but the Bucs tight end unit might have been the deepest on the team and the nose tackle group might have been the thinnest.
Losing Vea was a big blow to the Bucs’ pass rush and not so much that we expect Vea to get a ton of sacks, but his ability to help collapse the middle and not allow quarterbacks to step up and buy an extra second or two to find an open receiver is missing. And if the quarterback felt inside pressure from Vea and flushed out to either side then the Bucs outside linebackers were there to clean things up.
We also know how crucial he was in the run defense, and since he has been off the field, teams have found more success running against the Buccaneers, including the Vikings, who put up 162 yards on the ground with quarterback Kirk Cousins accounting for 41 yards on scrambles up the middle. There is no chance Cousins has 41 yards rushing if Vea had been on the field Sunday.
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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