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 podcast Sunday 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.

Bucs GM Jason Licht and director of football administration
Bucs GM Jason Licht and director of football administration Mike Greenberg – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

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.

Bucs OC Byron Leftwich and QB Tom Brady
Bucs OC Byron Leftwich and QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

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.

Bucs LB and S Jordan Whitehead
Bucs LB and S Jordan Whitehead – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

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.

Bucs DTs Vita Vea and Rakeem Nunez-Roches
Bucs DTs Vita Vea and Rakeem Nunez-Roches – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

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.

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About the Author: Mark Cook

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 mark@pewterreport.com
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Pete Wood
2 months ago

I’m getting weary of hearing how the Bucs would have lost if the Vikings had a better kicker. Well, the Vikings didn’t have a better kicker and they lost. That’s like saying Bucs would have won the Superbowl last year if we had a better QB. We didn’t. The other thing is that you can’t just tack on the missed points and assume everything else stays the same. If the Vikings had a better kicker, they would have scored more points, but the Bucs then sure wouldn’t have been running out the clock in the second half. They would have… Read more »

BigSombrero
Reply to  Pete Wood
2 months ago

Bucs won and covered against a weak team with a losing record. Did they dominate? They didn’t, but a win is a win. Brady magic at its finest.

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drdneast
Reply to  BigSombrero
2 months ago

They defeated a .500 team that was on a I think four game winning streak. Not great but not shabby.

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Dave
Reply to  BigSombrero
2 months ago

It’s funny. The Vikings were one of the hottest teams in the league coming into the game. Winning 5 of 6. But they lost, so now it’s “oh they’re a bad .500 team. Love the constant minimizing of Bucs wins

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BigSombrero
Reply to  Dave
2 months ago

The Vikes overtime win last week vs Jacksonville and Glennon after getting 6 turnovers was a real quality win.
The Bears, Panthers, and LIons wins were all equally impressive one score victories.
Sure, they had a misstep vs the powerful Dallas Cowboys lead by Andy Dalton, but who can blame them.

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Dave
Reply to  BigSombrero
2 months ago

It’s cute how you cherry pick Vikings games. Conveniently, you left out the Packers win, as well as the 1 point losses vs the Seahawks and Titans. The Saints have had wins by 6 points or less against the Chargers, Falcons, Lions, Panthers, and Bears. And the other 5 wins they have, were against us twice, the 49ers, Broncos, and Falcons. So outside of the 2 wins against us, the Saints have exactly ZERO quality wins. But weird, you consider them this great team. Even though you think the Bucs suck, and the Bucs are responsible for the only 2… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Dave
surferdudes
2 months ago

Yeah, we are, what we are, we’ll see if that’s good enough this year. It’s going to have to be.

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calibucsfan16
2 months ago

Is Vea out for the season including playoffs? Any word on his recovery? Any way he could come back if somehow we had a deep playoff run?

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Captain Sly
2 months ago

Honestly Mark I have not heard one person ask for BL to “Revamp the Offense”. Most people are saying adjust the offense.. If the Saints can adjust from Drew Brees-Taysom Hill overnight surely the Bucs can stop running the ball on 1st.

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chefboho
Reply to  Captain Sly
2 months ago

well said. Bruce is just too damn stubborn to make changes. And Lefty sure isnt good enough to figure it out on his own.

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The Wall
Reply to  chefboho
2 months ago

Exactly right!

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BigSombrero
Reply to  chefboho
2 months ago

Can’t wait until the playoffs start! With luck, Bucs will get Philly or Washington in round 1.

Be honest…Do the Bucs dominate any team on the road in opening round?
Also, do the Bucs keep the coaches if they lose in round 1?

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Captain Sly
Reply to  BigSombrero
2 months ago

These are very important questions, but question #1 should be – Can the Bucs dominate any team rd 1? (YES)
Question #2 do the Bucs keep coaches if they lose rd1? (No) Do they keep the coaches if they lose rd2? (NO NO) Who wants another year of underachieving.

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BigSombrero
Reply to  Captain Sly
2 months ago

Which team “can” they dominate? Green bay in Wisconsin? LA in LA? New Orleans in NOLA?
Washington in DC or Philly in Philly? Maybe, but they both have great defensive lines and a strong rushing attack.

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Dave
Reply to  BigSombrero
2 months ago

Seeing as they would be the 6th seed(as of today), and they’d be playing on the road to a higher seed…why would anyone even be expecting a dominating win. A win of any kind should be good enough, seeing as we haven’t won a playoff game in forever. Most teams don’t dominate in the playoffs. They’re usually tight hard fought games. And is there a single NFC playoff team that’s likely to dominate another non nfc east playoff team? Probably not. Every single team in the nfc playoffs, outside the east, can beat any other playoff team. Everyone is close… Read more »

BigSombrero
Reply to  Dave
2 months ago

Tampa has dominated one winning team this season. They will be lucky to have a chance to win at the end of whichever game they play in on wild card weekend.

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buddah
Reply to  BigSombrero
2 months ago

Yes, we keep the coaches. And the general manager. When was the last time a team went from not being in the playoffs for 12 years to winning a Super Bowl. My guess is that it has never been done. Tampa fans have a totally unrealistic set of expectations for this season. Instead of taking some joy from being 8-5 and with a 95% chance of making the playoffs, our group of whiners think that this roster was made to win the super Bowl in its first year together without any preseason or mini-camps, losing two first round draft picks… Read more »

BigSombrero
Reply to  buddah
2 months ago

Jim Caldwell in Detroit got canned after winning more than any coach in Detroit in recent history, only to be replaced by doormat dweller Matt somebody (Patricia – I know). Two out of three years Caldwell guided his team to wild card berths and was one and done, including his last year. This team has a history of firing coaches when the fans or players put billboards up. Just saying. I’ve heard nothing but complaints about the coaches from fans, writers, and media. If they lose in round 1 to LA, NO, or GB they live for the last year.… Read more »

buddah
Reply to  chefboho
2 months ago

Yes, they used say Dungy was too stubborn too because he would say our goal is to know that they can’t stop us even when they know what we are running. In other words, perfect the plays you run. Nothing much comes as a surprise in the NFL.

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buddah
Reply to  Captain Sly
2 months ago

Just imagine what our fan base would be saying if we lost to the Eagles! Sometimes I wonder how many fans are really fans of this team. How about some emphasis on the poisitives. Cousins was the leading quarterback in the fourth quarter in all of football. We shut him down completely. We held Jefferson to 4 catches and minimal yardage. Our kicker has made 23 of 26 field goals.

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BigSombrero
Reply to  buddah
2 months ago

I agree with your statement. I just thought this Bucs team should have dominated the Vikes.
On defense: They are built to stop the run. They are built to rush the passer with a lead.
On offense, they faced a 29th ranked passing defense filled with slow rookies at CB. Brady had time all day.
This should have been a lopsided victory by a team coming off a bye with everything to play for. It wasn’t. Instead, it was a close call if not for Dan Bailey’s total meltdown.

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The Wall
2 months ago

Here’s a simple, small thing we could change. Why not use Devon White to blitz? It seems pretty obvious to everybody that he is terrible in coverage and he’s great at blitzing/rushing (5 sacks)? That’s just one of many “small” things we could do. I’m pretty sure there are many more and they could add up.

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mark05
Reply to  The Wall
2 months ago

That sounds like one of the best ideas I’ve heard, let Devin blitz more, seems like he can be a monster playing downhill/attacking, we are missing his sack and TFL potential, in my novice opinion, let him work on pass coverage more in the offseason

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Spitfire
2 months ago

Smith has been better than usual this year, but one way we could save his $14.5 million next year to really helps offset the lower Salary Cap is to move Wirfs to LT next year and draft a RT or Draft a LT. Roomie LTs may be a risk but if the right one is there then this line would finally be complete and the salary cap loss wouldn’t be so bad. I do give credit to Smith for playing his best this season.

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BigSombrero
2 months ago

Going on the road to play Green Bay, New Orleans, or LA will be tough for any wildcard team when the playoffs start. Consolation prize in round 1 is the NFC East. Going to Washington, Philly, or NYG might be tougher than many expect for this team since they all have good defensive lines.
If Ron Rivera whips Bruce Arians in the playoffs again, do Bucs fire BA?

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Dave
Reply to  BigSombrero
2 months ago

Nobody’s afraid of playing the Saints in the playoffs. Every year they win 13 games, and every year they go nowhere. As of right now, they’d face the Cards in the 1st round. The Saints will be 1 and done. Mark my words. Another early exit for the annual regular season champs

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Last edited 2 months ago by Dave
BigSombrero
Reply to  Dave
2 months ago

If I was the Bucs, the Saints would be the dead ass last team I would want to face in the first round of the playoffs. To think otherwise is insanity. They OWNED Tampa, both meetings. Those games were NEVER close.

Saints losing to Philly and the Steelers losing to Washington should be a wake up call that winning in December and January is about RUNNING THE BALL AND STOPPING THE RUN. I keep telling you that Dave. I know, you’ll say I’m outdated but we’ll see.

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peter benet
2 months ago

Why so fatalistic about fixing the pass defense? Obviously any moron could tell Bowles to not play single high against KC, but why did Jamel Dean fall off a cliff after the first six games? That should be fixable. Should Edwards come in for White on obvious passing downs? Why is Whitehead better in coverage, or am I wrong there? Could they have covered the tight ends better yesterday? At least Pewter Report could give the coaches some ideas, instead of “It is what it is.”

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captain ahab
2 months ago

Might be a good idea to pull White on obvious passing downs and bring in an extra safety. I think White is a talented guy and I understand he needs to learn coverage. He seems to be a big liability out there on third and long and heading into the playoffs is not the best time for on the job training.

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drdneast
2 months ago

Before Vea went down I used to hear all the time from readers and some PR writers themselves about how little of an impact Vea was having on games. Now I hear a lot of moaning about how much the defense misses him. Yes it does.

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Captain Sly
Reply to  drdneast
2 months ago

Yep! Scott & Jon with what some call lazy but I will just say “inconsistent analysis”.

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Dave
Reply to  drdneast
2 months ago

So true. I’ve always maintained that he has an impact similar to a Ngata or Wilfork. Where the stat sheet does not even begin to tell the story of how impactful Vea is. He’s a beast, plain and simple.

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DMIbucs98
2 months ago

To me (and just my opinion) Todd Bowles can’t be as aggressive as he wants because of personal. Last year when then Defense came together the last games. The Dbaccs were playing confident, JPP came bacc strong and the team was cliccing. As much as the then Rookies got film to study to improve so did the rest of the league to game plan against you. SMB and D. White are getting picced on every game. Think that’s the reason for all the zone. If a player gets beat underneath less of a chance for a big play with team… Read more »

buddah
2 months ago

Here we go again. We are 8-5 and headed for the playoffs and one of the major threads is the brilliant idea that if we don’t win at least one game in the playoffs we must fire the coaching staff. This is (in my opinion) sheer idiocy. Have you looked at the records of the first year coaches. Only one has a winning record and he is not yet assured of making the playoffs (Stefanski at Cleveland). McCarthy is 4-9; Rhule (the best of the lot in my opinion) is 4-9; Judge is 5-8; Rivera is 6-7. Only one of… Read more »

twspin
2 months ago

Bowles is doing a great job with what he’s got. And his secondary is….as my son says.. is LEAKING. Look guys our Defense is out there a lot during the 1st half. Our offense starts pretty darn slow. And give our D credit. Our D line and linebackers seem to find some energy during the 2nd half. Hell guys, They are dead tired out there. It’s our secondary that’s the big problem. But this Defense needs Vea back badly. Next year we need about 2 more defensive guys. I think Bowles is starting to find a small rotation On D… Read more »

scubog
2 months ago

I’m often just amazed by what I read in the comments section and even more mystified by the number of times folks feel the need to tutor their fellow football fans adnauseam. It’s just incredible to me how some of us are so accustomed to the bitter taste of losing that they can’t stop holding their noses, even after a win, to the point where they seek the “woulda, coulda, shoulda trying to turn a victory into a defeat. This team might well finish the regular season 11 dash 5. While the offense is very inconsistent, it is still capable… Read more »

PissedOffBuc1988
2 months ago

You can tell that many of us are tired of being left out to dry by it’s team. I’ve been both very optimistic but then the Bourbon Street Massacre commenced and that really botherd people. But at minimum; our loses have come against playoff teams that will be in the playoffs and outside of the massacre, we have always been in position to win. Our last 3 games are very winnable games. Not givemes and I expect the falcons and lions to give us everything they have. We have to be focused and ready to deal regardless. Our special teams… Read more »