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: Would you rather have Gerald McCoy at his salary or Le’Veon Bell, and who would have a bigger impact if they were on the roster next year?
Answer: If forced to pick one it would be Le’Veon Bell. But at the money Bell is going to get, which is likely around $14 million per year, I don’t see how the Buccaneers can afford him. Of course keeping Gerald McCoy at his current salary, which is scheduled to be at $13 million, will also be very difficult for cap-strapped Tampa Bay.
I think if you see the Bucs pursue Bell, then that gives you an indication of their plans, and that would be Super Bowl or bust – like this year. We have all sort of figured the Bruce Arians hire is a short-term, win soon type of hire due to his age (66), and it most likely is. Stretching themselves to the brink salary cap-wise to sign Bell would tell me the Bucs think they can win it all soon.
Because no matter how good your salary cap management is, if you continue to dish out large money in free agency, the house of cards will eventually fall, and you’ll need to blow it all up or at least semi-start over to a degree. I think the Los Angeles Rams will find that to be the case soon, as will the Philadelphia Eagles and a handful of other teams.
A big part of that issue is when a team’s young, drafted quarterback gets to that second contract. The Bucs are at that point to a degree with Winston who signed a four-year $25.3 million rookie deal, but will now make almost that full amount in one season (2019 fifth-year option worth $20.922 million), and if signed to a long-term deal, he will make more that his total rookie deal just in one year.
I really like Bell and think he is the best running back in the NFL, but Tampa Bay would have to weigh things out. If the Bucs draft a running back in the second round with a first year salary of around $1.5 million, they would have to decide if Bell is essentially 12 times better than the rookie the team could draft? As he would cost Tampa Bay 12 times as much. If we see the Bucs pursue Bell, I believe that is an indication they are going all in on 2019.
Question: How much strategy can new coaches discuss with players when they meet/run into each other?
Answer: Technically, none at all. But I am not sure how the NFL can regulate conversations. As long as it isn’t held on the practice field or in meeting rooms, I don’t know how the NFL could enforce it. I think if Jameis Winston wanted to pick up the phone and call Bruce Arians, how could the league stop that? Outside of requesting call logs, how would the NFL even know they had a conversation?
Or if Lavonte David is working out in the weight room and stops by the cafeteria for a protein shake and bumps into defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who can keep them from talking football? Now Winston, Arians, Bowles and David wouldn’t want to go on a radio show and reveal any of that, as it could create problems with the league office.
With that said, February is mostly a really dead time for players at the facility and the coaches are in draft meetings and watching tape to prepare for free agency and the NFL Scouting Combine, which starts later this month. Winston for instance appears to be on a family vacation out in Colorado (according to social media posts), wide receiver Adam Humphries is golfing somewhere far from Florida and tight end Antony Auclair is in Canada with his family. So the opportunity to break an NFL rule isn’t even realistic for the most part.
I would guess some of that goes on around the league each offseason, but any specific strategy talk and supposed to be prohibited until April at the earliest when NFL offseason programs can begin.
Question: How do you see the draft playing out for the Bucs? Pick 5th or trade down?
Answer: The more mock drafts I read and the more people I speak with, this draft looks like a good one for Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht to drop down and pick up some extra draft picks this year and maybe next year. I say that because there are a ton of really good football players that will be available at No. 5, but the drop off from five to 15 doesn’t appear to be as steep as it has been in years past.
Of course it is still early, and the Bucs front office may have a “can’t miss” grade on someone who slips down to No. 5, and at that point the team would probably stand pat. Most likely the phone will be ringing hard on draft night and Licht will be a very popular guy at the NFL Scouting Combine later this month as teams – particularly QB needy teams – will be trying to gauge what it would take to move up to the Bucs’ spot.
But if I am a betting man, I put my chips on a trade down – just as Licht did in the first round in both 2016 and last year.
Question: Is it possible to turn this team into a sure-fire playoff team for more than one year? This team has adapted to that “losing culture, but we are still getting paid” mentality. Do you expect to see names get cut that maybe aren’t on your list of cuts?
Answer: There could always be a few surprise cuts, but no one jumps out to me at this point other than the ones like DeSean Jackson, Gerald McCoy, Beau Allen, etc. that we have suggested could be cap casualties.
As I mentioned earlier in an answer, how this team approaches free agency will tell us a lot about Tampa Bay’s mindset for its long-term strategy. Ultimately all teams want to set themselves up for stability for the long haul, but there are teams who see their window of opportunity shrinking and their offseason can reveal their plans to a degree.
Look at the Saints last April, giving up this year’s No. 1 to move up to select defensive end Marcus Davenport. To me it was Sean Payton and the Saints front office suggesting that they were are a pass rusher away from getting to the Super Bowl. Drew Brees can’t play forever, and New Orleans seems to always be in a salary cap dilemma and know the window to reaching the pinnacle is shrinking. The Saints gambled, and if not for an awful missed call in the NFC Championship game, they would have been facing the New England Patriots in Atlanta for the Super Bowl – and not the Rams.
I love the NFL offseason. From now until the draft, things are fluid and exciting and we at PewterReport.com know to never be too far away from our computer for breaking news.