The PR Bucs Monday Mailbag is where PewterReport.com’s Mark Cook answers your questions from our 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 Rob Gronkowski retiring, would you trade Cameron Brate to New England in exchange for a third- or fourth-round pick?

Answer: PewterReport.com knows that there were no plans to trade Cameron Brate as of last month at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. And I don’t believe there is any thought of trading him now, although the Patriots will need someone to fill Rob Gronkowski’s void, and one would have to think Bill Belichick would love what Brate brings to the table. With that said, so do the Buccaneers, but they also love acquiring draft picks and the Patriots are loaded with a number of them this season, including two second-rounders and two third-round picks.

If Belichick called Jason Licht and offered up a second-round pick, I believe the Bucs would consider it, or at least have a discussion – but I don’t see that happening. There are a lot of talented, pass-catching tight ends in this draft for New England to choose from. Brate will earn $7 million this year and his salary became guaranteed on March 17, which means that the Bucs would face a $7 million dead cap charge if they traded him. The time to move Brate would have been prior to March 17 because of the clause that guaranteed his 2019 base salary.

Brate has five more years remaining on his contract, but the Bucs can move on next March prior to the fifth day of the 2020 league year without taking on any dead salary cap money. Brate will likely remain in Tampa Bay until the team needs to sign O.J. Howard his second contract, which will be 2022 if the Bucs pick up Howard’s fifth-year option in 2021.

Brate’s numbers were down last year as he battled through a hip injury to catch 30 passes for 289 yards, but he still managed to score six touchdowns, and has 20 touchdowns over the past three seasons. That’s the most in Tampa Bay over that span, which demonstrates his importance as a valued red zone threat. Brate has missed just one game over the past three seasons, and that’s quite valuable too, considering that Howard has seen both of his first two NFL seasons end on injured reserve.

Question: With the switch to a 3-4 defense does it not make sense for the Bucs to pursue Darron Lee? A guy that has played in the Bucs new system and could help the transition for the other linebackers on the roster?

Answer: I think it makes perfect sense. Scott Reynolds actually wrote about the Bucs’ interest in trading for New York Jets linebacker Darron Lee on Sunday.

“Lee played for Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who drafted him with the 20th overall pick in 2016, and has recorded 238 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 11 passes defensed, four sacks, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and one defensive touchdown in his first three years in the NFL. He would be an ideal fit Tampa Bay because he knows Bowles’ scheme and would come cheap, as Lee is in the final year of his rookie contract and is scheduled to make $1,843,861 in base salary in 2019.”

Jets ILB Darron Lee
Jets ILB Darron Lee – Photo by: Getty Images

The Bucs would need to do their homework and make sure Lee’s past issues (PED suspension, immaturity issues) are behind him, but the fact he played for Bowles would give the team some very good insight into his character. The Jets reportedly want a third-round pick, but the Bucs might not want to offer that much and could counter with an offer for a fifth-rounder.

As of now the Bucs have Kevin Minter slated to fill the base defense inside linebacker role vacated when Kwon Alexander signed with the 49ers as a free agent, and while Minter is also familiar with scheme the Bucs will run, he isn’t nearly as fast or as athletic as Lee. Bringing the former Jets standout to Tampa Bay would be an instant upgrade, if he checks out and the team pulls the trigger on a trade.

Question: Who do see being the biggest on-field challenge for the Bucs in the division?

Answer: I think it is pretty simple – keeping up with the NFC South champion New Orleans Saints. The Saints were one blown call away from reaching the Super Bowl and look to be just as loaded this season. They lost running back Mark Ingram in free agency and a few more players, but the core that took them to the NFC Championship game is still there. Having Drew Brees under center would make me tend to say New Orleans is the favorite to repeat as NFC South champs for a third straight year. And if they add tight end Jared Cook, as expected, that just gives Brees one more weapon at his disposal.

Bucs QB Jameis Winston and Saints QB Drew Brees
Bucs QB Jameis Winston and Saints QB Drew Brees – Photo by: Getty Images

The Saints appear to be giving a Super Bowl run one more serious – and legitimate – shot this season. Who knows what happens with the Saints after 2019, with Drew Brees possibly hanging it up, and the fact the Saints salary cap continues to be a mess? They are certainly the favorites to repeat as NFC South champs and my early favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. That isn’t to say they are unbeatable, but when you have a great offensive mind in Sean Payton, combined with one the best quarterbacks of all time, New Orleans will always be in the mix to make the playoffs and win the division.

Question: What is your absolute favorite Buccaneer memory as a fan and as a reporter?

Answer: Believe it or not, there really are a lot of great Buccaneers memories that I remember as I watched as a kid and young man growing up, long before I started covering the team as a reporter.

My earliest memory is sitting down with my dad on a late Sunday afternoon in 1977 and watching the Buccaneers on TV as they traveled to New Orleans to beat the Saints for the franchise’s first ever win after an 0-26 start. It was the first game I actually sat and watched and as a seven-year old. I thought those Bucco Bruce pirate decals on their helmets were pretty cool. I also loved the first playoff game in franchise history, a win at home against the Eagles in 1979. I actually have a copy of that game preserved on DVD (transferred from VHS) and still pull it out from time to time.

The first Bucs game I attended was in 1981, a home loss to the Broncos. But it was a birthday present from my dad, and he and I took a bus from Brandon to the old Tampa Stadium. I will never forget the first time walking up and through one of the entrances and seeing that green field painted with the logo along with the smell of cigar smoke in the air. It is one of those memories that is burned into my brain.

To me, the greatest play and win in franchise history came when the Bucs beat the Eagles to advance to the Super Bowl in the 2002 NFC Championship Game. When Ronde Barber intercepted the Donovan McNabb pass and run it back from a score, all the frustrating years of wasting my Sunday afternoons in the 1980s were all erased.

As a reporter, it is harder to really pick a favorite memory. I have covered the team full time since 2011, so I have seen lots of bad football during that span, including now covering my fifth Tampa Bay head coach. If I had to pick one, I might go with the Seahawks game a few years ago when Alterraun Verner secured the win with a late interception just two days after his father passed away unexpectedly. That was as an emotional moment as I have witnessed as a reporter. I wrote a column following that game that got a lot of positive feedback from our readers.

The good memories are few and far between, as most of the time I have been consumed with writing about MRSA, players filing lawsuits, alleged-rigged captain’s votes, Hard Knocks, quarterbacks missing team photos, bad free agent signings, Uber allegations, suspensions, bad coaching, head coaches getting fired and just a lot of bad football.

But every year is different and the excitement level is at its highest since I have covered this team with the hiring of Bruce Arians. I have no idea how 2019 will play out, but if history holds serve, we know one thing, it will be an interesting season in Tampa Bay full of unpredictable new storylines.

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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 [email protected]

15 COMMENTS

  1. Glad to hear that trading Brate would make absolutely no sense since the Bucs will still be hit with the cap charge. The guy is really important to the offense. Bucs only have about $11 million going to tight ends. That’s cheap considering how good and important Brate and OJ are.

    Regarding Lee…Why not just play the same waiting game that Philly played to get D.Jax for a bag of peanuts? In Scott’s article, it mentioned the Jets were happy to move on from Lee. Bucs have enough former linebackers/moneybackers from the coaches previous teams.

    Bucs should just through the draft and get whatever they need when June 1st cuts roll around.

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  2. Brings back memories. I watched the Saint game in 77 and went the the Cardinal game the following week. I went to the 79 Eagle game and the Ram game that followed. Those were great times especially when you’re a kid as I was. Worst to First back to worst with the Throwin Samoan, Vinny era, then we got Hardy Hardware Nickerson in 93 drafted Lynch, then Brooks Sapp Dungy back to 1st , Gruden Superbowl and now back to Worst…..Ready for Arians to get back to 1st!!

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  3. Trading Cameron Brate for a second pick would be worthwhile. A trade Buccaneers 5 th round pick + Brate for patriot’s 2nd. They could use the 7 million dollars for offensive line.

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  4. Trade won’t happen with the $7mm dead money hitting the salary cap.

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  5. Jager, what part of guaranteed salary are you not comprehending? Keeping Brate, cutting Brate, trading Brate, these all come at the same cap charge…. $7M

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  6. We just traded Djax for a 6th? You think a 2nd gets a deal done for Brate??? Yeah I’d hope so too. Only problem is NOBODY would give anything pick wise for Brate. He has zero value.

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  7. I like the idea of trading Brate, but the time to do it was last year when he had more value. He is a pro bowl caliber TE. A gem that we lucked out on. But now we have an even better TE and two TE offense really didn’t pan out and I am not sure that Bucs will continue with it. All it does is make both TE’s numbers weaker. Anything less than a 2nd for Brate would be a waste of time.

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  8. Why do people complain about Brate? 2 years ago before he signed his current contract, everyone was so happy that we were keeping him..now people want him gone? He is a great to have along side Howard who has yet to stay healthy a whole season. Brate had a down season last year, but I think he’s the kind of guy who would bounce back.

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  9. Nice article. I personally am sensing some uncertainty and feeling uncertainty about this coming year. The highest level I have felt for excitement came heading into the 2017 season and after week two of this year. I think we are making good moves right now, and I pray different coaches make that much of a difference

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  10. I had suggested trading Brate to the Jets for Lee. The Jets have the cap space, and would be of value to Darnold who could use another weapon. Belichick would never shell out 7 million for Brate, only Licht would,and did. I know the thumbs down police are coming, because Buc fans love that we over pay for average play. God forbid we lose Brate, we might have a losing season next year. Oh wait, we’ve gone 5-11 two years in a row with the talent Licht has assembled, how can that be?

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  11. As we walk down memory lane with Mark, I was struck by the comment about that first win against the Saints. I was one of those lunatics that actually drove to the airport to welcome them home after the victory. We went nuts!

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  12. I was part of the thousands who greeted the Bucs back after the Saints game,
    and there at the St Louis game watching the goal posts being torn down! Buc fan always with the good and the bad.
    Go Bucs!

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  13. You could trade McCoy to the jets for Lee and get no cap hit and maybe swap some pics?

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  14. I’m not sure Scott is correct about the Bucs having the cap hit if Brate is traded. If he’s cut they would have a cap hit of $7mil. If he’s traded the cap charge goes to his new team.

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  15. Always enjoy reading about others’ Bucs memories since mine are exactly the same. The Bucs returning home after the Saints game, the victory against the Cardinals the following week (framed commemorative poster still on my wall). The entire “Worst to First” (poster on my wall) 1979 season with sitting in the monsoon playing the Chiefs, the Eagles playoff win and the loss to the Rams when a TD was called back because Greg Roberts moved too soon. Other than “The Pick” (photo on my wall) and Super Bowl win, “Run Michael Run” (commemorative poster on my wall) is right up there. Might be the loudest I ever heard the stadium.

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