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.”
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.
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.