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: Deone Bucannon had his best years in Todd Bowles’ defensive scheme. Do you see him coming back up to par? Also what number is he wearing?

Answer: I know the Buccaneers are sure hoping he will. They need Deone Bucannon to play well in a very big way as he will in part be filling in for the team losing starting middle linebacker Kwon Alexander. The good thing is, there won’t be any learning curve. Bucannon knows this system very well and has thrived in a 3-4 defensive system for years.

Bucannon was Arizona’s first-round pick in 2014 and spent his rookie season playing for Todd Bowles before Bowles left for New York to coach the Jets. James Bettcher was promoted to defensive coordinator and continued to run Bowles’ defense until he left following the 2017 season. The Washington State product played the “moneybacker” role in nickel defense, which is a strong safety-inside linebacker hybrid position and recorded 366 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, 12 pass breakups, six sacks, six forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and two interceptions in four years in that scheme.

Bucannon struggled last year in a new defensive scheme under Steve Wilks and was relegated to part-time duty where he recorded just 38 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. The fact that Bucannon signed a one-year deal means there is a motivation for him to excel and turn that into a big pay day next year at this time. If he can duplicate some of his early stats then he will cash in nicely next March, whether here or somewhere else.

I suspect if he does play well, the team would want to work on re-signing him long before free agency – or Tampa Bay could cash in on a compensatory draft pick in 2021 if he signs a huge deal elsewhere in free agency next year. The Bucs knew Alexander would get a nice raise from his rookie contract, but I don’t even believe Alexander thought he would get the money that San Francisco paid him last week, which was $13.5 million per year. Tampa Bay could be getting a third- or fourth-round compensatory draft pick next year for losing Alexander.

The Bucs don’t want to fall into the same situation with Bucannon, although he does play a different role. As far as what number he will wear that is still up in the air. At least I haven’t heard anything official yet. It certainly won’t be No. 20 as that jersey was last worn by Buccaneers legend Ronde Barber.

Question: Isn’t Jason Licht putting all his eggs into the bad coaching basket? I mean the old staff was the same one that went 9-7 with the same players then went 5-11 in back-to-back seasons. What’s more, we are losing a number of our few “good” starters and replacing them with almost fringe players. I don’t think the draft alone will take us from a bad team to playoff contenders, which seems to be the game plan when it comes to infusing talent.

Answer: No doubt this is an important year for general manager Jason Licht. While there are a myriad of reasons why this team has failed to win consistently, the fact is, this is a results based business. And there is no chance he would survive another coaching change, or likely even another 5-11 season in 2019.

We can say, despite mistakes made from management, there is a strong belief inside One Buccaneer Place that a good part of the issues the last few years were in fact on the coaching staff – whether it been from game planning and use of personnel or a lack of talent development. And the PewterReport.com staff doesn’t disagree.

While he would never come out and criticize a fellow head coach, when Bruce Arians says this is the most talented situation he has come into as a new head coach, either he believes the talent wasn’t utilized properly, or else he isn’t a very good evaluator of talent. Given his track record, we believe the former as opposed to the latter.

The key is maximizing the talent at key positions, such as quarterback. Tom Brady seems to lose good players year in and year out, but doesn’t skip a beat. And no, Jameis Winston is not Brady.

Offensively, the Bucs feel they have their core of quarterback, wide receiver, tight end and the left side of the offensive line in place. Those are cornerstone players, so to say. And they think if those players are coached to perform at their best, then they can win enough football games to make a playoff run.

What will 2019 hold? We will get a lot of answers on if the poor record of the last two years was a lack for talent or just poor coaching by how this team finishes. The failure of this franchise to win consistently over the last decade is on a lot of people, Licht included. He knows that, the Glazers know that, but it certainly isn’t solely on him.

It is safe to say that Licht is on the hot seat in 2019, though.

Question: I like the Bucs’ free agency approach. Do you think the reserved approach is more beneficial for the current roster?

Answer: Yes, while not necessarily exciting for fans, or even those in the media covering the team, Tampa Bay – whether by choice or strategy – went a different route in how they look at free agency this year, and I think it is a good thing.

The spending frenzy that Tampa Bay has engaged in over the last few offseasons with splash signings has not been kind to the Buccaneers for the most part and for most NFL teams that attempt to “win the offseason” in free agency. And if a team is spending millions in free agency each year then it hasn’t done a very good job in drafting and developing.

Free agency should be a way to supplement a team’s roster needs as opposed to the primary means to build a team. We hear it every year, but it still rings true that the teams that win free agency in March, rarely have a chance to win the Super Bowl in February.

I often use the Patriots as an example, but why not? Their track record over the last decade or so is beyond impressive. The Patriots don’t go out looking to sign the big name, high-priced free agents. Some of the players they have targeted this year? Terrance Brooks, Maurice Harris, Mike Pennel and a few others. Not necessarily household names.

But as mentioned in the prior question, New England has its cornerstone players, they draft and develop talent well, and are confident enough in their coaching to not have to spend huge money to go after big name free agents. They sign middle of the road guys, sprinkle in a trade or two and just go with the players they feel can fill some needs and play their roles.

Question: Are the Bucs going to get a veteran corner? Who? Bashaud Breeland? Morris Claiborne?

Answer: I believe Tampa Bay will sign a veteran cornerback at some point, but it isn’t necessarily a stellar corner market in free agency. The draft prospects look fairly deep but the Bucs have seen the roller coaster of rookie cornerback play over the last three years, and would like to add a veteran. And there are still a handful available they could step in and start, but the team’s salary cap situation hasn’t allowed them to find the right fit from a money standpoint.

Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves - Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

The team strongly believes Vernon Hargreaves is poised to take the next step – if he can stay healthy – and also thinks the “baptism by fire” that Carlton Davis received as a rookie last year, has prepared him to be much better in 2019. M.J. Stewart, the team’s other second-round pick at cornerback, has been moved to strong safety. Last year’s coaching staff had him miscast as a nickel cornerback and he struggled mightily as a rookie in that role.

With free agency a week old, the first phase is pretty much over and the market has settled, and now I think you see the team look a little more seriously about addressing that position with some middle-tier guys like you mentioned. Morris Claiborne played for Todd Bowles with the New York Jets last year and that familiarity could see the Bucs pursue him if the price is right.

In addition to a veteran cornerback, the Bucs are also in the market for a veteran safety to replace Chris Conte. Keep an eye on Green Bay’s Kentrell Brice, who is expected in Tampa Bay today for a visit.

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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]

17 COMMENTS

  1. Like it or not, Arians and Licht’s success is tied to overall better use of talent – but also the better play of Winston. If we get the Winston at the end of last season, they will survive. If we get the Winston at the start of last season, at least Licht will be gone after the next season.

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  2. The only way Arians will be gone after one season is if he chooses to or if the whole car blows up and we end up 0-16 or 1-15 or something like that. Otherwise it’s Licht and only Licht whose neck is on the chopping block as far as big FO figures go.

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  3. I really like your response to the “reserve” strategy question. The best franchises are seldom players in the first phase of free agency: New England; Pittsburgh; Baltimore; Green Bay come to mind. They realize that free agency in football is “fools gold.” You have to draft wisely, look for undrafted free agencies who have been overlooked and, above all, coach the hell out of the players–and motivate them. The jury is out on Arians. His track record is superb, but we can’t really know the status of his health and motivation. If he’s “all in,” then good things are in store for the Buccaneers. No doubt that Humphrey and Alexander are/were valuable pieces, but they are not “franchise” stars worthy of the moeny they were offered. Alexander missed about 25% of the games due to injuries and suspensions and was never an above average tackler; Hump lacked speed and was tackled repeatedly short of the goal line and who can/should forget his costly fumble that turned sure victory into defeat against Buffalo. You just can’t afford to fall in love with players like these.

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  4. There is no doubt In my is sitting in a frying pan right now.
    He apparently convinced ownership the necessary talent was her to have a winning team and all that was needed was a better coach or coaches to put the team on track.
    In some are ts, it’s hard to argue with him
    All one needs to do is look on the defensive side of the ball.
    Even in the limited time he had the defense, you could see the unit play better under the supervision of Mark Duffner.
    The players liked Koetter and so did I.
    But as good as his offense was there always seemed to be something lacking besides a consistent ruining game in the last couple of years.
    I may have gotten my answer when I called into his radio show and asked him why we rarely saw the other team hit with offside penalties because our QB’s rarely varied their snap count.
    His answer surprised me.
    He told me he had the philosophy of our best 11 should beat their best 11.
    I guess that is all well and good but it sure does give the other 11s a good jump and a pretty good advantage on the ball when they know the snap count is always the same.

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  5. When the Bucs went 9 and 7 in 2016 Jason Licht
    Went for broke use the term was going to get some weapons for Jameis Winston spent big finished last place NFC South in 2017 so he went out and got some high-priced defensive players 2018 taking advantage of the rookie quarterback contract he loaded the team and fell on his ass last place in the NFC South now the cap Reaper has come gone is DeSean who is off to team with a Real QB that can hit him long . Gone is Humphreys and for the last place defense in 2018 they got rid of their best player Kwon Alexander also recently gone is their highest rated quarterback Fitz all of this to make room to pay a bust quarterback 21 million Bruce Arians is not getting the team he signed up for he’s going to try to make this work with what is left of this team. I see no way this team will win two games next year. No one in their right mind thinks you can get rid of that many good starters and replacing with backups and still win games. They have absolutely no intention of doing any winning next year it’s all just a con on us the fans the people that pay the bills.

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  6. This is a very different team than the 9-7
    team. We haven’t lost anything as to the offense, but we have gained already on the defense and more yet to come.
    I’m very confident this team will play at a higher level. Whether or not we break an 8-8+ record will be up to the players.
    Go Bucs!

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  7. DumbAssBob, already on a morning bender with his alcohol fueled rants exacerbated by a handful of ritalin.
    Do you ever reread the gibberish you type out here.
    I know this is a blog and I hate to snipe at anyone for typos or misspellings, but dude, did anyone ever teach you how to construct a sentence and the beauty of puntuation.

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  8. As it nears the draft Jason “second round bust” Licht should be locked in a closet without any electronic devices until the draft is over.

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  9. I totally agree with the opinions expressed by Mark Cook and others about the perils of free agency and how the top teams seem to avoid it except for certain middle of the road caliber players. I would also like to add another point of view about free agency from a pundit a few years ago. Remember, free agents are on the market for a reason and it’s usually not a good reason, like a salary cap hit. Good teams find ways to keep their good players who are about to become free agents.

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  10. Bucs need to see improvement in the kicking game and defense to be at least NFL average.

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  11. While Drdneast was in special gym and going to spelling bee
    I was playing football and in the weight room I love it when the Nerds like to talk about spelling and punctuation

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  12. There’s nothing wrong with spending money in F.A., the problem with Licht has been he’s shot his wad on the wrong F.A.’s, and over paid them in the process. The reason he’s not looking for high priced players this year is he has us right against the cap with money for only second tier players. I’m sure being on a short leash with the Glazer’s who’ve seen a pirates booty wasted to many times by Licht already has something to do with it also. Is he on the hot seat? Try an inferno. If this draft doesn’t pan out, and B.A. can only marginally improve on last years record Licht should be gone. I say should be because I believe he should’ve been fired already, but that’s up to Moe, Larry, and Curley Glazer, who knows what they’ll ever do.

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  13. Proud of you Bob. At least you were able to spell “punctuation” correctly in your on-line spelling bee with DrD.

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  14. Lets get real !!… How can anyone defend Light with the bucs being a bottom feeder in their own division and NO $$cash???..Bucs only have one top 10 player in Evans.. This team has been a joke for long suffering season tkt holders .

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  15. Yawn … the offseason sure has been a snoozer so far, other than losing several really good players we’ll miss dearly (Kwan Alexander and Adam Humphries, and a really good backup quarterback Fitz), and some others who – being typical Licht free agent picks – never did much worthwhile in their time here. And managed to retain a mediocre left tackle.

    Unless Light really tears it up in the draft, it seems quite likely that the Bucs are headed for another losing season, after which either there will be furious finger pointing between the new head coach and old GM, or both will be “retired”.

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  16. Typical Naplesfan response. Did you expect the Bucs to light up Free Agency 2019 with our cap situation combined with the thin availability at CB, LB, DE, RT, RG, etc? You talk crap on Licht ad-nausea but yet mention 3 great signings of his that we regretfully said “bye” to, and another a still young LT who has been mediocre at times but available & present. I didnt love any of those 4 player transactions but feel they were best for us now and in the near future.

    It’s only March and you sound like we are a lost cause. You are a die hard fan like myself…..passionate
    to say the least, but let’s not grade our off-season until training camp ENDS at least rather than the ides of March. I recall you were a huge Gruden supporter during and after, have faith in Bruce & crew!

    Go Bucs!!!

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  17. I don’t know what your typical response is, but I have always been clear that we needed regime change top to bottom in the Bucs – new executive manager (instead of the Baby Glazers) making the big decisions, new GM, new coaches, and better players. Well, we got one out of four, and that IS bad.

    The Bucs kept Winston, and are now grossly overpaying him, and kept their mediocre left tackle, and let several of our best players go – all of which was fully predictable given that the Bucs failed to clean house this year.

    At this point, the Bucs are a worse team than last year’s 5-11 team. The head coach, well, he’s a good coach, not impressed with his assistants though. And he’s got a roster that is less talented than what we had when he arrived.

    I don’t make predictions, but observations. The Bucs haven’t gotten any better.

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