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.
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.