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: Now that it’s the offseason what free agent would you like the Bucs to pursue?
Answer: If the Bucs had unlimited cap room, and in a perfect “Madden” world there are several. Defensive ends DeMarcus Lawrence (Dallas), Jadeveon Clowney (Houston) and Frank Clark (Seattle) and Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon Bell are four that come to mind, but between their own teams potentially keeping those players (except the Steelers), and the type of money they will command, the odds of the Bucs getting any of those players are pretty slim. Tampa Bay has some tough decisions to make to free up cap room already, and that is just to keep some of its own players, so the chances they are in the running for first-tier free agents this year isn’t very good.
While it won’t be a sexy pick, my priority would be for the Bucs to re-sign wide receiver Adam Humphries and get him back in the fold on a multi-year deal. After that, re-sign middle linebacker Kwon Alexander to a one-year, prove-it deal, and give left tackle Donovan Smith the franchise tag.
One position that is strong in free agency this year is at safety and as we saw last year the market wasn’t great for these guys. Will that continue this season? If so, look for the Bucs to be a player with New York Giants safety Landon Collins on their radar, and of course Houston safety Tyrann Mathieu, who we all know has a history with Bruce Arians from their days together in Arizona. Remember that the Bucs were considering trading for Collins last year before the deadline.
A position that did command a lot of money last season was running back, and it probably will again. If Saints running back Mark Ingram is allowed to test the market I would like to see the Bucs get involved to not only fill a need, but to also deal a blow to the division rival Saints. Another option would be Atlanta’s Tevin Coleman.
Question: What is the biggest challenge for Bruce Arians? I don’t know where to start – Jameis Winston, the defense, roster as a whole?
Answer: Honestly, it is changing the mindset of these players who have been conditioned to losing.
There is an old country saying that says if you kick the dog every time you come home from work, he will eventually stop greeting you and just start staying under the porch. This Bucs team stayed under the porch the last several seasons, and even an influx of Super Bowl experienced players couldn’t change the team’s overall mentality – evidenced by back-to-back 5-11 seasons.
The talent gap from the best team to the worst team in the NFL isn’t nearly as big of a difference as many might think, and the NFL sets it up so the bad teams can get competitive pretty quickly, yet you tend to see the same teams at the bottom of the standings year after year. So much of that is mentality.
Bruce Arians has to change the mindset of these players from thinking they can win to expecting to win. Much of that comes from the weekly preparation and the assistant coaches. I think this staff is as good as we’ve have seen since the Super Bowl days under Jon Gruden, so that part should change. Arians believes the talent is there to win as he has mentioned on occasion. He has the staff he wanted, so there really aren’t many excuses. It is all setting up for a turnaround if the Bucs can fill a few holes, but also close that mental gap.
Question: Do you think the Bucs could score best player available at No. 5 and then grab Michigan linebacker Devin Bush in the 2nd Round? I think he will be a stud at the next level.
Answer: I think it will be best player available at No. 5, but I don’t think Devin Bush will be around by the time the team picks in the second round. I think a possible scenario is Tampa Bay finds a willing trade partner and picks up some extra picks by moving down. A couple teams have multiple first-round picks – Oakland (three) and Green Bay (two), so the Bucs might have the option of selecting at No. 5 then moving back up in the first round if there was a player, like Bush, they wanted. Or they could move down, packaging what they got in that deal (an extra second-rounder or a 2020 first-rounder) to trade back up with a team who only has one first-round pick, but might want to get more picks later themselves. There are a million different scenarios and that is what makes the draft so fun each year.
Linebacker is a big position of need with the team transitioning to more of a 3-4 look. Of course a lot will depend on the recovery of Kwon Alexander (knee) and Kendall Beckwith (ankle), and Jack Cichy (knee) to some degree, but regardless, the team most likely nabs a linebacker in this draft.
Question: Do you guys think Kwon Alexander could benefit from another coach, meaning maybe he learned all he could from Mike Smith and Mark Duffner? And do you think he developed habits from the previous staff?
Answer: I think all players can benefit from hearing a different voice and Kwon Alexander is no different. I believe Mark Duffner was a very good coach and helped develop Alexander nicely the last couple years, but the next question is has Alexander plateaued, or is there some ceiling left? Every player can learn new things and work to improve but is Alexander at the top of his game yet?
There are some in the building – or were in the building – who believed Kendell Beckwith was actually a better middle linebacker, at least before the car accident that cost him the 2018 season. And there are some linebackers in this draft that may be better than Alexander, and that is before you factor in him coming off of an ACL injury.
The current staff has had time to review Alexander’s game tape and make their recommendation to general manager Jason Licht and we will know their thoughts pretty quickly by if the Bucs offer him a new deal before free agency next month.
I love Alexander and what he brings to the table from an energy and production-standpoint, and would like to see him back to see if there is a little more this new staff can squeeze out of him. We know one thing for certain about Alexander, and that is he is a relentless worker, and if anyone can bounce back it will be him.