The PR Bucs Monday Mailbag is where PewterReport.com’s Mark Cook answers your questions from our Pewter Report 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: Other than drafting Noah Spence, the team hasn’t seemed to prioritize drafting an edge rusher. While it isn’t a great edge draft class, do the Bucs prioritize a young rusher, or do they try and pick up an older FA?
Answer: The good news about winning a Super Bowl means a team is pretty solid and without many holes. That gives a team like Tampa Bay more options when entering the draft, meaning it doesn’t need to feel pressured to take a player that must be an impact starter as a rookie. That also allows the Buccaneers to maybe take a little more of a risk as well. General manager Jason Licht might have a gut feeling on a player that other teams don’t have ranked as a first-rounder, or vice versa. It also gives Tampa Bay flexibility to trade out of the first round to pick up additional picks where they can stack up at a position of future need.
As you implied, finding a future starter to rush the passer is likely to be high on Licht and his staff’s priority list. Even if the team finds a way to keep Shaq Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, who is 31, is likely done after this season. If Barrett doesn’t re-sign, it becomes an even bigger priority with Pierre-Paul’s age.
As you also mentioned, the isn’t a great class in terms of Top 15 worthy pass rushers, but at No. 32 there could be value. PewterReport.com’s Jon Ledyard recently profiled one of those with Miami pass rusher Jaelan Phillips. Read Ledyard’s evaluation here.
Question: I keep hearing the Bucs can’t bring everyone back. Not sure why bringing back Shaq Barrett, Chris Godwin, Lavonte David, Ndamukong Suh, Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown and Ryan Succop is a stretch. They have pushed virtually no money forward – not because of the plan but because they just haven’t had enough good players to re-sign.
Answer: I completely agree with you. Everyone just assumes the team can’t keep everyone, but that just isn’t the case. However, that doesn’t mean they want to bring everyone back at the price those players want. The Buccaneers can keep anyone they want to be back in 2021 between the franchise tag and re-signing them as free agents.
And while it is true they currently don’t have enough money under the proposed 2021 cap right this minute, the front office can clear enough room through extensions, restructures, pay cuts and salary cap cuts to keep their current class of free agents in Tampa Bay next season. Extending left tackle Donovan Smith, quarterback Tom Brady and even center Ryan Jensen, for example, could clear some cap room, and then there is also the restructure options for some others like left guard Ali Marpet.
That is where the front office and the coaching staff’s prioritization comes into play. Is it worth cutting tight end Cameron Brate, who is scheduled to make $6.5 million to keep running back Leonard Fournette? Are the Bucs sold enough on Smith as their future left tackle for the next five years to bring him back and possibly lower his 2021 cap hit, which is $14.25 million? These are some of the things Licht and director of football administration Mike Greenberg have been discussing and will continue to talk about.
There is nothing easy about keeping the group together, but it can be done if the Bucs believe they need to bring everyone back.
Question: Let’s say Tom Brady retires and you can replace him with one current NFL quarterback not named Patrick Mahomes. Who are you choosing to run coach BA’s offense?
Answer: I love these type of hypothetical questions from time to time, and this one is particularly fun. Since you eliminated the obvious choice of Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, it get a little more complicated. There are a number of quarterbacks that would look really good in red and pewter. Players like Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, Seattle’s Russell Wilson, Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson would be fun to watch and cover, but for me it comes down to the Chargers’ Justin Herbert and the Texans’ Deshaun Watson. I almost threw Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow in this final three, but his youth and the fact that he is coming off a major knee injury kept him off my list.
Herbert would be the perfect fit in a Bruce Arians offense. Tough pocket passer, functionally mobile and has a cannon for an arm, Herbert is a future NFL star with a huge ceiling. Can you imagine him getting coached up by Arians?
But at the end to the day, I would go with Watson, who has all of those Herbert traits – although he’s much more mobile – and still can probably grow even more as quarterback. He could be a 10-year starter for the Bucs and break all the franchise records. Watson’s arm is incredible and he was the darling of the league, but has been overshadowed by Kansas City’s star QB somewhat in the AFC the last two years.
For me, Watson has the perfect blend of talent and experience, combined with a lot of football left in the tank and would be my choice. It will be interesting to see where he lands in a trade as the Texans as he wants out of Houston.
Question: Going into the offseason, if you were the Bucs G.M., who is the No. 1 re-sign target, free agent target and need to address in draft?
Answer: It is really hard to pick just one player re-sign target. In fact, the PewterReport.com staff shared its thoughts on who that priority would be in this weekend’s PR Roundtable. I went with wide receiver Chris Godwin as mine, and you can read the article to see who everyone else picked. I still think it would be a crime to see Lavonte David in another uniform other than one with the Buccaneers’ logo on it, but I think the team, especially the Glazers, will make sure he retires in Tampa Bay.
As far a a free agent target, I would personally love to see J.J. Watt in a Bucs uniform next season and beyond. Teams can never have enough pass rushers and Watt is still pretty good. And sometimes a change of scenery revives guys who might be on the tail end of their career. Jason Pierre-Paul is a perfect example of that. Other than Watt, I think the Buccaneers must add a veteran pass-catching running back like James White or even Dion Lewis, both of whom have a history with Brady.
In terms of a need to address in the draft, that is wide open for me. Of course my answer might be narrowed down following free agency, based on players the Buccaneers might lose. But as of now, if I had to choose one area the team could use some additional talent, it would be at running back. I’m not saying that have to draft one at No. 32, but for sure in the first three rounds.