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: When does DeSean Jackson go?
Answer: He just got traded to Philadelphia for a sixth-round pick in 2019 and a conditional seventh-rounder 2020. It was almost a forgone conclusion after the 2018 season that DeSean Jackson had played his last game for the Buccaneers, but there was a lot of talk this offseason he could possibly stay, especially at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis from head coach Bruce Arians and general manager Jason Licht, who met with Jackson this offseason and discussed him staying in red and pewter.
If the Bucs were in a better place with their salary cap, he might have returned, but with Tampa Bay struggling just to have enough money to re-sign some of its own players before even thinking about the open free agent market, the team needed the salary cap space. In the end it looked like all that bluster in Indy was done to attempt to drive up his trade value. Tampa Bay attempted to trade Jackson to Philadelphia over the weekend, and his $10 million salary for 2019 looked like it might be prohibitive.
Washington was reportedly interested in signing Jackson if he were to be released, and the Eagles didn’t want him going to their NFC East rival, so they pulled the trigger on the trade. Jackson bid Tampa Bay farewell on Twitter earlier on Monday, but the Bucs didn’t want to release him and were holding out hope that a deal could still be worked out.
In the end, Jackson got what he wanted, which was to go back to Philadelphia where his career began in 2008 as a second-round pick. The Bucs got something for releasing him rather than nothing – in addition to the $10 million of precious salary cap room that Tampa Bay needed.
Question: General thought is that we hired Bruce Arians to win now. Does cutting some talented veterans and trading down to get draft picks to replace them really help that scenario more than keeping veterans like Adam Humphries, Gerald McCoy, and Kwon Alexander?
Answer: I see your point, but let’s not forget this was a 5-11 football team the last two seasons. While I believe much of the Bucs’ problem over the last couple of years was coaching, you can’t let the guys in the locker room off the hook completely. While Adam Humphries is a fan favorite, and one of the most humble and hard-working players on the team, replacing him for a third of what he would cost to re-sign, isn’t too far-fetched – especially since he will get $9 million a year in Tennessee.
Humphries is a solid player, but in Tampa Bay he was the team’s third option in the receiving game – at best – and really closer to being the fourth option. Teams can’t build a Super Bowl contender paying $9 million per year for an 800-yard receiver that is that far down the pecking order behind the likes of receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, and tight end O.J. Howard. Humphries won’t be returning to Tampa Bay and is set to sign with Tennessee for four years at $36 million – $9 million per year).
With Gerald McCoy, while still a Top 10 defensive tackle in the league, can the Bucs really justify paying him $13 million per season for another six-sack season? And at age 31, is McCoy, who has battled through injuries in recent years, even capable of putting up six sacks in Todd Bowles’ new defense? Time will tell.
Bucs general manager Jason Licht called middle linebacker Kwon Alexander, the “heartbeat of the defense,” but couldn’t justify paying more than $10 million per year for a player coming off a torn ACL surgery. Alexander cashed in on a four-year, $54 million deal in San Francisco where he’ll average $13.5 million per year and receive $27 million in guaranteed money. In return, Tampa Bay should receive a compensatory pick in the 2020 draft for losing Alexander in free agency, perhaps in the third round.
Drafting, developing and re-signing your own talent is of course the most proven way to succeed in the NFL, but sometimes good players end up walking and you have to hope you have developed players to fill that role, or that you draft the right ones to take over. And maybe ones with even more potential and higher ceilings.
Question: Which current Bucs players do you think could make a “successful” transition to 3-4 OLB?
Answer: I think both starting defensive ends, Carl Nassib and Jason Pierre-Paul will have no problems adjusting to the roles of strongside and weakside linebacker, respectively in certain packages, especially Pierre-Paul who has already showcased his versatility over his career. The wild card in the bunch might be Noah Spence.
Personally, I am sick of talking about a guy who for whatever reason, just hasn’t lived up to his second-round draft status, but the Bucs front office still believes in his potential. But it is do-or-die for Spence this season. This will be his third defensive line coach now, and the excuses are running thin at One Buccaneer Place.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s first see what the Buccaneers actually run once the mini-camps get started. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has repeatedly said, the scheme will be built around the players he has not the other way around. Expect Tampa Bay to deploy a 3-4 and a 4-3 defensive scheme under Bowles.
Question: You guys were at the Combine, any rumblings of other teams interested trading for Gerald McCoy or Cameron Brate?
Answer: Scott Reynolds attended this year and came away with some great information. While the Bucs were talking up Gerald McCoy and DeSean Jackson, Reynolds cautioned the likelihood both are back was quite slim. And now that’s the case with Jackson being traded, and Reynolds was correct. Much of the praise was likely some posturing by Bruce Arians and Jason Licht to keep potential trade partners guessing in hopes of getting something in return.
We’ll see if McCoy is the next to go via a trade or if Arians and Licht were sincere about keeping him in red and pewter for one more season. Another good get from Indianapolis was that Cameron Brate isn’t going anywhere this season despite counting $7 million against the cap, as PewterReport.com previously reported. The Bucs value Brate’s red zone production and have also seen O.J. Howard’s first two seasons but short due to injury.
With Adam Humphries leaving via free agency for Tennessee, the Bucs didn’t want Jameis Winston to have to lose another valuable, trusted target in an ever-important contract year. Thus Brate, who had hip surgery to repair a torn labrum this offseason, will remain in Tampa Bay and play for $7 million in 2019.