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Pewter Report’s Scott Reynolds answers your questions from the @PewterReport Twitter account each week in the Bucs Monday Mailbag. Submit your question to the Bucs Monday Mailbag each week via Twitter using the hashtag #PRMailbag. Here are the questions we chose to answer for this week’s edition.

QUESTION: I keep seeing the Bucs And Ndamukong Suh are moving forwards without each other. If true, they should look into a veteran like Akiem Hicks or Jadeveon Clowney. Is there any other possible free agent that the Bucs consider strongly if Suh isn’t coming back?

ANSWER: Ndamukong Suh has hinted he would like to come back and play for Todd Bowles again this season. The issue is Suh’s age (35), which has affected his performance, and his price tag. In his time with the Bucs, he’s signed three one-year deals worth at least $9 million. While Suh did record six sacks again for the second straight year, he had his worst year according to Pro Football Focus. Suh earned a 49.4 grade from PFF last year, and a 61.8 grade in 2020. So, that was a substantial downgrade. Suh’s highest-graded year in Tampa Bay was 69.6, which was his lowest grade since 2011 (59.2). That was his second year in the league with Detroit.

Bears DT Akiem Hicks

Bears DT Akiem Hicks – Photo by: USA Today

The Bucs will almost certainly need to sign another veteran defensive tackle this year. Tampa Bay has also yet to re-sign to veteran Steve McLendon, who is 36. The team likely wants to go in a younger direction and there are still a host of decent free agent defensive tackles available. The longer the Bucs wait, the lower the price tag will be. I love the idea of bringing in Akiem Hicks, even at age 32. I think he’s a great scheme fit.

It could be the same issue at outside linebacker, where the Bucs appear to be moving on from 33-year old Jason Pierre-Paul. Joe Tyron-Shoyinka, last year’s first-round pick, will take over as the starter. But Tampa Bay could be in trouble if he or Shaq Barrett gets injured. Anthony Nelson is an improving depth player, but not an ideal starter for multiple games. Cam Gill, who is currently OLB4, is nothing more than a designated pass rusher.

Look for the Bucs to sign another veteran edge rusher before or during training camp. Former Bucs defender Carl Nassib, 29, is an option because he knows the scheme. Jadeveon Clowney would be much pricier and would demand starter reps, so I don’t see that happening. But maybe another veteran like 33-year old Justin Houston, who is still skilled at getting to the quarterback, would be a better option.

QUESTION: Will Todd Bowles be more hands-off with co-defensive coordinators, and if so, would that mean different calls being made in the last minute of a tie game?

ANSWER: New head coach Todd Bowles will still be calling the defensive plays on the sidelines during games. He will still be very hands-on when it comes to the defense. Co-defensive coordinators Kacy Rodgers (defensive front) and Larry Foote (defensive back end) will be tasked with helping Bowles game plan and scout the team’s opponents during the week.

It will be interesting to see how Bowles handles last-minute calls as the head coach, and if there would be any significant changes from Bruce Arians’ approach. At the end of the first half at Atlanta in 2021, the Bucs got very aggressive near their own end zone with less than a minute left. Tom Brady threw a 3-yard pick-six on a screen pass attempt to Leonard Fournette. Instead of being up 20-10 against the Falcons, the Bucs’ lead was cut to 20-17.

Tampa Bay went on to win anyway, 30-17. But will Bowles play it a little more conservative in instances like that? We’ll find out soon enough.

QUESTION: How will the Bucs defense change this year with new starters at every level?

ANSWER: Tampa Bay could have several different starters on defense this year. We’ll have to see how things shake out during training camp and the preseason. But the plan right now seems to be starting Sean Murphy-Bunting over Logan Ryan at nickel cornerback and Mike Edwards over Keanu Neal at strong safety. The Bucs seem intent to want to give their fourth-year players every chance to earn a new contract by starting them in their contract years. Tampa Bay has a second-round pick invested in Murphy-Bunting and a third-rounder invested in Edwards.

Bucs OLB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka

Bucs OLB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

With Devin White and Lavonte David continuing to start at linebacker, the only position that truly could see a new starter is at the 3-technique defensive tackle spot. Logan Hall, the team’s second-round pick, appears poised to start there as Ndamukong Suh remains unsigned. It seems like the Bucs have decided to move on from the 35-year old Suh for the reasons mentioned above.

Joe Tryon-Shoyinka will start opposite Shaq Barrett, and technically he’s a new starter. Yet Tryon-Shoyinka started six games in place of the oft-injured Jason Pierre-Paul last year, and he played in all 17 games during his rookie season. So, he’s further along than Hall, obviously. It is possible that Hall and Tryon-Shoyinka could be the only new starters on defense in Week 1 if Murphy-Bunting and Edwards lock down their starting jobs in August.

QUESTION: June 1 is significant for teams financially from a salary cap standpoint. What can we expect for the Bucs in a few weeks?

ANSWER: Nothing, really. Since Tom Brady is back for another year, there really isn’t any significance to June 1 this year. The Bucs placed Ali Marpet on the retired list back in March, so there was no June 1 cap designation. That means all of his $7.15 million in dead money hits this year. Tampa Bay will have to contend with $35.104 million in Brady’s dead cap money next year, but that’s another dilemma for another day.

QUESTION: The NFL schedule comes out this week. How many games and who do you think are the opponents of the prime-time games?

ANSWER: That’s a great question. The Bucs have had five prime-time games in each of the last two seasons with Tom Brady under center. I would strongly suspect that will be the case again this year, as five games is the maximum prime-time exposure the league allows per team.

Bucs NT Vita Vea

Bucs NT Vita Vea – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

I would suspect the Bucs will continue to play the Saints in prime time. That’s been the case in each of the last two years with Tampa Bay getting – and losing – a home Sunday night game to New Orleans. The Bucs-Cowboys game in Dallas seems poised for prime time as well. That should be a ratings bonanza for either Sunday night, Monday night or Thursday night. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bucs played Dallas on Thanksgiving this year if they don’t start season there on Monday Night Football.

So, aside from the Saints and Cowboys getting prime-time games, I would also think that the Rams, Packers and Bengals would also be in play. Seeing Brady duel Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers again would be must-see football. And Brady going head-to-head against Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow would also be intriguing for a nationally televised audience. If not the Bengals, then maybe the Ravens and Lamar Jackson or Kansas City and Patrick Mahomes. I suspect one of Bucs’ big games against an AFC opponent would be in prime time this year.

QUESTION: I was wondering if you could tell us what the Bucs paid their undrafted players – salary plus signing bonus.

ANSWER: All rookies have a first-year base salary of $705,000. That’s the league minimum salary. Each team has a pool of money it can spend on signing bonus money for undrafted free agents. That pool is $167,944 this year, and teams don’t have to use all that money if they don’t want to.

Here is a list of Tampa Bay’s 13 undrafted free agents.

Western Kentucky WR Jerreth Sterns
Utah State WR Deven Thompkins
Texas Tech WR Kaylon Geiger
Wisconsin-River Falls TE Ben Beise
Montana OT Dylan Cook
Ball State G Curtis Blackwell
Arkansas State OLB JoJo Ozougwu
Old Dominion OLB Jordan Young
Rutgers ILB Olakunle Fatukasi
Memphis ILB J.J. Russell
North Carolina CB Kyler McMichael
South Dakota State CB Don Gardner
Clemson S Nolan Turner

The Bucs gave McMichael the largest signing bonus of $30,000. The team also guaranteed $100,000 of his base salary. That means Tampa Bay likes McMichael the most for now, and he’s got a slightly better chance of making the roster. Turner got a $15,000 signing bonus, while Gardner got $10,000 and Beise got $5,000.

While teams cannot give more than the $167,944 worth of bonus money each year, a work-around has been discovered. It’s the guaranteed money. Teams can use guaranteed money to help persuade an undrafted free agent to sign. It was hard getting free agents interested in signing with the Bucs this year because their roster is so stocked with talent. There aren’t many spots on the depth chart available. We’ll keep an eye on McMichael, Turner, Beise, Sterns and Thompkins in Bucs rookie mini-camp, which starts this Friday.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 27th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive coordinator/defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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fredster
fredster
7 days ago

The Bucs depth at DT and OLB is pretty scary at present. I don’t feel good about either. Even if Shaq and JTS stay healthy they need another proven pass rusher in the rotation imo. You would think Suh would be reasonable and play for 4-5 million for chance for one more ring. I doubt anyone is going to pay him more.

Dman
Dman
7 days ago

Wow – $35 million in dead cap space next year for TB. Gonna be a rough 2023.

Captain Sly
Captain Sly
Reply to  Dman
7 days ago

yep! They kicked that can down the road far enough now its time to pay the toll. But Its really why getting some contracts like the Vea deal done early was huge because at least they could convert some of it to a signing bonus which would absorb some of the sting. $35mil is manageable some team are over $100mil

Onetime
Onetime
7 days ago

I don’t buy that it was hard to sign undrafted free agents due to a stacked roster. There are opportunities at the very back end of the roster RB, WR, TE, Edge Rush, DT, LB, CB and Safety.
That’s a great little narrative the Bucs proactively put out there about why they weren’t able to sign the more prominent UDFAs. Reality is our roster is stacked at the top and shallow on the back end. And the back end is where UDFAs have an opportunity.

scubog
scubog
7 days ago

I still remember the days when folks claimed we couldn’t lure undrafted free agents because it was the Yucs. Now, we’re saying they don’t want to come here because their chance of making the team is limited? At least we’re not so desperate to hope one or more of these relatively unknown players turns into a starter.