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: Do we see a tight end moved before the season starts?
Answer: I really think it is doubtful. I suspect if the Buccaneers had a desire to move a tight end, it would have happened prior to the draft or in the Rob Gronkowksi deal with the Patriots. What would be the benefit of trading a tight end now or before the start of the season? Unless it would be a player-for-player deal that included a starter that the Buccaneers could plug-and-play right now, I don’t think there is any reason to trade a tight end for what most likely would just be a future draft pick.
Gronkowski, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate and even Antony Auclair have all had some injury issues over the years. It is a tough position to stay healthy at for 16 games. Bucs fans constantly scream about a lack of depth, and now the Bucs have the deepest tight end group in the NFL by far. I think the Buccaneers know Gronkowksi is just a wrong hit away from being done, and they also would like to see Howard in his second year in the system.
So getting rid of any of their tight ends seems highly unlikely.
Question: Will the Buccaneers have a 1,000 rusher this season?
Answer: If I had to bet, I would say no, but I do believe their rushing attack will be considerably better in 2020 than it was last year. The Buccaneers only averaged 3.7 yards per run in 2019, and that should improve. First with a commitment to more of a run-pass balance by the staff, secondly with more experience in the scheme from the offensive line and Ronald Jones, and third, Ke’Shawn Vaughn hopefully being an upgrade over Peyton Barber.
With less turnovers from the quarterback position, and hopefully a defense that plays more like the one we saw over the last six games of the year, the Buccaneers should be able to run the ball more effectively. Meaning they shouldn’t be playing catch up.
If the Buccaneers do have a 1,000 yard rusher in 2020, my money is on Jones over the rookie Vaughn. But I can also see the team running somewhat of a platoon system like they did last year. If that is the case again then we might not see a 1,000 rusher, but most likely a running back committee that can average more than four yards per carry. Even if the Bucs only run 409 times like they did in 2019, but average 4.5 yards per carry, they move nearly into the Top 10 in rushing as a team.
Arians loves to throw the ball, that isn’t going to change. And when a team has two Pro Bowl receivers who averaged over 15 yards a catch last year, why would they try and force the team to be a running team? They won’t. And shouldn’t. The Chiefs won the Super Bowl rushing for just 49 more total yards than the Bucs. And the Raiders, Browns and Jaguars were all considerably better at running the football last year than Tampa Bay, and where did it get them? A seat on the couch next to the Bucs, watching the postseason.
Question: Someone inevitably gets injured during the football season. Which player can the Bucs least afford to lose for a long period of time?
Answer: The obvious and easy answer is quarterback Tom Brady. If he gets injured for any significant time, the season is done. But that is too simple, so let’s look at a few others. Picking just one is too difficult so I will list one offensively and one on defense.
Offensively I would say losing center Ryan Jensen would be tough. The Bucs could always flip Ali Marpet back to center and go with Joe Haeg at guard, but it would be a complete disruption of any sort of continuity.
Ideally, the Bucs would prefer to have someone who could just come in and fill Jensen’s spot, but who is that player? As of now, Anthony Fabiano and Zach Shackelford are the only two players listed behind Jensen at center. However, neither have any NFL experience, so what the team would do if Jensen went down is still a big question mark.
Defensively, there are more issues with depth in my opinion, particularly at the OLB spot. Losing Carl Nassib hurt this offseason, so if Jason Pierre-Paul or Shaq Barrett were to miss any significant time, that would leave the Bucs counting on Anthony Nelson for significant playing time. And maybe he elevates his game and becomes more of an impact player in his second season, but it’s a big question mark. Pewter Report’s Jon Ledyard broke down Nelson’s game and based on his evaluation, there could be cause for concern if he were forced into significant snaps.
Cornerback depth is still somewhat of an issue, too. Losing Jamel Dean or Carlton Davis would create major headaches for the Bucs coaching staff. I think you could hide the loss of Sean Murphy-Bunting a little easier, but not Dean or Davis. Especially in a division with such good quarterback and receiver play.
With all of that said, this team isn’t done re-tooling and adjusting their roster. There will be unknown players emerging and some players regressing. Super Bowl winning teams aren’t always just the most talented team, a lot of luck is involved, especially on the injury front.
Question: What is the Bucs current cap situation after the draft before we sign the picks?
Answer: The teams sits around $5 million right now. They will need a good chunk of that to sign their rookie class and will also need some cap space in reserve for the season to possibly add players if they get hammered with injuries.
I don’t expect any major roster shakeups to clear cap space, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see some deals re-worked to free up some money. In fact they almost have to. I can’t say who the players might be, but the Bucs front office and their cap guru Mike Greenberg do a masterful job of keeping the Buccaneers out of salary cap issues and routinely have the least amount of dead cap money year after year.