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: For some reason Ke’Shawn Vaguhn intrigues me the most. He balled in the SEC on a team with no talent and had a huge game against LSU, I can see down the line him being a key contributor.
Answer: Yes, I am in agreement with you. Scott Reynolds and Jon Ledyard were both mixed initially when the Ke’Shawn Vaughn pick was made, but I had done our running back preview prior to the draft, and feel somewhat better about him than they do, or did at the time. Both Reynolds and Ledyard seemed okay with the pick, but I think it was the value of taking him in the third round that raised their eyebrows.
Vaughn is a tough runner, and while no one will confuse him with Saquon Barkley in terms of overall skill, that doesn’t mean he can’t be effective in Bruce Arians’ offense in Tampa Bay. I also had the opportunity to speak to him after he was drafted on a conference call and the young man doesn’t lack for confidence. He also seems like a player who is a hard worker and will come into camp on a mission.
This isn’t Jeremy McNichols, or even Ronald Jones II as a rookie. Vaughn is more mature and appears to have a genuine love for football. And as some who know him and have coached him have said, he plays with an edge.
Now there is a reason he wasn’t mentioned in the same breath in the pre-draft process as players like LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Florida State’s Cam Akers or Wisconsin’s Johnathan Taylor. From a pure athletic standpoint, he isn’t one of those mentioned players. But that doesn’t mean he won’t be successful in the NFL.
Kareem Hunt and Alvin Kamara were third-round draft picks, and Milton Mack lasted until the fourth round. And look no further that San Francisco’s Raheem Mostert, a player who want even drafted at all but ended up being a key contributor tot he 49es reaching the Super Bowl last season.
The biggest question was value. Did the Bucs take Vaughn too early? Could they have traded down late in the third round or even waited until the fifth round? Obviously it wasn’t a chance Tampa Bay was willing to take seeing that the team didn’t have a fourth-round pick.
Question: Two questions – do you think Bucs will dive into second wave of free agency now that it won’t effect comp picks? Do you think the Bucs will change their philosophy on pushing out the cap with signing bonuses to create more space on current contracts?
Answer: Yes, the Buccaneers will still look to add some pieces between now and the start of training camp. The longer it goes, the more the price drops for some of these veteran players who are still without a home. I think Tampa Bay could consider a veteran running back to add to the roster. They did it last year with Andre Ellington, and of course Dirk Koetter had his veteran guy in Jacquizz Rogers.
Players like Carlos Hyde, Devonta Freeman and Chris Thompson are still out there and probably have some gas left in the tank – and they can catch the ball. If anything, it would be like adding an extra coach in these meeting rooms, someone who can relate to Jones and Vaughn and be somewhat of mentor.
Prior to the drafting of Antoine Winfield, Jr. I was very much in favor of Tampa Bay adding a veteran safety with a player like Tony Jefferson or even Eric Reid. However, it is already a crowded unit so the likelihood of that happening now has shrunk – especially if the team feels Justin Evans might be able to return for 2020.
And don’t forget Tampa Bay has Mike Edwards, who was a third-round pick in 2019 who the team thinks will be improved this year. The Bucs also liked a lot of what Jordan Whitehead was able to do in his first season under Todd Bowles.
As far as changing its philosophy on how the team structures deals, that is highly unlikely to change. Director of football administration Mike Greenberg has done a masterful job of keeping the Buccaneers out of salary cap issues, and his formula of fully guaranteeing the first and second year of most contracts has worked well as the Bucs are routinely the top team in the NFL with the least amount of dead cap space.
Question: Which of the players outside of the top two picks, most likely make an impact as rookies? Any of the UDFAs stand out?
Answer: We have already mentioned Vaughn as someone who I believe will surprise some of the naysayers, but there is also a lot to like about fifth-round draft pick Tyler Johnson, who set numerous school records at Minnesota, including being the all-time leader in receptions, yards and touchdowns.
Johnson said on his conference call he feels equally comfortable as a receiver on the outside or in the slot. With Breshad Perriman’s departure via free agency to the Jets, the Buccaneers now have a big hole to fill by finding a number three receiver. While the team is still high on Scotty Miller, the 2019 sixth-rounder couldn’t stay healthy long enough to make much of an impact as a rookie. And Justin Watson’s development has been slow at best.
As far as UDFAs to keep an eye on, Oklahoma cornerback Parnell Motely reportedly had a lot of interest from around the league, but chose to sign with Tampa Bay. Motely was a second team All-Big 12 selection last year after leading the Sooners with 13 pass breakups and forced five fumbles, which was tied for second most in all of college football. At 6-0, 180 pounds, Motely has the size to play a lot of press man coverage something required in Bowles scheme.
And keep an eye on wide receiver Josh Pearson who ran a 4.46 at his pro day at 6-4, 205 pounds. Pearson also had 30 touchdowns receptions in the past two years including 17 as a junior. Montana State wide receiver Travis Jonsen is also interesting because he was a former quarterback who moved to wide receiver and also ran out of the wildcat formation. The 6-foot-4, 211-pound Jonsen had over 500 yards receiving and a touchdown and 500 yards rushing and eight touchdowns last year as a dual threat.
Question: Why did the Bucs not address CB depth in the draft?
Answer: There are only so many picks to go around and the team felt offensive line, safety, and running back were bigger needs to target early. Once a team gets out of the top three rounds the percentages of success go way down and sits at less than 30 percent. And sometimes the guys teams felt could come in and contribute while fitting in the scheme, are gone.
We saw that with offensive line last season. Once the group of players were gone that they had ranked on their board, they didn’t want to reach for a player on the line that they felt wasn’t a good fit or value, strictly based on need.
And lastly what we perceive as lacking depth, sometimes the team doesn’t have the same opinion. Or perhaps they have some current free agents that they plan to bring in now that the draft is over. The Bucs are currently up against the wall from a salary cap standpoint, but if they feel the need to address cornerback still, they can make some space available.
Tampa Bay has three starters in Carlton Davis, Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean, Ryan Smith, Mazzi Wilkins, Herb Miller and the newly signed Parnell Motley. Don’t forget about M.J. Stewart, who was a second-round pick in 2018, either. He was disappointing in his first two years, but will get another training camp to prove his worth.
The Bucs will likely keep five or six cornerbacks and Davis, Murphy-Bunting and Dean are locks, in addition to Smith for his special teams prowess. Tampa Bay only needs one or two more to make the 55-man roster in 2020, so it will be between Wilkins, Miller, Motley and Stewart for the last spot or two on the depth chart.