Florida State RB Dalvin Cook – Photo by: Getty Images
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming off an impressive 9-7 season in 2016, which was the first under head coach Dirk Koetter. With a few upgrades to the team’s roster, the Bucs should have the talent to make the playoffs and compete for the NFC South title this season.
PewterReport.com writers Scott Reynolds, Mark Cook and Trevor Sikkema have all come up with their own versions of the Bucs’ 2017 Offseason Battle Plans that feature free agent signings, trades and draft picks designed to help get the Bucs get double-digit wins and into the postseason. I’ve got the second Bucs’ Battle Plan, so take a look and let me know what you think in the article comments section below.
Remember, this is how I would reshape the team this offseason – not necessarily what I think the Buccaneers will do in free agency and the draft, although there could be some overlap with certain players Tampa Bay may be targeting.
The Bucs enter the 2017 offseason with approximately $61.9 million in available salary cap space, according to OverTheCap.com. While that seems like a lot of money – and it is, fifth most in the league – the Bucs have a number of their own players that need to be re-signed. When your team is 9-7, I would want to keep as many of them together as possible. Continuity.
First and foremost is making star wide receiver Mike Evans a very happy – and a very rich – man. I would get this deal done prior to the beginning of free agency for a very specific reason. More on that later.
As mentioned above, while the Bucs have tons of cap room, I would make more by cutting running back Doug Martin ($7 million) and cornerback Alterraun Verner ($6.5 million), adding $13.5 million to the available money the Bucs have. Martin let the team down with his suspension that would carry over into the first three games of 2017, and Verner, who can still play in the league, is just in a log jam position with too high of a salary to be a backup and won’t have a problem finding a new home.
I agree with a number of the offseason moves that Scott Reynolds proposed on Wednesday with a few changes. Here are the specifics of the offseason moves I would make if I was the Bucs’ general manager.
BUCS’ PLAYERS DESERVING OF REWORKED CONTRACTS
Tampa Bay WR Mike Evans – 5 years, $65 million ($13 million per year average)
Bucs WR Mike Evans and QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Getting Evans locked up and in the fold for the next five years should be – and is – a priority for the Bucs this offseason. Getting it done prior to free agency would allow the Bucs to pursue another high-priced free agent wideout without potentially risking hurting Evans’ feelings.
Before you say why does that matter, let me ask you this. Say you are an insurance salesman, one of the very best in the entire country, and your boss hires someone that does the exact same job as you, has a desk right next to yours, but isn’t quite as good as you. In fact, he is hired knowing you are the best in your company, knows you are the focus in the industry, yet the new guy will make double or more than you do? How would that sit with you?
Get Evans locked up and don’t even risk it. He has earned a lucrative contract extension, and doing it now if possible, would keep Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. from setting the market first, which could cost Tampa Bay even more money down the road.
BUCS’ UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENT RE-SIGNINGS
Tampa Bay DE Will Gholston – 4 years, $6 million per year
Like when the Bucs rewarded Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David, and Martin with new deals, drafting, developing and then paying second contracts to a player like Gholston sends the right message to young players that the team is serious about rewarding those that deserve it.
Tampa Bay RB Jacquizz Rodgers – 3 years, $2.5 million per year
While Rodgers performed well when given the opportunity last season, the jury is still out on if he is a 300-a-carry, 1,200-yard running back. I am drafting a starter anyway, so paying more that $2.5 million a season doesn’t make much sense, but having security if the new starter goes down is worth every penny of a new deal for Rodgers. Just not too many pennies. I would let him test the market if he chooses, but wouldn’t be held hostage by his agent.
Tampa Bay S Bradley McDougald – 2 years, $3 million per year
McDougald and safety teammate played well at times in 2016, but with Keith Tandy’s emergence, and the team looking to upgrade the position in free agency (see below), someone had to go and McDougald will compete with Tandy for the right to start.
Bucs WR Russell Shepard – Photo by: Getty Images
Tampa Bay WR Russell Shepard – 2 years, $2 million
A jack of all trades kind of player, and a favorite in the locker room, Shepard deserves at least two years and $2 million per season. Quarterback Jameis Winston is pleased to have his friend Shepard back.
Tampa Bay CB Josh Robinson – 2 years, $2 million per year
A special teams standout, Robinson has found a niche in the NFL and capitalizes on in with a two-year deal to stay in Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay DT Akeem Spence – 3 years, $2.5 million per year
A great teammate and steady contributor, the Bucs give Spence a three-year deal and he and Gholston who came into the league together in 2013, are teammates for at least three more seasons.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENT RE-SIGNINGS
Tampa Bay DE Jacquies Smith (tender) – 1 year, $1.75 million (estimated)
Smith is coming off a torn ACL that he suffered in the 2016 season opener, but should be able to participate in training camp. If he is 100 percent after hid return, Smith could be a bargain for the Bucs.
Tampa Bay QB Ryan Griffin (tender) – 1 year, $1.75 million (estimated)
The backup quarterback market is weak one, and that benefits Griffin, who hasn’t been particularly impressive in preseason games when given a chance. Still, the Bucs will have an open spot after losing Mike Glennon in free agency.
BUCS UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS NOT RE-SIGNED
WR Vincent Jackson
At age 34, Jackson leaves the Bucs as one of the best free agent additions in team history. Unfortunately, Father Time catches up with everyone, and Jackson is no longer the player signed from the Chargers back in 2012.
C Joe Hawley
A fan favorite, not signing the “great bearded one” hurts a little. The Bucs think Marpet could shift over to center, and think Evan Smith or even Ben Gottschalk could become a full-time center in 2017. If Hawley doesn’t find many suitors in free agency he could be brought back. These are the tough decisions that you sometimes second guess.
S Chris Conte
There was a lot to like in Conte’s game in 2016, once the defense as a whole started playing better under Mike Smith. The Bucs didn’t necessarily want to lose Conte, but with big money tied up in a new safety (see below) it was a crowded barn, and Conte moves on.
QB Mike Glennon – Photo by: Getty Images
QB Mike Glennon
Glennon my not get Brock Osweiler money in free agency, but it only takes a couple teams bidding for his service to drive the price sky high. Either way he will be way too expensive for the Bucs’ taste and Glennon ends up a starter elsewhere.
OT Gosder Cherilus
Cherilus is a well-liked and respected teammate inside the Bucs locker room, but his days as a NFL player are most likely behind him due to the wear and tear on his body over the years.
WR Cecil Shorts
Shorts sustained a severe knee injury that could unfortunately cost him his NFL career. Coming back from his injury could take more than a season.
RB Antone Smith
Smith suffered a torn ACL during the season and at age 31, you have to wonder if he wants to even attempt a comeback.
DT John Hughes
The Bucs opt to re-sign Akeem Spence but keeps Hughes in mind when training camp approaches.
DT Sealver Siliga
Siliga was Tampa Bay’s short-yardage defensive tackle, but wants too much money for such a limited role. He’s expendable with Spence’s return.
TE Brandon Myers
Myers was a dependable blocker with good hands, but the team decides to get younger and allows him to test free agent waters. If the Bucs have an injury at tight end, Myers is the first guy they’ll call.
LB Daryl Smith
Smith was a great veteran presence at the Sam linebacker spot but didn’t make much of an on the field impact. The team will miss his leadership but like at tight end, decides to go younger at the position.
FREE AGENT ADDITIONS
Los Angeles WR Kenny Britt – 4 years, $6 million per season
Had former head coach Greg Schiano been given a third season, he wanted to bring his former college player, Britt, in as a wide receiver. Many scoffed at the idea when PewterReport.com first reported it in 2013, with Britt’s early legal trouble in the league. But Britt has matured and been a solid receiver for the Rams the past two seasons, and had over 1,000 yards receiving in a putrid Rams offense in 2016. Britt gives Winston two 1,000-yard receivers and also gives the team more options for the draft. He’s not DeSean Jackson buzz-worthy, but for the price and what he will be asked to do, he could be a steal.
Arizona S Tony Jefferson – 4 years, $5.75 million per season
The Cardinals would love to keep Jefferson around but already have a ton of money tied up in their secondary and most likely will lose the talented young safety. Jason Licht is familiar with Jefferson (former front office member of the Cards) and knows he is an immediate starter in Tampa Bay. While he isn’t exactly Eric Berry, Jefferson, who had six forced fumbles, five sacks and two interceptions for Arizona, also won’t cost the Bucs $12-14 million that Berry might command if he makes it to free agency.
DE Charles Johnson – Photo: Getty Images
Carolina DE Charles Johnson – 2 years, $5 million per season
Tampa Bay did their best to sign Johnson last offseason, even offering more money than the Panthers, but when the dust settled, Johnson chose to return to Carolina on a one-year deal. This time the Bucs get their man, and while Johnson’s production has slipped, the former Georgia standout might benefit from a change of scenery. He still contributed four sacks and three forced fumbles last season.
After the Bucs re-sign their own players, and add additional ones, their salary cap number sits at just over $27 million. They will need approximately $5 million for their draft picks and will need some reserve money for camp injury replacements but are sitting in pretty good shape as the season begins.
You can expect a few more lower-tier free agent signings, and most likely they will bring in a kicker or two during the offseason to compete with Roberto Aguayo, but don’t expect them to drop big money on a free agent kicker.
See my 7-round Bucs mock draft on the next page.
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at email@example.com
Ouch… I’m not in love with the idea of the Bucs trading up. Someone is going to fall to them at 19. We really need that 2nd rounder. Love the Corn Elder pick. I’m a Miami fan and can say that the kid is solid. I would still like to see the Bucs draft a QB like Josh Dobbs to fill Glennon’s shoes. All in all, I like Scott’s pick of McCaffery in the first round. If the Bucs could trade back a few spots and grab another pick or two, that would be a great move.
Watching the Noles and Canes every year, Elder stood out. Had a really good game against FSU last year.
I agree with cutting Doug Martin, the Bucs are lucky to be able to get out of that contract. BUT now you want to overpay Jacquizz Rodgers. $2.5 million per year for 3 years? Let me give you an example of RB average salaries for last year. Le’Bell $1.03 mil, Blount $1 mil, David Johnson $748k, Ty Montgomery $737k, Ajayi $625k, Latavius Murray $566k, Thomas Rawls $530k…and finally Charles Sims $775k.
Stop over paying RBs. Draft them and the cost will be around $500k. Put them money into the OL.
Sorry Mark, you lost me at trading up with the cost being next year’s #1 or 2 2nd’s. No way I’m paying that for a running back. That kinda screws up the rest of the draft for me. You make some good picks, but by trading up we lose a good player in the 2nd that this team really can’t afford to lose.
I am not a big fan of trading up, either. The only way I be in favor of it is if Cook has Adrian Peterson type of impact. Mark, Is he that dynamic? There are other good backs in this draft to pick in the latter rounds.
Overall, I like Scott’s plan better. But, so far each plan has the Bucs getting better, which is exciting.
With respect to Mark, I don’t like this battle plan at all, not a bit. I’ve been on record many times here saying that the Bucs should never, ever draft a running back in the first round again – how many times do we have to keep banging our heads against THAT brick wall! – but this plan greatly compounds the error by actually giving up our extremely valuable second rounder to pick up a fantastically over-drafted running back .. that’s just senseless! The kind of deal that gets a GM fired.
I don’t see Jason Licht being that dumb. It’s just not him to do something like that.
True they need to keep that second round pick to draft another kicker.
No, I’d rather see the Bucs use that pick on something else of a real need … everybody has their own idea of priority needs, on that there will never be consensus. But to give it up altogether? Nope.
Haha! Glad you got my joke. Hopefully Jason did as well. So far he hasn’t texted me…
Not in him? Ummm …..
Charles Johnson is over the hill and not worth 5M a season. The Bucs would be better served letting Spence walk and then using that addition 2-3M to sign a real DT to pair with McCoy. Tony Jefferson is talented but spending that kind of money when McDougald was very good down the stretch just doesn’t make sense. If the Bucs pay a safety it better be Eric Berry or else we should use that money in other areas like the OL or TE which were both neglected in your battle plans. The draft also makes no sense when you consider the goal is to add playmakers around Jameis, I’d rather have Howard/Njoku AND Mixon over just trading up for Cook. I’m certainly not against drafting Dalvin if he were to fall but trading up and losing a 2nd is too expensive. People love to use the Dallas comparison but fail to mention to 3-4 All Pro OL they have clearing the way for the rookie QB and RB. We can beat Dallas next year but I think we will need our draft picks in round 1-3 and a much better approach to FA to do so.
IF Cook can help get the team into the playoffs for the next 4-5 years, why not? That’s a big IF, not a slam dunk. How about if he sustains a knee injury, will it be worth it then? I don’t like RBs in the 1st and trading away next year’s number one would be horrible, much like trading up for the sensational kicker that was going to be a special weapon to help the team get to the playoffs. Sign me up for Mixon in the 3rd.
True but what if the second round pick has a Cecil Shorts injury? Just no way to predict. IF Licht has Dalvin rated as a Top 10 player and you have a shot to get him at 13 or 14, then you do it. Again, what if Martin ran for 1,400 yards last season? Bucs are a playoff team right? Dalvin is either the 1st or 2nd rated RB, in a strong class. Imagine what 1,400 yards from a player you have to account for on every play does for the rest of the offense. To me you try and win now. But that is why this type of article is all fun. Good debate and back and forth. AND it doesn’t count lol.
I’m O.K. with drafting a running back in the first round, good value really. Not O.K. with moving up to draft one however. In a draft deep with backs? Makes no sense. What I noticed about both remakes, Mark’s, and Scott’s, no help at D tackle. You both have Clinton McDonald back, I’d move on from the oft injured older guy. I think an upgrade is sorely needed there. I wouldn’t be opposed to using #19 on the best D tackle, then receiver, running back, BPA in second, third rounds. I don’t buy the B.S. of moving our many D ends inside on passing downs, like that makes it O.K. to be woefully thin at tackle. If McCoy, who’s on the down side of his career misses time, we’re f#*ked.
surferdudes I agree 100%. McCoy needs help on the inside, at some point we can’t take him for granted and need to actually put him in some situations to win 1 on 1 inside. Add Calais Campbell, Nick Fairley or Dontari Poe but give the guy something to work with. I’m ok with bringing McDonald back since he’s under contract but I’d let Akeem Spence walk because his production can be replaced.
Hate the idea of trading up to draft a RB. I love Cook and think he will be a good player, but he’s a RB and drafting one in the first round, much less trading up to get one is a mistake.
Also, if this team goes into next season with Evan Smith as their starting center I will be shocked. He’s a bad snapper of the ball, gets rag dolled by bigger DTs, and is a downgrade for an average Hayley.
Last year it was reported on PR that the Bucs had a big need at DT, but this year, we apparently don’t. I’m hoping Caleb Brantley falls to us in the 2nd.
Trading up for Dalvin Cook is blind homerism… He’s not an every down back. We need a physical running attack. Not to mention some injury concerns with Cook, and some off-field concerns. I would be p!ssed if we draft him. We can wait on RB until a round or 2 later… Meanwhile, if we want to trade up for a player, I say let’s go get Corey Davis.
No question there are some very good RBs that can be had later, but in my opinion, and obviously pundits around the league, there is a reason Cook will be the first or second back gone on opening night of the draft.
because he is BETTER than the ones ranked in the third round. Think the Cowboy are regretting taking Elliot? What do you mean not an every down back? Thanks for the feedback though!
Is he physical and durable enough to be an every down back? Can he pound it up the middle and wear out defenses? That’s what I want to see… Plus, I just think WR is a greater need than RB. If Cook is not durable or has injury concerns, I’m hesitant to spend such a high pick on him.
Well in college he carried the ball about 20+ times a game. With his recieving skills, he’s the definition of a thre down back. ANd the misconception is that he’s just a fast outside runner. Now I’m not for trading up for him, especially a 2nd rounder as that’s just too steep a price.
I’m in the camp of hoping he falls to us and then we get him. We need more pieces. Although mark it down, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Bucs make a move if he falls to 13th with Arizona.
The injury “concerns” stem from his shoulder surgeries, which he never missed a game for. I think if Howard, Davis, Cook, or Solamon Thomas falls, we will be in good shape. If not trade back and pick up a few more picks.
Of course, if the Bucs do take him, I will become his biggest fan, as long as the pick pans out.
I have been saying that the Bucs need to trade up a few spots but I think a 2nd round pick is too much when a solid RB/TE/WR should be available a few spots lower. Almost every mock draft has at least one of (Fournette, Cook, OJ Howard, Ross, Davis, Williams) still available by the time the Bucs pick. If they get any one of those guys I think we should be thrilled. But as soon as only one of those guys still available then the Bucs should pay the price to move up and get the final high rated offensive playmaker
Garnet and Gold Report by Mark Cook- Yes, another Seminole once again rears its ugly head before the draft forget Fournette and McCaffery got to get the FSU kid. ha kidding but still true. I like Cook even though he had fumbling issues I just don’t think we should give up on Martin who has shown the capability of a 1,500 season once again, we have other needs like addressing the wr position and corner. I would love for Corey Davis to fall to us probably won’t happen so I would then look at corner Sidney Jones and if we were to trade up for any player I would go after Jamal Adams he is the real deal he will straight lay you out.
Lol I think Garnet and Gold has a good ring to it!
I’ll read it! It listen to it! Always fun to read and listen to stories about WINNERS!
I like it Mark…if we can address WR and D line needs I think Cook would be huge…and has history with JW to boot!
Like most, not the biggest fan of giving up a 1st or 2nd rounder. Simply because I’d prefer we have the opportunity to grab two long-term impact starters instead of just one this year, as well as possibly losing another pick next year. Trouble seeing the Charles Johnson addition happening as well, though I was on board with adding him last year. He said after visiting One Buc that “You really have a hate factor for them and it was just really awkward” after having played against us for the past 9 years. Doubt that has gone away after just finishing number 10.
Hate to say it Mark but I really really hope this doesn’t happen! I love Cook and I know you want an official Jersey with your last name on it lol. But I hope they don’t trade a pick We need to much. How often does N.E. trade up? Never! S.R.’s battle plan is AWESOME! Opened my eyes to some different possibilities
Well my 16 year old would LOVE a jersey with Cook on it for sure. At 46 those days are over for me! Appreciate the feedback. Let’s look back on this in a year. My prediction? Cook is offensive rookie of the year wherever he ends up.
Trade up with a #2 or two for a RB? No. Way.
I’m not ready to give up on Martin.
You need to. We’re gonna draft a RB high… I just hope it’s not in the first round.
Seriously… This is not a team that can afford to give up a 2nd round pick this year, for any player… Also, Mark, you undermine your credibility by having us pick 2 FSU guys… and in fact, giving up 3 of our 7 picks for FSU guys.
How right you are. This draft has Nole homer written all over it.
Sometimes a player will fall to you, sometimes not. If Cook is there when we pick I’ll talk JL into letting you run that pick up yourself. If that happens I’ll jump on the Dalvin Cook bandwagon. But I don’t think he be available to us.
So, plan B battle plan.
Just get it out of your head that Dougie is gone. I for one am looking forward to a rejuvenated Dougeraught to prove everyone wrong. I am going to start my own KEEP DOUG campaign.
So on to part 2A in plan B battle plan.
Just say no no no to Charles Johnson. Carolina would actually thank the BUCS for taking him off our hands. If you really have to get a DT in free agency, witch we do , get Fairaly or Poe. With our existing and 1 added to the d line we will have a decnt pass rush.
On to 2A in plan B battle plan.
Kenny Britt? One good year and people will pay him? Stick with D. Jackson, at least he will be a proven player with some excitement.
I actually like your safety FA pickup.
Now on to the draft
1- C. Davis or O.J. Howard
2- Adoree Jackson or Budda Baker
3- D’onte Foreman
This would make me smile for sure. I’ve added a 4th pick, I usually stop at 3, feelin’ good tonight.
After reading that synopsis, all I can say is I’m glad your not the GM, Mark.
Many players in the NFL have done far worse than Martin did and their teams stood by them, Cutting one good RB so you can spend two to three high round draft picks to replace him with another is simply insane.
Can you say Donald Penn.
Besides, Cook hasn’t been the healthiest RB in college and now word has leaked out that he likes to hit the bottle and has gang affiliations.
Can you say ASJ and Arron Hernandez.
And for the life of me no one has yet to explain to me why they would want to cut Hawley who beat out Evan Smith for his position and continue to keep Smith. The point of the off season is to get better, not regress by starting a substitute.
Martin’s average didn’t regress last year due to a lack of effort on his part but because after Logan Makins left the offensive line wasn’t as good and even downright porous at times.
Your now going to make it worse by starting Smith.
And why in the world would you want to pay a washed up Charles Johnson $5 million a year.
Even if he equals his previous years sack total at his age, it sure isn’t worth the money you want to give away to him.
As a GM, Mark, you make a good writer
Fair enough, but I can assure you Cook is no Hernandez. I have a friend on the coaching staff. Trust me. Dalvin is not a bad guy. Appreciate the feedback. And the Martin cutting is also based on his performance and undependability. Talk about injury issues lol.
Hey Mark. Who knew Hernandez would do that shit. You can’t predict that kind of behavior.
Than God Cook is no Hernandez, but who is a repugnant murderer. Oh yeah, Ray Lewis.
I knew they’d all throw out the “Homer” moniker Mark. Especially my friend JonnyG who is a blatant “Homerphobe” I love your cousin Dalvin and would take him at #19, but I wouldn’t entertain a trade up in this Draft because of the steep cost to do so and the fact that our taking the BPA at that spot is going to hit one of our needs. I typically am not too keen on trading down either, but in this Draft I think the talent level has groups of players with similar grades.
I guess people think you are “cutting” Joe Hawley when in fact the Bucs and he just may not agree to terms.
My stance on Doug Martin is to allow him to come to Training Camp, play in the Pre-Season games, serve his three game suspension and then make a decision. Regardless as to whether we think #22 will demonstrate he can still tote it for the remainder of 2017, we better have someone who is a legitimate lead back if he can’t. My #22 jersey is in limbo.
I think acquiring a quality DT to play next to GMC is more critical than hoping a declining DE can improve the D-line.
I’m enjoying these Battle Plans. At least the Bucs are no longer retreating.
“Homerphobe” … LOL, nice touch there scu!
You know what they say about “homerphones” don’t you?
They are really just Seminole fans that haven’t come out of the closet.
I hate it when auto spelll messes up a good smart ass comment.
I like your stance on Martin Scu. Might as well see what he has in Pre-season. Might come back very motivated.
Not a fan of trading up. Plenty of talent to fit our needs at 19. I would still like to see more DT consideration in draft. McCoy isn’t getting any younger. We need to be stout at the point of attack. Like the FA safety pickup.
Don’t like trading up for anyone in this year’s draft, let alone Dalvin Cook. While i think he could be a playmaker in the league, I seriously question his ability as a 3 down back due to his fumbling and number of runs that went for nothing in college. All that space he was able to find and poor angles and form tackling at the second level that lead to many of his big runs that’s so prevalent in college won’t exist in the NFL.
I’d love to see a breakdown of his run chart in college. It seems like there were a lot of games where it would be something like 2 yards, 1 yard, 2 yards, 0 yards, and then a couple 50-60 yarders from finding a crease.
Maybe I’m wrong and he turns out great, but I think he has a better chance at having an NFL career that’s similar to CJ Spiller’s.
Wow, Mark Cook wants to draft a “Nole. What a surprise. Lol.
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