The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming off a disappointing 5-11 season in 2017, and that has put head coach Dirk Koetter and general manager Jason Licht firmly on the hot seat. The Bucs thought they were primed for a playoff run last year following a 9-7 campaign in 2016, but it turns out that the team has more holes on the roster than they thought a year ago.

PewterReport.com writers Scott Reynolds, Mark Cook and Trevor Sikkema have devised their own Bucs’ 2018 Offseason Battle Plans that feature free agent signings, trades, roster moves and draft picks designed to help get the Bucs back on track and gunning for the. I’ve got the first Bucs’ Battle Plan, so let me know what you think of it in the comments section below.

Remember, these Bucs Battle Plans are how the PewterReport.com staff members would reshape the team this offseason – not necessarily what we think Tampa Bay will do in free agency and the draft, although there could be some overlap with certain players the team may be targeting.

The Bucs start the 2018 offseason with approximately $69.7 million in available salary cap space, according to OverTheCap.com. Salary cap information and contract data from both OverTheCap.com and Spotrac.com were used in the Bucs Battle Plan series.

While nearly $70 seems like a lot, and it is, there is still some money to shave off the current roster. While I like J.R. Sweezy, and it wasn’t his fault he was injured, his play in 2017 doesn’t come close to warranting his $7 million dollar cap hit for 2018. There are better players that can be had for similar money in free agency.

Bucs DE Robert Ayers
Bucs DE Robert Ayers – Photo by: Getty Images

Looking over the roster of current players, there is still some more cap money to be had. I would release Robert Ayers to save another $6 million towards the 2018 cap, however, I would allow him to test the free agent waters and possibly add him back for a more reasonable team-friendly deal. There probably won’t be a ton of teams lining up to offer him a load of cash, and while it is a gamble, I would give him a one-year, $3 million dollar deal with performance incentives, depending on the ability to upgrade free agency and the draft.

This would give the team approximately $79 million in salary cap money with free agency approaching .

Bucs’ Unrestricted Free Agent Re-signings

Tampa Bay CB Brent Grimes – 1 year, $6 million w/incentives
At some point Grimes’ age has to catch up to his performance, right? Not so fast my friend. The ageless wonder still has plenty of ability left in the tank, and it is up to the coaching staff and front office to convince him the grind is still worth it. Giving him $6 million next season, with a chance to make even more with some incentive clauses, should help encourage him. His wife Miko will most likely be a big fan of keeping Grimes on the field for at least one more year.

Bucs CB Brent Grimes - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs CB Brent Grimes – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Tampa Bay QB Ryan Fitzpatrick – 1 year, $3 million
While many are thinking it could be Mike Glennon back in Tampa Bay, Glennon still wants a shot to at least compete for a starting job. Hey, if Josh McCown keeps finding starting jobs, Glennon should as well. With that said, the Bucs really liked what Fitzpatrick brought to the team last season. Starter Jameis Winston was also a big fan. With a 2-1 record as a starter, and a good grasp on Dirk Koetter’s offense, bringing Fitzpatrick back is a no-brainer.

Tampa Bay S Keith Tandy – 1 year, $2 million
While Tandy never found his 2016 groove last season, he is exactly the type of player teams need to fill out their rosters. Tandy has been a ball magnet his whole career and when pressed into duty, all he does is perform. The Bucs like what he beings on special teams, as well as in the locker room.

Tampa Bay DT Clinton McDonald – 2 years, $2.5 million per year
Like Tandy, McDonald comes to practice everyday with his lunch pail and works. He is a great example for young players on both sides of the ball and is a great teammates. His inside presence allows McCoy to get a blow from time to time and he also is stout in the middle at nose. The Bucs need him back and the community is better by having him in Tampa Bay. Five sacks a year for $2,5 million is a bargain in today’s NFL.

Tampa Bay RB Charles Sims – 1 year, $975,000
While most fans wouldn’t mind seeing Sims take his jitterbug running style elsewhere, the coaching staff still believes he ican valuable part of the offense as a reserve, with some touches on third down. Sims nabbed 35 passes for 249 yards and a touchdown last year and should be signed to at least compete for a roster spot. And if they can upgrade in the draft, then so be it. There likely won’t be very much demand for Sims.

Bucs’ Unrestricted Free Agents Not Re-signed

Tampa Bay G-T Kevin Pamphile
Pamphile missed a golden opportunity in 2017 to really cash in as a free agent and secure his next few seasons in Tampa Bay. But, inconsistent play doomed him early in camp, and the platooning of he and Evan Smith didn’t do him any favors. The crazy thing is, he will make a lot more than his tape says he deserves as an UFA. It just won’t be in Tampa Bay.

Tampa Bay C-G Evan Smith
Of the two, Smith probably played better than Pamphile at guard, and was a valuable reserve filling in for a injured Ali Marpet at center. The Bucs could very well look to bring him back after he is able to test free agency. However, the Bucs believe there are better (and younger) options out there.

Tampa Bay SS T.J. Ward

Bucs SS T.J. Ward - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs SS T.J. Ward – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Ward was lauded as a great pickup by the Bucs around the start of last season, but he ended up not being a very good fit in Tampa Bay. Add his legal troubles and it is time to move on from the former Bronco.

Tampa Bay CB Robert McClain
McClain was steady for the Bucs in 2017, but there should be an upgrade available via free agency and the draft. He would be a candidate to bring back prior to camp he is still available, depending on how free agency and the draft pan out.

Tampa Bay DT Sealver Siliga
Recording just eight tackles and not being active for half the season, there is no explanation needed. They have a younger version in Stevie Tu’ikolovatu that could use the reps.

Tampa Bay C Joe Hawley
Hawley is moving on, packing up and driving around the country in a van. Good for him. He was a great teammate and fun guy to be around. Get out while your body is still somewhat intact.

Tampa Bay LS Garrison Sanborn
Getting younger appears to be the goal at the long snapper position as the Bucs have already found and added a potential replacement in Drew Ferris.

Tampa Bay DE Justin Trattou
Trattou could be a player the team brings back for a camp body as training camp approaches. For now he is expendable.

Tampa Bay G Adam Gettis
Finding a starting caliber diamond in the rough at age 29 just doesn’t happen in the NFL. Bucs will want to develop younger talent with more upside.

Bucs’ Restricted Free Agent Re-signings

Tampa Bay TE Cameron Brate – 4 years, $ 7 million per year
Brate has earned the right to get paid. As one of the top tight ends in the NFC, the Bucs should reward Brate who came out of nowhere as unknown from Harvard to be one of the team’s most reliable and productive players on offense, particularly in the red zone. Brate and Howard will be one of, if not the best, tight end duos in the NFL.

Tampa Bay WR Adam Humphries – 2 years, $2,5 million per season
Humphries, like Brate was a virtual unknown when she stepped on the field at One Buc for the first time as a tryout player. From unknown to a fan favorite, Humphries works as hard as anyone on the roster to perfect his craft. Steady and reliable, all Humphries does is be in the right place at the right time, rarely letting a ball hit the ground that touches his hands.

Bucs’ Restricted Free Agents Not Getting Tender Offers

Tampa Bay OLB Adarius Glanton
Glanton was a great story prior to his devastating leg injury in the Monday night game against Atlanta. He was a special teamer who filled in solidly and was smart enough to be able to play all three linebacker positions. Glanton recently told me his rehab is coming along great and should be ready for 2018. I would look to see where he is health wise as camp approaches.

Tampa Bay CB Jude Adjei-Barimah

Adjei-Barimah was a promising cornerback a couple seasons ago but injuries have taken their toll. That hasn’t stopped Adjei-Barimah from attempting to come back. Good for him. Like Glanton, if healthy prior to camp he would be worth a shot.

Tampa Bay DE Ryan Russell
There just doesn’t seem to be much upside with Russell. Without the rash of injuries on the Bucs’s defense last season he likely doesn’t see the field if he is even on the roster.

Bucs Free Agent Additions

Atlanta DE Adrian Clayborn – 3 years, $8 million per yearThe departure of Mason Foster, Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers decimates the Bucs' 2011 draft class - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
After missing out on Robert Quinn and Michael Bennett, the Bucs finally strike and upgrade their pass rush, welcoming back a familiar face in Clayborn. While not as flashy as some of the top pass rushers in the league, Clayborn is safe. He is a hard worker with a relentless motor. And with the signing he immediately helps Tampa Bay get better defensively. With 9.5 sacks in 2017 (6 coming in on game) Clayborn gives the Bucs someone to rattle opposing quarterbacks, and his familiarity with NFC South offenses gives him a leg up over a rookie.

Washington C Spencer Long – 4 years, $5.5 per year
Long isn’t the top rated free agent center, but prior to an injury midway through the 2017 season was playing well. Long had a terrific 2016 campaign anchoring a Redskins line that only gave up 23 sacks. Long also gives the Bucs the flexibility to move Ali Marpet back to guard where he can become a dominant player that has a Pro Bowl in his future. Long will also come significantly cheaper than some of the other free agent centers that are set to cash in on free agency later this month.

Kansas City G Zach Fulton – 4 years, $ 6.75 million per year
Fulton is a young player that most likely still has some upside. His biggest asset is his ability to play both guard positions and center, something he did over his career with the Chiefs. A grinder and a physical football player, Fulton will team up with Demar Dotson to solidify the right side of the offensive line and open holes for whoever is running the football for the Buccaneers in 2018.

Jacksonville CB Aaron Colvin – 4 years, $6.5 million per year
Colvin is a solid cornerback who just got caught up in the wash at Jacksonville with Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye who both performed at Pro Bowl levels last season. Colvin comes in a and battles Vernon Hargreaves to play opposite Brent Grimes at right cornerback, and the one who doesn’t win the job can step in as the starter in the slot. Getting Colvin won’t be easy as the Bucs aren’t the only team in need a of a cornerback, but the prospects of staying in Florida help convince the former Jag to sign with the Buccaneers.

New England RB Dion Lewis – 4 years, $4.5 million per year
While signing Lweis won’t deter the Bucs from looking for another one in the draft, it will allow them to not force a rookie into the action immediately and will also give them some insurance in case of injury, something that makes it hard for today’s NFL running backs to carry the load for 16 straight games. Lewis was easily the best and most consistent running back for the Patriots last season, and while few dare to question Bill Belichick’s judgment, some would say Lewis was under utilized in 2017. Lewis is a three-down back and a threat as a receiver out of the backfield.

Pittsburgh K Chris Boswell – 4 years, $3 million per year
After Connor Barth, Kyle Brindza, Roberto Aguayo and Pat Murray, Bucs GM Jason Licht finally solidifies the kicking position in his fifth season as the man in charge. Boswell won’t be cheap, at least in the world of flaky kickers, but after kicking on the awful field conditions and unpredictable weather of Pittsburgh, lining up for a field goal at Raymond James will feel like he died and went to kicker heaven.

Click on the next page below to check out which draft picks I make for Tampa Bay.

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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 protected]

30 COMMENTS

  1. Not a very impressive offseason mock up, underwhelming FA Signs. We need one or two bigger splashes than that. I like the draft for the most part. I feel like we cannot wait until the 3rd round to get a pass rusher especially if Adrian Clayborn is what we bring in from FA his stats were inflated last year by one 6 sack game against a back up tackle. We need a little better of an offseason for the Bucs staff to keep their jobs past this season

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  2. Lost me at Sims, Tandy and Claiborne there Mark. Stick to the podcast, it’s what your best at. 😉

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  3. I’d absolutely love this is we didn’t still have a glaring hole at DE afterwards. I’m not for bringing Claybourne back. As you stated, almost all of his production came in one game. I really like your draft and just tweak the FA a bit to get a corner like Trumain Johnson and then in the third you could grab another pass rusher in stead of a corner. As for your draft, I love James naturally, I’m a bit of a homer myself, but we have a need a SS and James and Evans would be wonderful back there. I think you might be able to even trade back a bit and get James. Not too far as the combine worked its magic with him as expected. This is just the wrong draft class to need a DE and Jason Licht got burned on this by not being ready for it.

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  4. FA signings isn’t there for me. I like the first two or three rounds but hey it could work. I think we will trade back into the 2nd round like always so a CB in the 2nd like Jaire Alexander would be great to get. But the 1st and 2nd picks were money.

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  5. Like the draft, not so much the FA. I’m really high on James if we cant get Nelson/Chubb. Best of the rest as far as I see it. Its also gonna be real hard to not pull the trigger on Sony if hes there at 38. I mean REAL HARD. Given that, we need to plan ahead and get some decent DE to cover that possibility. Vinny curry looks to hit the market soon. Maybe check the trade wire for a guy not named Quinn/Bennett.

    Also, I’m disappointed you only picked one Nole. I figured you would have no choice but to one up Trevor after his 3 Gator draft. You fell short by 3.

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  6. It’s way better than the other two guys they want the league to have a feel good story in Tampa for picking the guy for ucf get off that an just build a real football team for god sake

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  7. I like this plan the least. Does nothing but kick issues on both lines down the road.

    If Nelson, Chubb and Barkley arent there at 7 they have to look at moving down.

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  8. This is easily the best battle plan of the three. Like, not even close. It doesn’t go AAA at every position expecting that it’ll actually get that and there’s a sense of direction here beyond “let’s get the best free agent at every position right now”. I can actually see a realistic shot of this plan working.

    Of course we should aim for the best players available but those would be icing, not the plan A. You plan for the worst. Cook seems to get that.

    As for the draft, I like James but, man, I really hope Nelson is there for us 🙁 Otherwise I think it’s also pretty good.

    Ty for the battle plans PR!

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  9. I don’t like it but this has been the bucs M.O. since we fired lovie and hired Dirk. We get bargain guys in free agency except for one “big ticket” free agent then it’s a bunch of players who we don’t kno. They probably will re sign grimes and sign an ej gaines cuz he fits Mike Smith defense an off man scheme. Even tho I trully believe in trying to get Julius peppers to pair him with McCoy and new line coach buckner and also signing an younger vet like Aaron lynch or okafor I can see them bringing clayborn back because it’s the bucs. The only draft pick I liked was at 7 cuz James is an elite talent but we do little to address a d line that has no talent except McCoy. Signing McDonald is good but he is depth. While I don’t like this plan it’s most likely very accurate

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  10. As much as we give you guys crap for your thoughts, it always helps to remember there are actual, highly paid GM’s who make massive mistakes as well. Like Philly trading with the Bucs up from #12 to #7 and grabbing Mike Mamula and giving the Bucs the opportunity to draft both Sapp and Brooks in Rd 1. There’s a few others that come to mind, but they’re better left for another day.

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    • Man, I had forgotten about that!
      Well done.

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  11. I like that you addressed positions of need.

    Not enjoying the personnel selections.

    I want to make one of these I’m pretty discouraged by the battle plans.

    Holding out hope for Trevor but more importantly I’m holding out hope for Light’s battle plan.

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  12. Revamping the D-line to get pressure on the QB should be the #1 priority in any of these offseason plans imo – and grabbing Clayborn plus a late round pick isn’t going to do it for me. I’d have very little optimism about our 2018 outlook with these plans.

    Even with the O-line – those 2 guys scare me as signings that could bust or possibly just be mediocre at best. I’d rather spend that $$ on a more proven CB than Colven for example; or more pass rush/DT help.

    We need to add 2 DTs and 2 DEs at a minimum this offseason – and not just late round picks or bottom of the barrel FAs; but actual guys who can contribute.

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  13. With the acquisition of Zach Fulton (LG), Spencer Long (C) and Dion Lewis (RB) I can see how we might draft Derwin James (SS) and Sony Michel (RB) with our first two picks.

    Since my focus has been on edge rushers and defensive tackles I find myself wondering what would have happened had we never jettisoned Michael Bennett or Adrian Clayborn. … Oh, well! …. 🙂 … Bringing back Clayborn is OK with me.

    ________________
    Go Bucs!!!!

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  14. I hope we trade with Buffalo. We get two firsts and a third. That will help us more than a safety, albeit a good one, and praying Sony falls. Go Bucs!

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  15. You don’t sign any F.A. D tackles, you don’t draft any D tackles, and on your final roster you only carry 3 D. tackles, two over 30, and one who’s never played. Are you the half witted brother of Jason Licht who’s only drafted one D.T. since he’s been here? You’ll never win that way.

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  16. One armed bandit back! Nice.

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  17. Mark, Trevor, Scott, are you guys working for Koetter and Licht now? So far all I am seeing is ” the ship is still sinking”? I don’t see any of these game plans getting us more than 6-7 wins and just wasting millions of dollars. Get ready for another lousy season if either one of these plans are are Incorporated. I just can’t be positive here, other than you tried. Excuse me as I go throw up!

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  18. All three Buc Battle Plans are really good! Really enjoyed those. Did mine below.

    Taking into account re-signing guys, bringing in new talent, and planning ahead 1-2 years and also leaving some slack as insurance we’ve probably got around 35M max to play with in FA and still be relatively safe.

    Assuming no Sweezy, Ayers, Pamphile, Evans, Hawley, Tandy, Russell, Siliga, Mclain, Sims, Smith, Etc.

    FA:
    LG – Josh Kline (8M)
    RG – Zach Fulton (5M)
    DE – Alex Okafor (4M)
    DE – Kony Ealy (2M)
    RB – Dion Lewis (5M)
    CB – Aaron Colvin (2M)
    CB – Ross Cockrell (2M)
    S – Terrence Brooks (2M)
    LB – Jerry Attaochu (2M)
    Total 32M

    DRAFT:
    1 – DT Payne
    2 – RB Michel
    3 – S Bates
    4 – OT Christian
    5 – S Cruikshank (ST)
    6 – OG Gossett
    6 – CB Wallace
    7 – WR Berrios

    53 MAN ROSTER
    QB – Winston/Fitzpatrick/Griffin
    RB – MICHEL/LEWIS/Barber
    WR – Evans/Jackson/Godwin/Humphries/Martino/BERRIOS
    TE – Howard/Brate/Auclair
    G – KLINE/FULTON/GOSSETT/Liedtke
    C – Marpet
    T – Smith/Dotson/Wester/Benenoch/CHRISTIAN

    DE – EALY/OKAFOR/Spence/Gholston
    DT – McCoy/PAYNE/McDonald/Stevie-T
    LB – David/Alexander/Beckwith/Bond/ATTAOCHU
    S – Evans/BATES/Conte/BROOKS/CRUIKSHANK(ST)/Robinson(ST)
    CB – Grimes/COCKRELL/Hargreaves/COLVIN/Elliott/WALLACE

    ST – Murray/Anger/Ferris

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    • That one defensive end drafted?

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  19. Haven ‘t we done the whole Safety at 7 thing before…

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  20. Hey Mark,

    I think this is probably the most realistic plan that the Bucs could do this off-season. My only critique is that I think Sony Michel and Dion Lewis are a little too similar at the running back position. I think I’d rather pass on Dion and let Tampa run it with Peyton Barber and Sony.

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  21. Your plan to fix the DL is to sign Clayborn and then spend a 3rd and a 6th on DEs? Clayborn is likely a 4 sack max guy. (only 3 sacks outside of the dallas game)

    3rd and 6th rounders are highly unlikely to produce more than a few sacks each, if that.

    If Noah Spence doesnt stay healthy, or doesnt develop, you have doomed the Bucs to another year of pash-rush ineptitude.

    IMO, very bad plan. Lot of money left to spend, add some more FA DEs as insurance, i.e. okafor, ealy. Anyone. Draft SS in rd 3 instead and develop them, grab DL in one of the first two rounds. Perchance a trade back with AZ or Buf? acquire an extra premium pick or two to grab RB, DL, and DE in first two rounds. CB & SS and rounds 3-4

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  22. I like Derwin a lot, think he would be a good pick-up and be a perfect compliment to Justin Evans, who is a true FS, whereas most of Derwin’s highlights take place within 10 yds of the LOS like a SS, which is where he projects best in the NFL.

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  23. Appreciated reading your plan, Mark. I like Michel if we can’t get Penny, but I prefer Penny not only because he had more yards as a RB last year than anyone but also because he has run back kicks for touchdowns. It would be a big mistake to let Pamphile get away because he was wrongly played only at Guard, and his forte is pass blocking because he played basketball in college just like Dotson did and should be our backup at Tackle and not Wester who was poor when he tried to start at RT. I would also take Orlando Brown in the third round when he slides down because of his poor showing in the combine because he will be needed when D. Smith keeps getting beat at LT and having to hold causing penalties stopping drives again this year, and then has to move to Guard where he can be a future All Pro and we could put in Brown who can hold down LT for ten years and will be a big upgrade, and when Dotson gets injured again at some point Pamphile could step in and do a lot better job than Wester. We can do much better than Clayborn for DE help too. That is critical! We need to go DE with our first pick. If Chubb is there we take him, and if not grab Taven Bryant to play DE. I know that would be criticized as a reach but his combine stats were so similar to J.J. Watt and Taven has the quick get off like Watt and can Press 500 pounds and use his hands to get to the QB and with Buckner’s fine coaching and watching Watt on film Bryant may be even better at DE than Chubb. Grab Settle in the second round, who the NFL Network gives a 6.7 Draft Grade after the combine when they rate Vea a 6.5 and they call Settle an instant starter, and pair him with Stevie T inside, and move McCoy to DE on the other side and you would have a very scary DL who could stop the run in it’s tracks, and harass the opposing QB too. Your other choices look great to me with those changes Mark, and we could get respect again!!!

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  24. LOL this is what an FSU education will get you… a terrible article. Oh wait, Cook didnt even go to FSU! Cant even listen to the podcast anymore because of all his unprompted gator attacks

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    • oh ya, and go gata

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    • Horrible take.

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  25. A lot of good ideas here, Mark. We’re missing on Star Lotuleli tho. I really think he’d be a great addition to compliment McCoy and McCoy complimenting him!

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  26. Chris Boswell’s a stupendous idea but he’s RFA, been given a 2nd round Tender and the Steelers are highly likely to match any offer. As good as Boswell’s been, all Bucs fans need to hear is the Bucs gave up their 2nd rounder for a kicker…….again.

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