When Tampa Bay general manager Bruce Allen met with the local media on Thursday, he said that the Buccaneers didn’t have “5-11 players” on the team, rather that they had too many “5-11 plays” that did them in during the 2004 campaign.
But Allen also said that the Buccaneers did need better players in 2005.
“We have to improve the talent level of the team,” said Allen, when asked what the Bucs’ offseason priority is.
Most of Tampa Bay’s most talented players are on defense, and several, including linebackers Derrick Brooks and Shelton Quarles, defensive ends Simeon Rice and Greg Spires are over the age of 30. Pro Bowl cornerback Ronde Barber will be 30 in April.
The Buccaneers don’t have many young, talented players as a result of top draft picks that were either traded away or squandered on bad selections from 1998-2003.
“Seven of our last 11 first-round or second-round picks aren’t on this team. Whether (the Bucs) had the pick or not,” Allen said.
Actually, the damage is worse than Allen alluded to. Dating back to 1998, the Bucs are without nine of their last 15 first- or second-round picks aren’t on the team, including wide receiver Jacquez Green, a second-round pick in 1998, quarterback Shaun King, a second-round pick in 1999, two first-round picks in 2000 that were traded for receiver Keyshawn Johnson, who is no longer on the team, the second-round pick traded to Buffalo so that the Bucs could move up to select offensive tackle Kenyatta Walker in 2001, a first- and second-rounder traded to Oakland in 2002 for head coach Jon Gruden, a first-round pick in 2003 for Gruden, as well as a second-round selection in 2004 for Gruden.
The Bucs will have to turn to the 2005 draft to not only add talent, but to help out their tight salary cap situation this year.
“I do want to get good young players that can play right away and be a big part of our future and help us with our salary cap,” Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said. “The draft not only helps you get younger and build your future, it helps you with your salary cap because fortunately, the fourth, fifth and sixth round choices don’t make what some of the veterans make.
“You have to be honest. The only way to get younger is to draft and to draft well. You have to do that and in the last seven or eight years, I don’t know how many first and second round choices are on this football team.”
For the first time since 2001, the Buccaneers, who have the fifth overall draft pick, will have both a first- and a second-round pick at their disposal. In fact, Tampa Bay will have a total of 11 draft picks thanks to the trading of wide receiver Keenan McCardell, who fetched third- and sixth-round picks from San Diego, left tackle Roman Oben, who got the Bucs a fifth-rounder from San Diego, and guard Jason Whittle, who was worth the New York Giants’ seventh-round pick in 2005 and a sixth-rounder in 2006.
“This year, we have seven of the top 140 players in this draft,” Allen said. “We’re going to be able to use the draft to acquire some key talent and look at players we haven’t been able to look at before as a franchise. I think our draft last year … we’re actually quite proud of what we were able to do in that all of our draft choices played in the NFL this year.”
Allen is referring to the 2004 draft, his first in Tampa Bay, which saw the Bucs select 1,000-yard wide receiver Michael Clayton with the 15th overall pick. With the Pewter Pirates having glaring needs along the offensive line, defensive tackle, tight end, running back, wide receiver and kicker, whichever player is chosen with the Bucs’ first-round pick will likely be projected as a starter.
“In theory, that’s an impact player,” Allen said of a team’s first-round draft pick. “That should be a very good football player and it should be somebody who could be one of the cornerstones of the franchise. That being said, if you draft a quarterback, he might not start.
“The nice thing is that we have the 11 draft choices that will at least give us competition in training camp and possible players that can help us next year and in subsequent years. We feel we’re going to be able to get some key guys.”
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