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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been quite busy since the start of free agency. With Pewter Report busy tracking down agents, other league sources and information, and producing the Pewter Report Free Agency Wrap-Up Issue, Pewter Report publisher Scott Reynolds will not be able to publish an SR’s Fab Five article this week.
However, in addition to Reynolds’ Inside The Bucs’ Free Agency Moves article, which was posted Tuesday, Pewter Report editor-in-chief Jim Flynn does his best to give Bucs fans the scoop they crave in this Fab Five-like installment of Flynn’s Focus.
1. WILL THE BUCS TRADE FOR WR MOSS? On Tuesday, NFL Network reported that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were one of several teams that had called the Oakland Raiders in regards to a possible trade for disgruntled wide receiver Randy Moss.
Is this true? Yes. But don’t read too much into this, Bucs fans. When a player is reportedly on the trading block, it’s Bucs general manager Bruce Allen’s job to do his due diligence and find out what the asking price is.
Moss is certainly a player worth inquiring about. A former first-round pick in 1998, Moss has caught 676 career passes for 10,700 yards (15.8 avg.) and 101 touchdowns while starting 132 games.
During the 2005 offseason, Moss was traded to Oakland by Minnesota, and his career hasn’t really been the same since. He’s caught 102 passes for 1,558 yards and 11 touchdowns in two seasons with the Raiders.
While those are still decent numbers, some wonder what direction Moss’ career is headed. He’s coming off a season where he caught a career-low 42 passes and just three touchdowns. He’s also a guy that has been accused of taking plays off and/or becoming disgruntled when things or balls aren’t going his way.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Moss is an intriguing player to Bucs head coach Jon Gruden, but don’t expect Allen to pull the trigger on this particular deal.
The Raiders are said to be looking for a first-round pick in exchange for Moss. Not only would Tampa Bay have to part ways with the No. 4 overall pick in the draft, but trading for Moss likely would mean the Bucs would be passing up the opportunity to draft Georgia Tech WR Calvin Johnson.
2. IS TAMPA BAY INTERESTED IN LB BRIGGS? It’s no secret that linebacker Lance Briggs wants out of Chicago. The question Bucs fans want answered is will he land in Tampa Bay via a trade with the Bears?
There’s no doubt the Buccaneers would have pursued Briggs had he not been slapped with the franchise tag and hit the free agent market on March 2.
The 6-foot-1, 240-pound Briggs is a Pro Bowl player the Bucs view as the ideal successor to 10-time Pro Bowl LB Derrick Brooks.
Briggs, 26, has recorded 442 career tackles, six interceptions, 3.5 sacks, 36 passes defensed and three touchdowns since entering the league in 2003.
With Brooks still a Buc, some wonder if Tampa Bay would actually part ways with No. 55 if it managed to acquire Briggs. That’s unlikely. Instead, the Bucs would contemplate moving Brooks over the strong side and Briggs into the weakside linebacker spot.
But this is all a moot point and discussion. Chicago is looking for a first-round draft pick in exchange for Briggs, and as much as Tampa Bay would like to have him, the Bucs aren’t willing to part ways with the one prized possession that came as a result of an awful 2006 season – the fourth overall pick in this year's draft.
Briggs might be leaving Chicago, but he’s not coming to Tampa Bay this year.
3. WHY DID THE BUCS GET GARCIA AND PLUMMER? Are you still wondering why the Buccaneers acquired two veteran quarterbacks this offseason? It’s hard to fathom why some even ask this question, especially if they watched the play at Tampa Bay’s quarterback position last year.
In 2006, Tampa Bay quarterbacks Chris Simms, Bruce Gradkowski and Tim Rattay combined to complete 55.3 percent of their passes for 2,994 yards and toss 14 touchdowns and 18 interceptions for a overall quarterback rating of 66.2.
Not impressed? Neither were the Bucs.
Tampa Bay’s offense was crippled by the poor play at the quarterback position. Of course, injuries and the inexperience of Gradkowski had a lot to do with it, too.
Simms was lost for the season after rupturing his spleen in Week 3 vs. Carolina. Before that injury occurred, Luke McCown, who was having a strong offseason, suffered what could have been a season-ending knee injury in June. That ailment kept him on the sideline until midway through the regular season.
Some believe Rattay, who had more experience than any quarterback on Tampa Bay’s roster last year, should have initially started instead of Gradkowski, but anyone that watched Rattay perform in training camp and preseason knows why the veteran signal caller sat behind the rookie quarterback. It’s the same reason why Rattay wasn't wanted back in Tampa Bay and isn’t receiving a lot of interest on the free agent market right now. He’s just not very good.
I’ll be writing more about this in my Fourth Down column in the next issue of Pewter Report, which is our Free Agency Wrap-Up Issue, but ask yourself this question: When was the last time Bucs head coach Jon Gruden made it through a season with his starting quarterback?
Let me save you some time. It happened once, Bucs fans. In 2003, Brad Johnson managed to play in every game. With the exception of that season, the turnstile has been in motion at Tampa Bay’s quarterback position, which is the most important in Gruden’s offense. Most of the changes that were made were injury-related thanks to a shaky offensive line.
Before you believe the Bucs have too many quarterbacks with Jeff Garcia, Jake Plummer, Simms, Gradkowksi and McCown, ask the Philadelphia Eagles how valuable Garcia was as a backup to Donovan McNabb last year.
The injury bug might strike Tampa Bay again in 2007, but this time (especially if Plummer plays for Tampa Bay this season) the Bucs are much better prepared for it.
4. BUCS GETTING TOO OLD? YOU DECIDE Judging by some of the headlines and articles written in the Tampa Bay area newspapers, you’d come to believe that the Buccaneers are getting old in a hurry.
The Bucs have, after all, signed the likes of Mike Alstott, Kevin Carter, Luke Petitgout and Jeff Garcia, who are 33, 33, 30 and 37, respectively.
However, what these articles have failed to mention is the fact that the Bucs have also signed the likes of B.J. Askew, Patrick Chukwurah, Phillip Buchanon and Torrie Cox, who are 26, 28, 26 and 26, respectively.
Those signings likely were conveniently left out in an effort to make you believe the Bucs are getting too old and going down the Derrick Deese-Todd Steussie-Charlie Garner road again. That may or may not be true, depending on what you consider old in football years.
For the sole purpose of coming up with a median age, Pewter Report has created a mock 53-man roster, projecting the 44 players on the current squad that will make Tampa Bay’s team in 2007.
The remaining nine roster spots are divided up, assuming the Bucs sign four more free agents with the average age of 27, and five of the team’s draft picks in April making the roster and having an average age of 22.
The ages listed below are current as of March 8. Are the Bucs too old? Decide for yourself.
Mock 53-Man Roster Quarterbacks: Jeff Garcia (37), Jake Plummer (32), Chris Simms (26)
Running Backs: Cadillac Williams (24), Michael Pittman (31) and Earnest Graham (27)
Fullbacks: Mike Alstott (33) and B.J. Askew (26)
Wide Receivers: Joey Galloway (35), Michael Clayton (24), Ike Hilliard (30), Maurice Stovall (22) Tight Ends: Anthony Becht (29), T.J. Williams (24) and Alex Smith (24)
Tackles: Luke Petitgout (30) and Jeremy Trueblood (23) Guards: Davin Joseph (23), Dan Buenning (25) and Anthony Davis (26)
Center: John Wade (32) and Nick Mihlhauser (23) Defensive End: Simeon Rice (33), Greg Spires (32), Patrick Chukwurah (28) and Julian Jenkins (23)
Defensive Tackle: Kevin Carter (33), Chris Hovan (28) and Ellis Wyms (27)
Linebackers: Derrick Brooks (33), Shelton Quarles (35), Ryan Nece (28), Jamie Winborn (26) and Barrett Ruud (23)
Cornerbacks: Ronde Barber (31), Brian Kelly (31), Phillip Buchanon (26), Juran Bolden (32), Alan Zemaitis (24) and Torrie Cox (26) Safeties: Will Allen (24), Jermaine Phillips (26) Kicker: Matt Bryant (31) Punter: Josh Bidwell (30)
According to this mock 53-man roster (assuming our formula and projections are fairly accurate), Tampa Bay’s average player age is 27.4, which isn’t necessarily old.
What this age doesn’t take into account is the fact that Tampa Bay could part ways with 30-something players like Plummer, Quarles, Rice, Spires and/or others this offseason, which would drive down the average player age on the Bucs’ roster a year or so, depending on the ages of their replacements.
Despite what some believe, the Bucs entered free agency with a plan, and they’re executing it. You may or may not agree with it, but they have had a plan, evidenced by the fact that Pewter Report reported back in January that the Bucs could be looking to bring in not just one, but two veteran quarterbacks this offseason.
The Bucs have passed on players they felt were asking for contracts that would have made them overpaid in their eyes. The team just got out of salary cap hell, and they’re not anxious to go back into it.
To date, the biggest signing bonus Bucs general manager Bruce Allen has handed out to a player this offseason is $3 million, which means even if one or two of the “old” players that have signed with the Bucs don’t pan out, the team isn’t on the hook for huge contracts. Allen has learned his lesson from the Deese, Steussie and Garner deals.
And if you think Allen is head coach Jon Gruden’s puppet, you might want to check Gruden’s blood pressure, which has certainly been elevated since free agency started on March 2.
Allen and the front office are determined to make sure the Bucs don’t overspend on a very mediocre free agent class and limit the funds they could have to spend in free agency in 2008 or 2009 when the crop of free agents might be more talented and plentiful, but that doesn’t mean Gruden is happy about it. In fact, there’s a good chance Allen has told Gruden “no” when it comes to signing players more this offseason than Rich McKay ever did.
5. WHY HAVE THE BUCS WAITED TO TARGET SAFETIES? So why have the Bucs waited almost a week to target free agent safeties?
Yes, the Bucs feel new defensive backs coach Raheem Morris can instantly improve the play of Jermaine Phillips and Will Allen, both of whom were inconsistent last year after good showings in 2005 when Morris was around, but the Buccaneers still plan to upgrade this position in the upcoming weeks and months.
Tampa Bay is interested some of the free agent safeties, including Mike Doss (Indianapolis) and Ken Hamlin (Seattle). In fact, Doss is scheduled to visit One Buc Place today.
The Bucs waited to line up a visit with Doss and some of the other agents because of their asking prices.
The longer Doss and Hamlin sit out on the free agent market, the cheaper they’ll get.
Because of the fact that this year’s draft is extremely deep at the safety position, the Bucs don’t feel the need to overpay for Doss or Hamlin.
However, Tampa Bay may be interested in signing both players. The Bucs are merely hoping patience pays off, literally.
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