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Here are some random thoughts on five topics regarding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the 2008 NFL Draft approaches.
SHOULD THE BUCS TRADE SIMMS? It's interesting, and often times perplexing, to read some pundits' takes around the NFL this time of year, especially ones that pertain to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
One take, which is shared by several pundits and has gained momentum in recent weeks, is how quarterback Chris Simms is somehow being treated unfairly by the Buccaneers and has been condemned to a life on the bench in Tampa Bay after the Bucs traded for QB Brian Griese, giving the team a total of six signal callers on their offseason roster.
Simms is indeed a victim, but he's not a victim of the Buccaneers, folks. He's a victim of a very unfortunate and scary spleen injury that has caused him to be sidelined for nearly two full seasons.
Tampa Bay was more than fair to Simms in December of 2006 when it signed the former 2003 third-round draft pick to a two-year contract extension that included a $3 million signing bonus.
That was a smart move on the Bucs' part as they were staring at the possibility of entering the 2007 offseason with just two quarterbacks – Bruce Gradkowski and Luke McCown – under contract for 2008.
While he helped lead the Bucs to the playoffs and an NFC South division title in 2005, Simms also threw just one touchdown and nine interceptions in the four starts (including 2006 playoff game vs. Washington) before he was injured, all of which were losses.
Simms is a tremendous person and competitor. He is well-liked in the Bucs locker room and very generous in terms of the time he gives the media and community.
However, after five seasons on the team, Simms has not yet proven himself in Bucs head coach Jon Gruden's version of the West Coast offense and his spleen injury prompted the team to come up with several contingency plans, which included signing Jeff Garcia and trading for Jake Plummer and Griese.
Simms is reportedly skipping voluntary offseason workouts and recently suggested that he did not feel he was a long-term piece of Tampa Bay's puzzle.
That might be the case, but should Tampa Bay feel obligated to trade or release Simms? That's the Bucs' decision to make. They earned the right to do whatever they see fit with him by signing him to his two-year contract worth over $7 million.
That was more than any other team was probably going to be willing to sign him for, especially had he hit the free agent market in March of 2007 and undergone physical tests from teams interesting in signing him. Simms clearly wasn't ready to play football again during the 2007 offseason and training camp.
At this point, Simms is scheduled to earn a base salary of $2 million in 2008, which probably is more than any other team would be willing to pay him at this point given the uncertainty surrounding his ability to throw a football.
Tampa Bay could very well trade Simms. Bucs general manager Bruce Allen has gone on the record a few times this week as saying Simms is 100 percent healthy and ready to play football.
Well, that's certainly important information to put out there if you would like teams to pick up the phone and call you to inquire about Simms' availability.
Tampa Bay also has just five picks in the draft (one pick in rounds 1-5) this year and is looking to acquire more selections between now and the 2008 NFL Draft.
But the Bucs are also prepared to take Simms to training camp and into the preseason and have him compete with Garcia, Griese, Plummer (if he comes out of retirement), Luke McCown and Gradkowski for a roster spot. That, of course, is if they can't trade him first.
WHERE WILL THE BUCS GO IN THE FIRST ROUND? Pewter Report feels fairly confident that the Buccaneers will go with either a cornerback or wide receiver with their first-round pick (20th overall) in the 2008 NFL Draft.
Of course, if Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm or Clemson defensive end Phillip Merling are there when the Bucs select the decision could be a tough one to make, but Pewter Report believes at this point that the Buccaneers will go with either a cornerback or wide receiver with their first-round pick (20th overall) in the 2008 NFL Draft.
Some whispers around the NFL suggest USF CB Mike Jenkins could fall to the Bucs at No. 20, but there's no guarantee they'll take him.
Pewter Report actually wouldn't be surprised if the Bucs passed on Jenkins and selected a wide receiver, such as Texas' Limas Sweed, Michigan State's Devin Thomas, Houston's Donnie Avery, Indiana's James Hardy and Cal's DeSean Jackson simply because the cornerback position is so deep and the wide receiver position lacks the same quality depth.
The Bucs haven't taken a cornerback in the first round since 1986. Don't be surprised if that drought continues past this year's draft, although Jenkins would be a great addition to the Buccaneers.
ROYAL A GOOD FIT FOR BUCS If Tampa Bay elects to draft a cornerback in the first round, which player might the Bucs target at wide receiver in the later rounds?
League sources have suggested to Pewter Report that Houston's Donnie Avery has worked his way up into the late first round thanks to a 4.32 40-yard dash time at his pro day workout, so Tampa Bay might not have the opportunity to select Avery in the second round and may have to take him at the No. 20 spot in the first round if the Bucs do indeed like him that much.
Another player who has kind of flown under the radar a bit this offseason is Virginia Tech wide receiver Eddie Royal, who had an impressive Senior Bowl and NFL Combine.
The 5-foot-9, 186-pound speedster ran a 4.39 40-yard dash time this offseason. Although he lacks size, Royal runs polished routes, is explosive and quick, and possesses very reliable hands.
Royal caught 119 passes for 1,778 yards (14.9 avg.) and 12 touchdowns while playing in an offense that lacked quality play at the quarterback position.
He also proved to be quire versatile, rushing for 224 yards (9.4 avg.) and two touchdowns and throwing a 53-yard touchdown pass.
Tampa Bay still is in need of a full-time return specialist due to Mark Jones' knee injury and free agent status, and Michael Spurlock's average performance outside of his 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown last year. Royal is a guy that could solidify both the punt and kickoff return positions in Tampa Bay.
Royal averaged 23.5 yards per kickoff return on 59 attempts at Virginia Tech. He also returned 111 punts for 1,296 yards (11.7 avg.) and scored three touchdowns.
Unless new Tampa Bay center Jeff Faine is going to help provide quarterback Jeff Garcia with an extra 3-5 second to throw on every passing play so that receivers can go open, the Bucs desperately need to add more speed to their wide receiving corps as Joey Galloway is 36 and neither Michael Clayton nor Maurice Stovall has proven they can separate from defenders in a timely or consistent manner.
If the Bucs can't land a fast playmaker like Hardy or Avery in the first two rounds, Royal could be a good value pick for Tampa Bay in the third round.
PRO BOWL-LESS IN TAMPA BAY Granted, Tampa Bay was without two first-round and two second-round draft picks in 2002 and 2003 due to the trade with Oakland for head coach Jon Gruden. Yet, after six seasons in Tampa Bay Gruden has yet to see one of the players drafted during his tenure with the Bucs go to the Pro Bowl.
That includes Tampa Bay's defense, which has finished 10 of the past 11 seasons ranked in the top 10 under defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.
What makes this Pro Bowl-related tidbit even more amazing is the fact that Gruden has won three division titles and a Super Bowl in those sames six seasons as Tampa Bay's head coach. Imagine what his teams could do if some of the draft picks under Gruden's watch starting making Pro Bowls?
Gruden has watched some offensive players have success, like running back Cadillac Williams earning NFL Rookie of the Year in 2005 and Michael Clayton catching 80 passes during his rookie season in 2004 and come in second for ROY honors behind Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger. Both Williams and Clayton are former first-round picks.
The Bucs still have plenty of Pro Bowl talent on the defensive side of the ball, but many of those players, including linebacker Derrick Brooks and cornerback Ronde Barber, are getting up there in age and might not make it back to the Pro Bowl.
Tampa Bay's defense ranked No. 2 overall last year, but did not send one player to the Pro Bowl in February.
The Bucs offense has finished just one season ranked in the top 10 during Gruden's six-year tenure in Tampa Bay. Gruden does a good job of spreading the ball around in his offense, which could make it difficult for his skill position players to make the Pro Bowl.
It's also not Gruden's fault that Galloway has been robbed of Pro Bowl appearances after catching 202 passes for 3,358 yards (16.6 avg.) and 23 touchdowns over the past three seasons.
Still, with Tampa Bay's offensive line now being made up of three former first-round picks (left tackle Luke Petitgout, center Jeff Faine and right guard Davin Joseph) and two second-round selections (right tackle Jeremy Trueblood and guard Arron Sears), all of whom were drafted by the Bucs except for Petitgout and Faine, the Buccaneers offense needs to start producing more Pro Bowl-caliber players.
That, of course, would lead to the type of offensive production most people expected to see when the offensive-minded Gruden arrived in Tampa Bay in 2002.
TIDBIT OF THE WEEK When was the last time the Buccaneers overcame a deficit of more than seven points to win a regular season or post-season football game under head coach Jon Gruden?
Still thinking about it?
Let me save you some time. In Gruden's six-year tenure in Tampa Bay, which amounts to 101 games and a 50-51 overall record, including the playoffs, the Buccaneers have never won a game in which they trailed by more than seven points.
That indeed is a disturbing stat and further evidence to support the notion that the Buccaneers lack offensive playmakers.
Thanks to Tampa Bay's defense, the Buccaneers have only lost two games (both at home) where they led by more than seven points in that same six-year period.
The first was Tampa Bay's meltdown vs. Indianapolis on Monday Night Football in 2003 when the Bucs blew a 35-14 lead in the fourth quarter and allowed the Colts to come back and win in overtime, 38-35.
The second game came in December of 2004 when Tampa Bay led 17-7 over New Orleans just to lose the game to the Saints, 21-17.
So unless Tampa Bay's offense starts delivering more consistent production and playmakers, you can basically turn the channel or head for the exits if the Bucs trail by more than seven points at any point in a game.
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