Copyright 2007 PewterReport.com

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Here is some post-2007 NFL Draft scoop and random thoughts as they pertain to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Why Didn’t The Bucs Trade For Moss?
There were a lot of surprised people Sunday when news broke that Oakland had traded disgruntled wide receiver Randy Moss to the New England Patriots for just a fourth-round pick.

So why didn’t the Bucs attempt to trade for Moss? A fourth-round pick is, after all, considered little compensation for a 6-foot-4, 210-pound receiver who has over 10,000 receiving yards and 100 touchdowns.

The Bucs were interested enough in acquiring Moss to call the Raiders this offseason, but that was about the extent of their interest.

Why? Because Moss has been a cancer, and the last thing Tampa Bay wanted to do was bring one in to its locker room, which held together quite well in 2006 despite the team’s disappointing and frustrating 4-12 season. Moss hasn’t exactly been shy about venting to the media in the past.

Yes, the Bucs are taking a risk with tight end Jerramy Stevens, but given the fact that he received no signing bonus, it's a low risk. Acquiring Moss, who will make millions in New England, comes with a bigger risk – monetarily – than the Bucs wanted to take on.

The Bucs also want to do a better job of getting all of their players involved on offense, which might mean fewer opportunities for the receivers. The Bucs didn’t feel this particular strategy would sit well with Moss.

Moss, 30, reportedly said the only team he’d renegotiate his contract for was the Patriots, who have won three Super Bowls since the 2001 season and figure to be in the hunt again in 2007.

Tampa Bay and Oakland haven’t exactly had a great working relationship over the past several years, either. The bad blood stems from the trade for Jon Gruden, whose Bucs defeated the Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII less than a year after that deal went down, and the fact that general manager Bruce Allen and several other members of the Raiders organization followed Gruden to Tampa Bay.

So there’s no telling whether the Raiders would have even been willing to trade Moss to the hated Bucs. And if they were willing to make that trade, it might have called for the Bucs to surrender more than a fourth-round pick.

There’s also no guarantee Moss would have wanted to play for Tampa Bay. The Bucs are, after all, coming off a 4-12 season and have had three losing seasons over the past four years. In Moss’ mind, that wouldn’t have been a much of a change in scenary compared to what he’s seen in Oakland over the past two seasons. Moss, also turned down trade overtures from another non-playoff team, Green Bay, to go to a perennial winner like New England.

The Bucs are actually quite excited about their stable of wide receivers, which includes Joey Galloway, Michael Clayton, Maurice Stovall, Ike Hilliard and David Boston, who is said to have made a lot of progress since his last stint with the Bucs.

Character Concerns
Speaking of character, some Bucs fans have asked Pewter Report why Tampa Bay didn’t invest its fourth-round pick in Florida defensive tackle Marcus Thomas, who might have been a first-round selection had he not been kicked off the Florida football team for off-the-field issues, including a failed drug test.

Pewter Report wondered the same thing, but we have since learned that Thomas likely wasn’t even on Tampa Bay’s draft board due to those character concerns. The Bucs just weren’t convinced that Thomas had turned his life around and was ready to completely commit himself to football, and more importantly, staying out of trouble.

So why would the Bucs leave Thomas off of their draft board and sign troubled tight end Jerramy Stevens in the same weekend?

Well, there’s a difference. The Bucs have nothing to lose with Stevens, who signed a one-year contract worth the league minimum. It also included no signing bonus.

That essentially means the Bucs can cut Stevens if he gets in any kind of trouble, and they will lose nothing. In the case of Thomas, the Bucs would have a fourth-round draft pick on the line.

Black Or Booker?
Tampa Bay had a difficult decision to make in the third round of the 2007 NFL Draft. League insiders tell Pewter Report that the Bucs were torn between two players – New Mexico linebacker Quincy Black and Florida State running back Lorenzo Booker.

It was a tough decision to make since Booker is a prototype Jon Gruden running back, but the Bucs ultimately went with Black, who has impressive 4.48 speed for a 6-foot-2, 240-pound linebacker. The Bucs feel Black could be 10-time Pro Bowler Derrick Brooks’ eventual successor.

Unfortunately for the Bucs, Booker was drafted by the Miami Dolphins a few picks later.

Was Drafting Sears A Mistake?
The Buccaneers really rolled the dice when they drafted Tennessee guard Arron Sears in the second round, and here’s why.

It’s not that Sears is a bad player. In fact, this 6-foot-4, 320-pound man could turn out to be one hell of an offensive lineman. He can flat out move piles in the running game, and the Bucs could certainly use a player like that since they lacked push up front last year.

Here’s my problem with this pick. The Bucs passed up the best center in the draft – USC’s Ryan Kalil – to take Sears.

The Bucs have been pleased with left guard Dan Buenning’s play over the past two seasons. He’s coming off of season-ending knee surgery and might not be 100 percent healthy until training camp.

Yet, the Bucs have decided to move Buenning to center to compete with – and eventually replace – John Wade.

Sears likely will be Tampa Bay’s starting left guard when the 2007 regular season begins, but it’s not safe to assume the same with Buenning, who must first show he’s capable of not only playing, but also solidifying the center position.

I’m not a big fan of moving players around on the offensive line like Bucs offensive line coach Bill Muir has done since he arrived in Tampa Bay in 2002. The Bucs just haven’t shown the ability to move players around along the line with much success, and that concerns me about Buenning, especially when the Bucs passed up a proven center with a lot of upside in Kalil.

If Buenning can play well at center, this will be a moot point and indeed the right decision. However, if Buenning can’t solidify the center position, the decision to draft Sears instead of Kalil could turn out to be a big mistake.

Did The Glazers Force The Bucs To Draft Defense?
It has been suggested by some on local sports talk radio programs and in the Tampa Tribune that the Glazers might have ordered Bucs head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen to draft for defense.

While I haven’t personally spoken with the Glazers about this, I find it very difficult to believe. If the Glazers were going to get that involved in the draft process and didn’t trust the current front office to make these decisions, Gruden and Allen likely would have been fired after the Bucs’ 4-12 season.

Despite what some believe, Gruden, Allen and the Bucs had a plan when they entered the 2007 offseason.

Remember – back in January the Bucs were clear that they wanted to address and improve two things on their team – the quarterback play and the defensive pass rush.

The Bucs attempted to address the quarterback position by acquiring arguably the two best available signal callers this offseason in Jeff Garcia and Jake Plummer.

On defense, the Bucs re-signed cornerback Phillip Buchanon and signed linebacker Cato June and defensive linemen Kevin Carter and Patrick Chukwurah.

That should have been seen a sign of things to come in 2007 NFL Draft, where the Bucs used seven of their 10 picks to select defensive players.

The current front office has come under some criticism for allegedly neglecting the defense and going heavy on offense in previous drafts.

That notion carries some weight, evidenced by the fact that the Bucs have used just 15 of the 44 draft picks they’ve had since 2002 to select defensive players. And only three of those defensive players were selected on the first day of the draft (rounds 1-3).

But the current Bucs regime can’t necessarily be held responsible for the neglect of the defense. It might have more to do with the circumstances and cards they’ve been dealt.

The Bucs traded away four first-round picks and three second-round selections from 2000-04. The team wasted another first-round selection on tackle Kenyatta Walker, who is no longer in the league, and burned a second-rounder to trade up to get him.

Tampa Bay’s defense also ranked in the top 10 for nine straight seasons and ranked No. 1 overall twice (2002 and 2005), so drafting defense wasn’t as high a priority as drafting offense.

Before the Bucs released linebacker Shelton Quarles and cornerback Juran Bolden, over half of their defensive starters were over the age of 30.

When you take all of these things into consideration, it’s probably a safe bet that the Glazers didn’t order Gruden and Allen to draft defense. They didn't have to. It was pretty obvious that the defense needed to be addressed this year after it finished last season ranked 17th overall.

Feel free to criticize their plan, but the Bucs definitely had one this offseason, particularly on defense, where they’ve gotten faster and bigger through the draft, not to mention the competition they’ve added at several key positions.

One final note on Tampa Bay’s defense. Pay close attention to Adams and Carter this season.

One particular aspect of their games that piqued Tampa Bay’s interest was their knack for getting their hands up in the air and in passing lanes.

The quarterbacks’ trouble with batted passes near the line of scrimmage has been well documented in Tampa Bay. The Bucs have gone as far as putting a PVC pipe practice dummy on the field during training camp in an effort to help the quarterbacks, particularly Chris Simms, avoid having their passes deflected.

Tampa Bay’s defense prides itself on stopping the run and getting after the quarterback. Deflecting passes at the line of scrimmage hasn’t been a point of emphasis, which might explain why the Bucs’ defensive line accounted for just seven passes defensed (five of those were recorded by former Bucs DE Dewayne White) in 2006.

With the practice dummy not working and the defensive linemen not helping in this particular area, the Bucs decided to go out and get the real thing.

The 6-foot-6, 305-pound Carter has deflected 22 passes during his career. Adams (6-5, 258) notched a whopping 21 passes defensed during his collegiate career at Clemson.

Not only could their knack for batting down passes at the line of scrimmage help Tampa Bay’s defense create turnovers, Adams and Carter’s ability to get their hands up in throwing lanes should help the Bucs’ quarterbacks in practice, too.

Bucs Still Hoping Plummer Plays
There was a lot of speculation leading up to the draft that suggested the Bucs would attempt to trade quarterback Jake Plummer.

That simply wasn’t the case. The Bucs did not trade for Plummer just to trade him to another team. They want him to play for the Buccaneers.

In fact, there are some in the Bucs organization that believe Plummer can win the starting job if he reports to training camp and is completely focused on playing football.

Plummer’s sudden retirement doesn’t have as much to do with Tampa Bay as it does Denver. Plummer feels Denver did him wrong when it benched him in favor of rookie Jay Cutler and then traded him to the Bucs instead of reuniting him with his former offensive coordinator in Houston.

The Bucs have been willing to be patient as Plummer continues to contemplate his future. While he has announced his retirement, Plummer isn’t officially retired. He has yet to submit his paperwork to the league office and Plummer is still talking with Bucs general manager Bruce Allen, who hopes to meet with Plummer sometime soon.

The fact that Plummer is even listening to Allen suggests he’s thinking about playing football again. The Bucs would love nothing more than for Plummer to play for them this year.

If not, they might try to force him to play by threatening to go after as much as $7 million in bonuses that Denver paid him and the Bucs would be entitled to.

The Bucs might also be willing to wait until 2008 to even pursue Plummer’s bonuses since there’s a chance he could change his mind and play football again in ’08 after a year off.

At that time, Jeff Garcia, who signed a two-year deal with the Bucs, and Chris Simms would be in the final years of their contracts. Garcia would also be 38.

Plummer will be 33, which is still young for a quarterback in Jon Gruden’s mind. Remember – Rich Gannon was the same age when he embarked on his successful career in Oakland under Gruden.

 
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