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The Pewter Report Bucs Monday Mailbag is where Mark Cook answers your questions from our @PewterReport Twitter account. You can submit your question to the Mailbag each week via Twitter using the hashtag #PRMailbag. Here are the questions we chose for this week’s edition of the Pewter Report’s Bucs Monday Mailbag.
Table of Contents
Mailbag Question: Do you think Ronald Jones II and Ke’Shawn Vaughn can carry the load at RB next year?
Answer: Frankly, no. And as you will see in my own Bucs Battle Plan For The 2021 Offseason on Tuesday, I have Tampa Bay adding a veteran running back who is also a receiving threat out of the backfield. I will also have the team drafting one, likely early as well.
I think that Leonard Fournette will be gone in free agency and are certain the Bucs won’t re-sign LeSean McCoy, so they will need bodies – and ones that aren’t as one-dimensional as Ronald Jones II, and ones that show more that Ke’Shawn Vaughn did as a rookie in 2020. I am not ready to give up on Vaughn after just one pedestrian season, but I also didn’t see many “wow” moments from him in limited action that makes me confident he is a future feature back in the NFL. With that said, by all indications, the organization is still high on him and saw plenty from him during practices that apparently the media didn’t see.
Even if that is the case we know this coaching staff – and Tom Brady himself – will be pushing to add some veterans into the mix like they did last offseason when McCoy and Fournette were signed. New England’s James White is certainly in consideration.
Question: How do you think the TE position shakes out with Rob Gronkowski, Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard and Tanner Hudson?
Answer: Having O.J. Howard back and hopefully at 100 percent from a torn Achilles tendon will make this offense even more explosive in my opinion. It gives the team flexibility to run more two-tight end sets, creating more confusion for opposing defenses. And even if it were to be the exact same offense with just Howard in the Cameron Brate role, this offense will get better.
No one loves Brate more than I do, but Howard is a physical freak of an athlete for his position and was just starting to scratch the surface of what he could be when he ruptured his Achilles in Week 4. He is bigger and stronger, and a better blocker than Brate, so that alone tells me he will have a bigger impact on the offense than Brate would. And Brate might not even be on the team. With the Bucs’ back against the salary cap wall with the number of unrestricted free agents to sign, Brate could be a cap casualty due to his $6.25 million salary, and at the very least, will need to agree to a reduced salary to stay with the team.
The Bucs will be re-signing exclusive rights free agent tight end Tanner Hudson, however other than the preseason of 2019, he hasn’t produced very much when given a handful of opportunities. I could also see Antony Auclair back in 2021 with he and Hudson battling for the fourth roster spot at that position.
Mailbag Question: Are the Glazers willing to part with $60-70 million in the next week to get these free agent deals done with signing bonuses?
Answer: If that were to be the case the answer is yes, as even in a pandemic season the Buccaneers were profitable. The Glazers also would love to see their team win back-to-back Super Bowl titles and the best way to get in position to do that is of course to keep as many free agents a possible.
However, you asked about millions in signing bonuses, but that isn’t how Tampa Bay’s front office operates. Instead, the team offers guaranteed money normally in the first two years of contracts or roster bonuses rather than signing bonuses. This is one of the reasons Tampa Bay is either the best or next to the best in terms of the least amount of dead cap money year in and year out. Its a win-win for both the player and organization and clearly has worked in the Bucs’ favor as evidenced by their cap positioning each season.
Question: What do you think would happen if the NFL had no draft and had rookie free agency instead? In this hypothetical scenario, would it be easier or more difficult to build a championship roster?
Answer: The short answer to the question in this Mailbag is, while it is a unique thought, I think it would be an awful idea, honestly. It reeks of the sports that don’t have salary caps where the team willing to spend the most can buy their team and essentially guarantee itself a playoff berth each season. But even in those sports there is still a draft, and drafts have to be the constant in terms of building franchises.
Drafts at least allow teams that don’t have huge budgets to still stay competitive if they are able to scout and draft well. The Tampa Bay Rays are a perfect example of that. Normally at the bottom or close to the bottom in terms of payroll, the Rays have went to the World Series twice now in their fairly short existence and knocked off some giant teams with payrolls that exceed the Rays’ payroll by four times or more. But eliminating the draft from baseball – or in football as your question suggested – it would definitely create huge divides between the haves and the have-nots.
If you are Trevor Lawrence and could choose between the Jacksonville Jaguars and say the New Orleans Saints, where would you go? Having a traditional draft allows the bad teams to get better pretty quickly if they handle their business from within their scouting departments. Without that hope, bad teams could continue to be basement dwellers for decades as the top players each year would chose to sign with teams closer to being Super Bowl-ready.