PewterReport.com began a new offseason feature last year, giving readers an opportunity to get their questions answered about the Bucs by the PR staff. Today, Mark Cook answers five questions taken from Twitter submissions and our message boards using the hashtag #PRMailbag.

Question: Could Bucs defense be in the Top 5 next year with the return of Mike Smith?

Answer: Could they? Yes. Will they? It will take a few more players, a little luck, and a lot less injuries than they had last season. What the Bucs did during their five-game winning streak was as good as we have seen in Tampa in the last several years. However, the defense we saw late against the Cowboys, and the second Saints game proves their is more work to be done.

We can point to several reasons the Bucs faltered in Week 15 and 16. Offensive line play was subpar. Quarterback play could have been much better. The Doug Martin fiasco didn’t help. Certainly losing Will Gholston and not having him available hurt, but he played a majority of the Cowboys game and Tampa really didn’t have an answer for Zeke Elliot, which completely opened things up for Dak Prescott. 

Playoff teams have a way to mask injuries, and the rest don’t. Injuries will occur, but the drop off can’t be as drastic as we saw at times this year. Building a two-deep, 53-man roster is nearly impossible, and predicting where the injuries are going to come from is impossible to know. 

With that said, this team is close. Take the Chris Conte injury for example. Conte goes out, Keith Tandy steps in, and the team doesn’t miss a beat and some would argue, they improved. 

Re-signing Gholston and Akeem Spence is important in my opinion, then adding better quality behind them. Again, the job of a GM is not an easy one, but the ones who can find second-team talent, are the ones who leave a legacy. Good news is, the Bucs have the cap space to make some things happen this offseason. 

Question: Jason Licht has made a surprise pick every draft. Sims Rd 3 in ’14. Marpet Rd 2 in ’15. Aguayo Rd 2 in ’16. Any guesses for this year?

Answer: Now you are asking me to look into my glass ball. I only bring that out for special occasions, but it is little too early in January. And even if I knew, and revealed it, Bucs management would probably try and have me shipped off to Siberia. Some things have to go unspoken. With that said, I don’t have any inside scoop on a surprise pick. Charles Sims wasn’t a huge surprise, but adding Ali Marpet was, even though I wrote about him standing out in Mobile in January of 2015. But I can’t take any credit for predicting the Bucs would pick him. It was still a surprise. The only thing I can say, is, expect the unexpected in April. Licht and his staff leave few stones unturned, and aren’t afraid to gamble on small school guys. 

Question: Do you believe that Bucs will go after any big names in FA or just go after primarly role players?

Answer: I certainly do not see them turning in a 2014 free agency cash toss, but if they identify a player that they feel can step in a make a big impact, they will pull the trigger. Although my guess is we will see something along the lines of last season where they let the dust settle a little, and pick off some names that aren’t necessarily household names.

As mentioned in a question earlier, there are some areas where I believe they will address depth, linebacker for one, maybe safety, a blocking/pass catching tight end (yes, I realize in today’s NFL world they are almost unicorns) and you can never have enough pass rushers as we saw this season. But it wouldn’t shock me to see them go after a big name early. Just don’t expect a repeat of 2014. 

Question: Do you see Licht being aggressive trading up at the draft if there is a player he falls in love with?

Answer: Yes, but at what cost? Licht isn’t afraid to move up or down and had been as big a draft day mover as any Bucs GM in franchise history. It is still very early in the evaluation process, so I am not sure they have completely fallen in love with anyone as of yet. At least enough to pay a ransom to move up to get them. But if they do identify that player, and they don’t think the move will cripple the franchise, I guess he pulls the trigger. Worked well for the Falcons and Julio Jones. 

Question: The Falcons used free agency to upgrade positions of need, what can the Bucs do in 2017 to make the same impact?

Answer: Hope the Falcons cut Mohamed Sanu and Mack and the Bucs claim them? Obviously kidding. But Atlanta has done a great job the last two season in identifying players as starters and then role contributors. And they weren’t all high-priced players. Taylor Gabriel was a cast off from the Browns? The Browns! And Atlanta couldn’t be happier that Browns management fumbled that one away. Sometimes it as much another team’s ineptitude as it is, finding the big money free agent. And Licht has done that himself. Cameron Brate was wearing a Saints uniform in Week 2 of the 2015 season. Joe Hawley was unemployed to star the 2015 season.  Jacquizz Rodgers was walking the streets prior to the Bucs adding him this season. As mentioned earlier, I don’t see the Bucs going on a wild, make-it-rain speeding spree in March, as they are more likely to wrap up some of their own free agents, then pad their roster with depth. 

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About the Author: Mark Cook

Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at [email protected]
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surferdudes
5 years ago

This is the first draft Licht won’t be picking in the top 10, I think at #19 we’re in great position to move down. I think we’d be better off in a draft top heavy at back, and receiver to build some quality depth with additional picks. Mark, any thoughts of currant players who may be traded for picks?

Buc 1976
Buc 1976
5 years ago

Mark the article about how Falcon’s saw value for their team was very interesting. I think the Bucs have seen it is better and wait for 2nd and 3rd tier FA. We have been burned TO MANY times with high$$ FA. One question if Bucs have a chance to get Cory Davis do they do it? Or if they see 3-4 players on the board move down a little and pickup a hopefully 2nd at worst 3rd rd pick? I maybe wrong but think this draft is 4 rd deep with pl can help us

Buc 1976
Buc 1976
Reply to  Mark Cook
5 years ago

Thank You Scott.
I was unaware that Cory D was Hurt when I asked the question.
I hope we don’t draft the WR from WA it seems like they are kind off head cases ala Jeremy Stevens and ASJ.
But who knows 3rd time could be a charm.

drdneast
drdneast
5 years ago

I believe the QB play will improve once the offensive line and the running game do. I believe we are supposed to be known as a run first team but you could have fooled me with all the balls being tossed around in the air last year. We also run a play action pass offense but since no one was respecting the run much last year, it was tough to be successful at that endeavor as well. As the season wore on I began to suspect we were missing Logan Mankins more than we thought we would. Kevin Pamphille may… Read more »

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  drdneast
5 years ago

drd – I’m not nearly as convinced as Scott Reynolds is, or his webmates here at PR, that the Bucs are going to stand pat with last year’s offensive line. The Bucs coaches may be talking as if everything is great with them on the O-line, but that could just be coaches defending guys they’ve gotten very close to in the trenches last season. Note that Jason Licht is not making any noises about how great our O-line is, and he’s the decision-maker, not the offensive coaches who are inputs but not the final word on the roster or the… Read more »

chetthevette
chetthevette
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 years ago

Hey naples and drd,
I can see them standing pat with our O Line if Sweezy gets healthy. He really is a good run blocker contrary to what every one says.
If he does not come back ala carl Nicks they should look for at the least a replacement or a upgraded center.
GO BUCS

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
5 years ago

Whatever surprises may await us in the draft, courtesy of Jason Licht, it seems that such surprises are more likely on Day 2 than Day 1. In each of his three prior drafts, Jason took the player, or one of the two players, that nearly everybody thought were locks in the first round. His surprises have been in the 2nd and 3rd rounds . Jason’s minor move down a couple picks to still get his preferred first rounder of VHIII was maybe a minor surprise, but he still got his guy and used the return from that to help pay… Read more »

chetthevette
chetthevette
5 years ago

Man I busted a gut laughing when the Falcons paid Sanu all that money. I’m not laughing now. Sanu and Mack propelled them into the big game. Speaking of the big game I’m at odds with myself trying to get around who I want to win. The Dirty Birds? The thought makes me shudder. The Damn Patriots? The thought makes me want to puke. I think I’ll shudder. There have been almost every position mocked to the BUCS so far this year. Excluding punter and kicker. I have only one opinion about it. OL or DL. Please. Can we Be… Read more »

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  chetthevette
5 years ago

Though I am a Bucs fan and homer, I like both teams (NE and ATL) very, very much, including their players and their coaches and their owners. They are models for the league, models that I wished the baby Glazers had followed ever since their dad suffered his stroke in 2007 … that was the beginning of our downfall.

Hard to pick a winner in the big game, it seems like a very evenly matched game, and hopefully, unlike the rest of this year’s playoff games, the Super Bowl won’t be another snoozer, over by halftime.

chetthevette
chetthevette
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 years ago

Sorry Naples,
Can’t get around liking the Patriots. For some reason I can not like perineal winners. Kind of like the Yankees.
Hell my second NFL team is the Lions. And I love to root for an underdog.
All that aside I’m pulling for the Falcons. When they win their first SB it will be cool.
Putting a scowl on Belichecks face would be great. Be hard to tell when he is actually scowling though, such a sour puss.
O BUCS

Buc 1976
Buc 1976
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 years ago

Naplesfan:
I can not think of a team in the AFC other than NE with the offense that Atlanta has. So I am Betting on Atlanta it very well could come down to a shootout in the fourth quarter last team who has the ball WINS just a hunch.
PS: I would like to see our division win and get better respect.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  Buc 1976
5 years ago

I shake my head whenever I read someone in the sports media refer to the NFC South as a “weak division”. It makes no sense. The NFC South has had more Super Bowl appearances than any other division but the AFC East, which is and has been for the last 17 years, otherwise known as “New England and three other teams that never do anything”. The NFC South has had a participant in the NFC Championship game 9 of the last 15 years since the realignment and creation of the NFC South, and of course the last two years in… Read more »

chetthevette
chetthevette
Reply to  Buc 1976
5 years ago

Don’t forget that sneaky Pat’s defense.
I’ll call a push on defense.
I’ll give edge to Dirty Birds on offense.
GO BUCS

XpfcWintergreen
XpfcWintergreen
5 years ago

I am pulling for Atlanta just because they are champs from the NFC South. I could care less about national media attention. I want to see our division become the strongest in our conference. That way when our Bucs work their way through the season and the play-offs and arrive in the Superbowl, they will truly be battle tested and ready. I want to see us bring home a minimum of two Superbowl wins in the next, say, 12 to 15 years. Of course my dreams are for much more than that. From where I sit this can be a… Read more »

chetthevette
chetthevette
Reply to  XpfcWintergreen
5 years ago

Well I’m smoking it man. Super bowl for BUCS, why not us. They laughed in 2002.
GO BUCS