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1. CUTLER TRADE IS A REAL LONG SHOT Bucs fans have been hoping the team can trade for Denver Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler, but that deal remains a long shot. We have not heard that Tampa Bay is pursuing Cutler at this time, and we have not heard that there is any dialog between the Broncos and the Bucs.
Sources have told Pewter Report that the Bucs would be players if the Broncos are looking to unload Cutler, but it appears to be quiet at this time. There are ties for Cutler to the Bucs in the form of defensive coordinator Jim Bates being the father of his former quarterback coach Jeremy Bates. Jeremy Bates is also good friends with Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris. Cutler himself has one his best friends on the Bucs roster in newly signed linebacker Niko Koutouvides.
While the Bucs potential to land Cutler is not completely dead, Tampa Bay's best chance to acquire Cutler was at the beginning of free agency because it was one of the few teams in talks to acquire him. Not many teams around the league knew that Cutler could be had, and now there will be a lot more competition for him.
The Detroit Lions are believed to be very interested in landing Cutler, and of all the teams rumored to be interested they have the most resources to get a deal done. Detroit has the number one overall pick in the draft along with pick number 20 and 33. Then two more third-round picks to give five picks in the top 82 selections. That flexibility in trade packages dwarfs the Buccaneers who already traded their second-round pick to Cleveland for tight end Kellen Winslow.
The Chicago Bears and New York Jets are also believed to be interested in Cutler. Both teams have first-round picks ahead of Tampa Bay at 19, and they both have second-round picks. There could be other quarterback needy teams that get in the mix like the Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Tennessee Titans, and San Francisco 49ers. Sources have told Pewter Report that Cutler would like to go back to Tennessee.
Right now Denver is also focused on trying to fix the relationship with Cutler, not trade him. Thus, we have not heard that the Bucs and Broncos are talking. If the situation continues to spiral out of control then the Broncos' efforts could be allocated to getting the most they can for him.
The other potential conflict for the Bucs and Cutler is a health issue. Cutler is a diabetic and has stated that he wears down in the heat. Tampa Bay would have to be sure that Cutler would be able to adjust to playing football in Florida, and Cutler would have to be on board with making that move and playing in the Florida heat. The final angle in the Cutler situation is a new contract that any team would likely give him if they trade for him.
The Cutler fiasco is somewhat reminiscent of last summer's drama with Brett Favre and the Packers. The common link between the two is Cutler and Favre are both represented by agent Bus Cook. The media leaks to ESPN's Chris Mortenson and Sports Illustrated's Peter King are of the same he-said/she-said tone of last year.
This reporter believes Cook is trying to orchestrate a big pay-day for Cutler with the Broncos or somewhere else. Cook will sell the Broncos their quarterback back to them, and a new contract will say to Cutler, and publically, that the team is committed to him.
It is obvious from checking out Pewter Report's message boards that there are a lot of Bucs fans that would love to buy a Cutler Bucs jersey, the chances of that deal happening are pretty far-fetched at this point. 2. McCOWN GETS A HEAD START The favorite to be the Bucs starting quarterback next season is Luke McCown, and the young veteran is getting a head start on the competition at quarterback. McCown has been at One Buc Place for weeks throwing on the fields with quarterbacks coach Greg Olson, watching film, and learning what is available in terms of the new offense.
McCown's teammates report to One Buc Place this week to start the offseason training program. The Bucs organized team activities (padless practices) start later in the offseason, but the strength and conditioning program prepares the players before they start practicing together.
It appears McCown's quarterback competition is going to be primarily from holdovers Brian Griese and Josh Johnson. The Bucs have had no interest in the free agent quarterbacks, and the free agent QBs on the market are not generating much interest. Tampa Bay could use its first-round pick on a quarterback to challenge McCown, but it is looking more likely that Kansas State's Josh Freeman could be selected before the Bucs pick. Georgia's Matthew Stafford will also likely be gone, and the team is not high on USC's Mark Sanchez.
A late-round quarterback would not challenge for the starting spot as a rookie, and the Buccaneers already have a late-round quarterback project in Johnson. Thus, McCown is in good shape right now to remain the favorite to be the starter next season. 3. TRAINING CAMP MOVE LOOKS BAD FOR FANS Back in February, Pewter Report heard about the Buccaneers contemplating moving training camp back to Tampa for the first time since 2001. Last week's announcement made the move official, and the Bucs tried to spin the move as a positive thing for their fanbase.
"The Buccaneers organization is excited to bring training camp home to Tampa in 2009," said V.P. of business administration Brian Ford in a team-issued statement. "Our goal is to provide access to our fans here in Tampa during our preparation for the season while further utilizing our world-class facility. The Buccaneers would also like to thank Disney's Wide World of Sports and the Celebration Hotel for their tremendous support and assistance over the past seven years."
The Buccaneers say that their goal is to get fans access to the practices, but this reporter is extremely skeptical that fans are going to be able to see much of the team in training camp due to the logistics of the new One Buc Place. It was not built to host thousands of potential fans, as a staff Pewter Report believes that the most likely result is the team will hold a handful of practices of at Raymond James Stadium that will be open to the public.
If that is the case, more of the Bucs fan base will be closer to attending practices, but there will be far fewer opportunities for the fans to watch the team. The team has said they are trying to open One Buc Place through the proper legal channels with the city, but I believe the team is posturing with that to not look like the bad guys when they are unable to hold open practices there.
One Buc Place was not designed for that purpose, and the city will be able to see that. There are only a few entry points to the practice field, and a few of them like a breezeway that opens to the players parking lot, would definitely be blocked off. The city is going to look at One Buc Place and see that there is really one entry and exit point for fans, no public bathrooms, an inadequate amount of security staff, and no seating. The team could put up some temporary bleachers, put out port-a-potties, and hire some seasonal security guards but they cannot add more entry points and exits for fans.
Holding a handful of practices at the stadium is the obvious settlement move for the team. They can sell concessions, showcase seats to fans that are interested in buying season tickets, and do not have the cost of renovating One Buc Place for a few weeks. A few weekend day practices and some night practices over the three weeks of training camp would be enough for the organization to say that they were able to get fans access to the team during training camp.
If Pewter Report's theory is proven true Bucs fans will have had the amount of opportunities to watch the team slashed from nearly twice daily for three weeks, to only a handful of chances. For the Bucs it saves them a lot of money by avoiding housing, feeding, and renting practice facilities for three weeks. The team will use their open practices to showcase season tickets, and make some money off concessions.
The move from Orlando to Tampa was done as a cost-cutting move for the Buccaneers. The Bucs organization has made a number of moves to save money since the end of last season. Those moves vary from laying off dozens of employees in every department to canceling the organizations holiday party. New general manager Mark Dominik has been a one-man gang in free agency, and has had limited resources at his disposal to try and work with agents, and prospective players. Tampa Bay has also avoided giving out much money in signing bonuses. The writing is on the wall for an ownership that is cash strapped. 4. TOP HEAVY WIDE RECEIVER CLASS In the NFL draft there are six wide receivers that could be selected in the first round. They are Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree, Missouri's Jeremy Maclin, Florida's Percy Harvin, Maryland's Darrius Heyward-Bey, North Carolina's Hakeem Nicks, and Rutgers' Kenny Britt. After that the wide receiver class is not very strong in the middle of the draft.
Possible targets for the Bucs in the mid-rounds are Florida's Louis Murphy, Rice's Jarrett Dillard, Cal Poly's Ramses Barden, BYU's Austin Collie, and Mississippi's Mike Wallace. All of those players are grading out in the mid-rounds but there is not a lot of receiver depth at that point in the draft.
Tampa Bay also has to consider addressing the defensive line and cornerback with its mid-round picks. The Bucs may be counting on young, unproven players like Maurice Stovall, Dexter Jackson, Paris Warren, and Kelly Campbell to round out their wide receiver depth behind starters Antonio Bryant and Michael Clayton. If Bryant were to suffer a serious injury it would be a massive blow to the offense, and Bucs could really use a big-play receiver behind Bryant.