The Reese’s 2020 Senior Bowl week officially begins on Tuesday morning with the players weigh-in and the first practices of the week, but the rumor mill was churning on Monday in Mobile, Ala. – and several of the most notable rumors on the Internet involved the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
PewterReport.com attempts to sort fact from fiction and offers up some exclusive insight into the Bucs’ plans at the Senior Bowl.
Rivers To Tampa Bay?
Philip Rivers to the Buccaneers to replace Jameis Winston?
Tampa Bay selecting Washington quarterback Jacob Eason in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft to groom behind Rivers?
That’s supposedly the “chatter” coming from Mobile, Ala. as the Senior Bowl week begins.
At least that’s the chatter from ProFootballNetwork.com.
Of course, the Rivers-to-Tampa Bay rumors took off on Sunday when ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that Rivers and his family moved from San Diego to Florida to be closer to family. Rivers, who is the ultimate family man, had been making the daily one and a half hour commute from San Diego to Los Angeles to play quarterback for the Chargers the last few years following their relocation.
But would Rivers be willing to make the six-hour commute to Santa Rosa Beach in the Florida Panhandle region to Tampa to play for the Buccaneers? Now that’s a stretch.
Rivers to the Buccaneers is just speculation at this point, and the fact that’s actually being reported in story form rather than just Twitter conjecture may just be some circular reporting at play in this case, as one media outlet speculates and then another media outlet sees that and speculates upon that speculation – and then the chorus grows from there.
PewterReport.com probably played a role in this rumor growing some legs when we tweeted this on Sunday.
— PewterReport (@PewterReport) January 19, 2020
Hey, it’s an interesting scenario to think about.
Does the 38-year old Rivers coming to Tampa Bay make sense? Yes, possibly – but only if the Bucs didn’t want to re-sign Winston or use the franchise tag on him.
But PewterReport.com believes that the Bucs do want Winston back – at least for 2020 – and hasn’t heard anything to the contrary. If that’s the case, Rivers won’t be a Buccaneer.
However, if Winston somehow isn’t in play for Tampa Bay in 2020, then the Bucs would be interested in a proven veteran like Rivers because head coach Bruce Arians, who turns 68 this year, wants to win now – not draft a starting quarterback and wait several years for him to develop.
Arians might not see the end of his five-year contract and may want to opt for retirement sooner. A veteran quarterback – whether it’s Winston or someone else – gives Arians the best shot at making the playoffs and getting to the Super Bowl sooner rather than later.
You know who else wants to win now? General manager Jason Licht, who has had one winning season in six years in Tampa Bay. Licht needs to win now, either with Winston or another veteran QB. He doesn’t have time to draft another quarterback without a veteran starter in place first.
Rivers didn’t have his best season in 2019, throwing 20 interceptions, which were the third-highest in the NFL behind Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield (21) and Winston’s league-high 30, but he did pass for 4,615 yards and 23 touchdowns. Of course Rivers is just one year removed from a season in which he had a much more acceptable 32 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 2018 while passing for 4,308 yards.
Rivers still has plenty of gas in the tank, as four years ago in 2016 he tossed 21 interceptions along with 33 touchdowns, but then had a better year in 2017 with 28 TDs and only 10 INTs. Rivers is still capable of bouncing back with a better year in 2020 – in Tampa Bay or elsewhere. I’m sure websites that post NFL game lines will soon have betting odds on Rivers’ next destination.
Bucs’ QB Buzz
Tampa Bay is doing its due diligence and will be scouting a pretty fair group of quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl. The Bucs won’t necessarily be looking at a potential replacement for Winston in a first-rounder like Oregon’s Justin Herbert or Utah State’s Jordan Love. What they’ll really be looking for is depth to serve in a backup role – likely as a Day 3 selection.
Like every NFL team, Tampa Bay will be interested to see how Oklahoma’s dual-threat QB Jalen Hurts performs in Mobile, in addition to Washington State’s Anthony Gordon, a Mike Leach “Air Raid” quarterback, who was featured in the initial PewterReport.com 2020 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft. Does Gordon have the arm strength to succeed in Arians’ vertical passing attack?
Colorado’s Steven Montez has an NFL arm and NFL size at 6-foot-5, 235 pounds, but does he have the accuracy and quick decision-making necessary to play at the next level? The Bucs will be watching for that, too.
As for Eason, he fits the mold of a Bucs quarterback because of his size, arm strength and pocket passer style, but he’s not in Mobile due to his junior status. With more pressing needs elsewhere it’s hard to see Tampa Bay drafting a quarterback like Eason in the second round.
Despite having the aging Carson Palmer under center in Arizona, Arians only drafted one quarterback with the Cardinals, and that was Logan Thomas, a fourth-rounder in 2014. He was cut before the start of his second season, and couldn’t make it as an NFL quarterback, having to switch positions to tight end.
Licht has only drafted one quarterback in his six years as the Bucs’ G.M. and that was Winston first overall in 2015.
Senior RB Class Underwhelming
Don’t look for the Bucs to draft a quarterback in the second round unless Love somehow falls out of the first round and is on the clock when Tampa Bay chooses. They’re much more likely to draft an offensive lineman, a pass rusher – either an interior defensive lineman or an edge rusher – or a running back in the second round.
That’s when Licht drafted running back Ronald Jones II in 2018, and the Bucs could be looking for another runner to pair with Jones and replace Peyton Barber, who underwhelmed in a contract year and will be an unrestricted free agent in 2019.
This year’s group of running backs at the Senior Bowl isn’t good, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Tampa Bay’s attention turn towards the junior running backs in this year’s draft and not waste a lot of time on the backs in Mobile.
Georgia’s D’Andre Swift, Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins, LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor are all juniors – and the headliners – and won’t last past the second round. Swift and Dobbins could even hear their names called in the latter part of the first round.
Don’t forget about Miami junior DeeJay Dallas, who figures to be a mid-round pick, either. Dallas went to the Bucs in the fourth round of the latest PewterReport.com 2020 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft.
Tampa Bay Has Heavy Interest In Senior Bowl WRs
Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy said that this year’s group of Senior Bowl wide receivers could be the best collection of pass catchers in Mobile in recent memory. The headliner of the group is Arizona State speedster Brandon Aiyuk, who has the potential to go in the first round.
With Pro Bowlers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, the Bucs aren’t looking to spend a premium pick on a wide receiver, but there is some concern that Breshad Perriman’s hot finish to the season may have priced him out of Tampa Bay. The Bucs would love to have Perriman back as the team’s third receiver, but unless he takes a decent hometown discount the team may not be able to afford him.
It took a long time – and injuries to Evans and Godwin – for Justin Watson to emerge as a potential weapon on offense. And rookie receiver Scotty Miller struggled with hamstring injuries at various points throughout the season. The Bucs don’t have much on the depth chart beyond Perriman, and Tampa Bay would love to draft a receiver to challenge that duo for the third receiver role if Perriman should depart.
Keep an eye on Tennessee’s Jauan Johnson, Liberty’s Antonio Gandy-Golden, Baylor’s Denzel Mims and SMU’s James Proche, who was featured in PewterReport.com’s 2020 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft, at the Senior Bowl as Day 3 options for Tampa Bay.