Due to the in-depth writing associated with my Bucs Battle Plan this week and the latest PewterReport.com 7-Round Mock Draft that will debut on Sunday, there won’t be a Discount Garage Doors SR’s Fab 5 column today. But I wanted to provide you with some insight on what the Bucs plan to do in free agency, which begins on Monday, March 12 when teams are allowed to open negotiations with agents prior to the official start of free agency on Wednesday, March 14.

Why Are The Bucs Passing On So Many Free Agents?

Bucs fans have been freaking out over the past week as they have seen defensive line help go elsewhere around the league via trade and free agency.

Former Jets defensive end Mohammed Wilkerson has plenty of talent to go along with his character issues and Tampa Bay is steering clear of him. The free agent visited with Green Bay this week and then New Orleans and Kansas City are up next. One Buc Place won’t be among his stops this offseason.

The Bucs already had one bad apple with Chris Baker, who just signed a one-year deal with Cincinnati, along the defensive line last year and don’t want another one. Notice how no team has swooped in and snatched up Wilkerson within days of his release by the Jets. That should tell you something.

The Los Angeles Rams traded defensive end Robert Quinn to Miami for a fourth-round pick and swapped sixth-rounders with the Dolphins. Quinn had 8.5 sacks last year for the Rams, and that number looks awfully tantalizing to a team that notched just 22 and whose leading sacker, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, only had six. Doesn’t it?

Quinn is only 27, but has missed a total of 16 games over the past three years due to back surgery, shoulder surgery and concussions. The Bucs were reportedly in the hunt for Quinn, but why didn’t they offer at least a fourth- and a fifth-round pick to obtain him? Perhaps the better question is why Quinn only was traded for fourth- and sixth-round picks?

There are quite a few teams that need pass rushing defensive ends around the league, and there aren’t many good edge rushers in free agency since Demarcus Lawrence and Ziggy Ansah, nor are they plentiful in this year’s draft. So why was a fourth-rounder and a sixth-rounder – two Day 3 selections – the going rate for a player that a brilliant defensive coordinator like Wade Phillips didn’t want anymore?

Keep in mind that Quinn is scheduled to earn $11.4 million in base salary and a $1.11 million roster bonus in 2018. The guess here is that the Bucs would rather see that money go towards a younger, proven player in the form of a contract extension for wide receiver Mike Evans, middle linebacker Kwon Alexander or offensive lineman Ali Marpet.

Former Rams DE-OLB Robert Quinn - Photo by: Getty Images
Former Rams DE-OLB Robert Quinn – Photo by: Getty Images

So, what about Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett? McCoy, who is desperate for help at defensive end, was campaigning to be reunited with Bennett on Twitter, just as he lobbied for Quinn earlier in the week. Instead of being traded to Tampa Bay, Bennett was shipped to Philadelphia for essentially a fifth-rounder.

I know Bennett’s 8.5 sacks look tempting, but he’ll be 33 this year and just a year earlier he recorded five sacks. The film says that despite the production he’s lost a step. There’s also the fact that he’s scheduled to earn $6.65 million and the concern that his sack production could quickly drop off as it did for Robert Ayers, Jr. last year in Tampa Bay where he notched only two after posting six during his first year with the Bucs 2016.

I know what you’re thinking, Bucs fans. Wilkerson, Quinn and Bennett are all better and more productive than Ayers, William Gholston or Noah Spence, right?

You’re correct.

Isn’t it Licht’s job to upgrade the talent, especially along the weakest unit – the defensive line?

Again, you’re correct.

So what about the secondary? Next up is the cornerback position where former Bucs, Patriots and Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib was made available via a trade from Denver to the Los Angeles Rams. The Bucs weren’t interested due to Talib’s age (he just turned 32), as there have been signs of slippage in his play, but more importantly, the salary of the five-time Pro Bowler, which is $11 million this year.

Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, a four-time Pro Bowler, is expected to be released on Friday due to his $11 million salary in 2018. Sherman turns 30 on March 30, and is coming off a surgically repaired foot and a torn Achilles heel on his other foot.

Cardinals S Tyrann Mathieu - Photo by: Getty Images
Cardinals S Tyrann Mathieu – Photo by: Getty Images

The Bucs hope to re-sign cornerback Brent Grimes, who is a great fit in Mike Smith’s scheme, for just more than half of that amount on a one-year deal. The team has had some discussions about 2018 with Grimes, who is contemplating whether to return, sign elsewhere or retire.

Tampa Bay fans are linking Arizona safety Tyrann Mathieu to the Bucs if he gets released – the Cardinals just asked him to take a pay cut – because he was drafted when Licht was a part of that organization, and Licht did a lot of the background checks and research on him.

Licht loves Mathieu as a person and the player he was before he suffered a serious knee injury and a shoulder injury. He hasn’t been quite the same player since, and Licht needs players who can stay on the field. Besides, if the Bucs re-sign the 5-foot-9 Grimes, does Tampa Bay want a smallish secondary with the addition of a 5-foot-9 safety in Mathieu? If Mathieu were to be released by Arizona, the only way the Bucs would consider him is if he came with a very modest price tag.

The reason why Licht is showing tremendous restraint in not pursuing these discarded defensive ends (and their warts) is due to the fact that he wants the right players – not just the better-known, more sought-after free agents. He’s tried that approach before with guys like Michael Johnson, Anthony Collins, Alterraun Verner, Josh McCown, Bruce Carter, Chris Baker and T.J. Ward without much success.

The job of any general manager is to acquire the best talent for the franchise – not acquire the players that give the general manager the best chance to stick around and get a new contract extension. Quick fixes in free agency seldom work and the Bucs have tried them over the years in different regimes and been met with failures.

Alvin Harper, Bert Emanuel, Jackie Harris, Lonnie Marts, Vince Workman, Thomas Everett, Tony Stargell, George Hegamin and Michael McGruder weren’t good signings in the 1990s under Rich McKay.

Todd Steussie, Derrick Deese, Charlie Garner, Tim Brown, Bill Schroeder, Ian Gold, Patrick Chukwurah and Jerramy Stevens didn’t help the team in the 2000s under Bruce Allen.

Mike Nugent, Derrick Ward, Eric Ward, Ryan Sims, Tim Crowder, Kregg Lumpkin, Frank Okam, Niko Koutouvides and Sean Jones were bad signings in the 2010s under Mark Dominik.

So what about former Tennessee running back DeMarco Murray, who was released on Thursday?

Bucs GM Jason Licht - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs GM Jason Licht – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Murray is 30 and has an injury history with ankle, hamstring and MCL injuries over his career and I think the Bucs want to invest in a younger, healthier back in free agency and then draft one or two in April to finish the depth chart.

You might say, “Well if Licht doesn’t like to sign pass rushers with eight sacks or Pro Bowl cornerbacks, what kind of players is he looking for in free agency?!”

Licht wants younger players that don’t have much of an injury history and won’t break the bank. Why? Because he and director of football administration Mike Greenberg plan on spending half of their available $71.1 million on signing wide receiver Mike Evans, middle linebacker Kwon Alexander, center-guard Ali Marpet and left tackle Donovan Smith.

The extensions likely won’t take place until after the first and second waves of free agency and after draft, and that may frustrate some fans when they see the Bucs still have $40-50 million of salary cap room remaining after the initial wave of free agency occurs. Be prepared.

Click the next page for Major Part In Bucs’ 2018 Offseason Plans? Re-Sign Their Own.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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a-bomb

That is a very conservative game plan for a GM whose job is on the line. We shall see.

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JustaBuc

Perfect. Nothing screws an organization over like splash moves to save a job.

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Buc45

Good article Scott…

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JustaBuc

I agree. Actually did a double take when I saw it was Scott who penned it. He’s easily the biggest Hot Take writer of the three on PR normally and this piece has a lot of thought and restraint put into it. Well done Scott!

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macabee

BUCS PRE-FREE AGENCY MOCK DRAFT Assumptions: *Free agency – Buc picks – 41.4mil – CB Trumaine Johnson 13.6mil (Marquee free agent) – C Ryan Jensen 8.0mil – OG Justin Pugh 7.5mil – SS Kenny Vacccaro 6.5mil – RB Carlos Hyde 5.8mil Bucs 7 round mock (Bucs trade down with Arizona) RD1 DE Marcus Davenport 6-5 264 4.58 (pick #15) *There’s been a lot of talk about Marcus Davenport being raw and a development project, but at every point he’s been tested he passed with flying colors. His combine performance may move him into the top ten. I’m not going to… Read more »

Horse

Macabee, Can we hire you as the GM. Your list makes a lot of sense!

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Buc 1976

I would be surprised and glad if Scantling is available with next to last pick in the 7th. As they say you can’t teach speed. IMO that would be a solid draft.

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cgmaster27

Mac as usual, you are playing with my emotions here! I love these moves, like literally all of them. The draft is all guesswork as always, but at 15 getting Davenport could get much better value than him at 7. Either him or Vita, but he probably won’t be available at 15. Great mock there Mac, solid as always.,

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XpfcWintergreen2

cgmaster, I too would be happy to get Davenport or Vea at 15.

Mac, I will digest your take. Much to chew on.

Scott, Very Good article. You have brought some clarity to free agent issues. Less knowledgeable fans like me depend on PR to do some of the heavy lifting for us.

_________________
Go Bucs!!!!

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martinii

Mac, As usual your projections make perfect sense and provide enthusiasm and optimism for (speaking for myself) a rather disenchanted Buc fan. While you haven’t addressed D-line in Free agency there simply are no affordable or productive candidates available. So what you did was set our Defense on the bench and focus on ball-control which is brilliant. You have to play with what you have, what you can afford, and what is available. Excellent job, thank you. PS Scott shows the Buc’s with $20 million to spend on new Talent while you show $41 million. According to several publications I… Read more »

htownbucfan03

Another year with a losing mentality will end with more losing. I’m starting to not care about this team period cuz it’s obvious the clowns in charge don’t. Ur worrying about signing Mike Evans and kwon so u don’t address the big issues on ur team but expect different results. The signing of chris baker and desean jackson last year were mistakes and not going after talent on the d line was stupid. The approach of we wanna sign our own guys is equally stupid because the organization will expect to win when u have the same guys here lol.… Read more »

Buc-n-Philly Fan

Maybe this was therapeutic for you. Maybe you are actually even correct. But what I do know is that you are NOT a Bucs fan!
You are entitled to your opinion but that also opens you up for comments or criticisms.
Your comment regarding not signing our own players shows your lack of knowledge of the game of football and especially of the players on this team. Maybe it’s time for you to go find another team or maybe even another sport altogether.

Best of luck

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Ja'crispy

I really like the idea of pursuing Tyrann Mathieu. I wanted the bucs to draft him when he was coming out of LSU. Thanks for the article. Some of us have been frustrated this offseason so it helps to get a little reminder to just stay patient and see how things unfolds.

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eac1029

Excellent article. However, I strongly agree with one point. “better-known, more sought-after free agents. He’s tried that approach before with guys like Michael Johnson, Anthony Collins, Alterraun Verner, Josh McCown, Bruce Carter, Chris Baker and T.J. Ward without much success.” I honestly didn’t know who any of these guys were when we signed them except TJ and McCown and vaguely familiar with Bruce Carter. I don’t remember many people jumping up and down for these guys either, with the exception of Ward. I will say none of these guys are A-list players and none of them are even close to… Read more »

Jonathan Goodfellow

I agree. In fact Chris baker WAS the unknown. The “better-known” player was Calais Campbell. who actually did perform

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eac1029

Yep, CC will haunt us for a while. That one was a no-brainer but it’s evident at this point Licht rarely signs stars, like Belichick. Djax being one of the few exceptions.

I remember vividly signing Anthony Collins and Michael Johnson. I hated both picks and was dead on. I’m just a couch GM too. I couldn’t even pronounce Verner’s name but the pro bowl was intriguing. Let’s be real too, Lovie had a lot to do with that haul and man was his player evaluation trash.

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Buc 1976

I would be surprised and glad if Scantling is available with next to last pick in the 7th. As they say you can’t teach speed. IMO that would be a solid draft.

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wnb0395

Just because Campbell performed great last year for the Jags doesn’t mean he would have done the same for us. In Jacksonville he is surrounded by great talent on the Dline. Here it would just be McCoy and him.

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eac1029

***disagree

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surferdudes

Can’t disagree with most of what you said. I’m glad we didn’t give up draft capital for the likes of Talib, and Bennett. We couldn’t win when we had those two in their prime, now fans think by bringing them back at the end of their careers we can recapture glory they couldn’t bring before, curious. What I would do that no one at P.R., or most fans wouldn’t do is explore shopping some of our own veterans. Two players I would shop are Brate, and Humphries. We spent a first rounder on a tight end, and also have Auclaire… Read more »

eac1029

Good points too bro, but the thing about having them in their primes was that we had holes at other positions that we no longer have like LB, QB, WR. The would round it out a bit more now. But I have faith in Licht.

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Jonathan Goodfellow

Very good article, I say you can also free up another 6.5 mil by cutting gholston. I think we can all agree that he is one-dimensional, and in 2017 was not even that good at his one-dimension of run stuffing.

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bucball1

This is again one of the dumbest articles I have ever read losing mentality reward a guy for losing what sense does that make pay Evans for what leading the league in drops pay smith for what Winston running for his life pay Winston for what a league leader in turnovers paid Goldston for 0 zero sacks it’s just ridiculous the Cleveland browns of the Nfc if I’m a owner of a team you drafted a quarterback that you can’t market an he isn’t winning you drafting in the top 10 again it’s time the owners take ownership in the… Read more »

FLBoy84

Think even the Cleveland Browns understand punctuation.

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Piratic

Learn how to compose sentences into cogent thoughts, then get back with us.

Your post reads like it’s from an elementary student who is about to fall back a grade.

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Horse

Scott, Best Article of the Week!!!! I do disagree with your math because in two years which is 2020, we are going to have serious cap space issues. What happens after Winston gets his big Bucs in 2019? Lots of young players we will need to still sign in 2020 & 2021. Our team strategy should be to trade some players and acquire draft picks. No need to waste millions on older Free Agents in their downward slide. Never thought I’d say this, but I’m for trading McCoy and pick up another 2nd rounder; also Evans and get a 2nd… Read more »

tnew

All reports indicate they didn’t pass on Quinn or Bennett. They just didn’t offer enough to encourage the other team to make the deal. Technically, free agency doesn’t start until March 14. The only free agents are guys that were outright released, like Wilkerson. He won’t sign a deal until late with someone and it will most likely be a one year prove it type of contract.

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Hank Scorpio

Signing a G and C is a must. If we can’t sign a C, we need to draft one because Marpet needs to move back to RG.

Follow that with a CB and RB signing, and I’d say that’s a pretty successful free agency and gives us some more flexibility for our early draft picks.

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chipbuc

Scott , I have no problem with your take on what Licht should do this off season. My problem is the Bucs annoying habit of never spending all the money available to spend on free agents. This is why every year the Bucs have good front line players ,but limited depth. Every year Licht will fix a problem spot on the team, one D line man ,one Wide out, but ignoring other parts of the team. Last year we could have used a veteran RB , a veteran CB, a veteran O lineman. Lets wait and see what happens, but… Read more »

Mr. Incredible

“, remember that Greenberg typically guarantees the first year or two of a contract and that allows an “out” for the Bucs so the team can cut a player and there is no salary cap hit when doing so.” – you can do this if you’re the Patriots but why would any top tier free agent want to consider this crappy franchise knowing that they always put all the risk on the player. No wonder we keep signing Chris Bakers. Top tier talent want some guarantees in their life. If you’re not going to share the risk, then don’t bother… Read more »

Mr. Incredible

“And I’ll remind you of what McKay used to say” – Scott, we were a playoff team then, so resigning our proven great players was, well… great. This team SUCKS so resigning these player is, well, Not so great.

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Alldaway 2.0

Most NFL teams have the game plan of trying to re-sign their own.

However, what makes the Bucs different this year?

If they sign free agents in the trenches, a RB and a DB I would be impressed. Licht has a very low bar to hurdel over, so Scott I hope you are correct that the Bucs are able to jump this low bar.

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skipper

There was no in hindsight with many here on this board with regard to Campbell. It was pretty much common knowledge that Campbell finds his way to the QB, the guy has 71 sacks in his career, Swaggy Baker who is around the same age has but 12 and Gholston is terrible at placing pressure on the QB.

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CrackerBall

Uh huh… and just who are these “right” players?

Just about anybody is better than some of the roadkill we line up with

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Horse

Who fault is that? GM

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LordCornelius

Solid analysis. Not sure this takes into account the numbers already on the books for Kwon,Smith & Marpet – which is $5.2 million. I’m calculating $37.3 million as the total cap hit against what’s available to sign those 3, ME (at 16.5 that he signed), and Brate+Hump at these projected amounts

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LordCornelius

@ Horse. Right now we have about $35 mill+ in what I’d call older dude / expendable dude contracts that won’t likely be on our books in 2-3 years: McCoy – $13 mill Djax – $11 mill Dotson – $4.6 mill Conte – $2.8 mill Joe Hawley (currently counting against cap?) – $2.65 mill Jaquiz Rodgers – $1.6 mill That’s not counting Robert Ayers/ Sweezy – who = $13.125 mill currently hitting our cap. So even if we keep Sweezy/Ayers on the books in 2018 – per my math we could sign all the guys mentioned here for $37 mill;… Read more »

Horse

Don’t forget Winston yearly contract will average somewhere between 25- 35 million?

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Darin

Robert Quinn is 27 and in his prime. His 11 million salary is actually below market value for his production. He is a building block. The other guys I agree with on your take. Licht struck out big time on Quinn, plain and simple. We will all be wishing licht pulled the trigger when Quinn tears it up this year and until he really gets old

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EastEndBoy

The issue with Licht’s perennial approach of signing depth FAs, to replace last year’s depth FA busts, and adding 1 (or maybe 2) upgrades in the draft, is that we largely trot out the same team that wasn’t good enough the year before. The only way this cycle breaks is if he somehow hits the greatest draft in league history, otherwise we don’t really get any better giving the same players to the same coaches. I get that he’s missed badly when trying to acquire vets before (FA or trades), but maybe that’s his bad luck and not all veterans?… Read more »

matador

It’s sobering to go through the cap consequences of Evans and Winston and a few others and how it will limit our FA flexibility this year and next. That’s when the compounding damage to the roster from Licht’s many mistakes really shows. We just don’t have enough quality affordable players from his drafts to stitch together a strong overall team with the depth required these days between the upcoming draft and FA. I’m a Bucs fan through and through but it’s getting hard to pretend we’re going anywhere under the current regime. We’ll have a new GM and most likely… Read more »

liquidmuse3

Yeah, I’m sorry…did you just compare Quinn, Bennett, and Talib to the no-name free agents Licht usually signs? There’s a reason why Licht is five years in and has zero playoff appearances. Also, I love how you conveniently forget how much Simeon Rice and the rest of that initial Gruden FA class helped the team. They had a chance to get Simeon 2 and blew it. This team is entering its prime, it was time to add a big piece or two to lift it over the top (& McCoy knows it). Plus, the changing of attitude that McCoy brought… Read more »

Phil

Y’all we just need to face it… Tampa doesn’t want to win. They acting like we are already a playoff team by not signing anything. I love my team but I really hate our gmail. Same garbage offensive and defensive line….

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