PewterReport.com is in Indianapolis for the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine and will be covering all the news pertaining to the Bucs this week. Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians and general manager Jason Licht will be addressing the media on Wednesday, February 27 at 11:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m., respectively.
Here’s a preview of what’s to come.
Beckwith’s Status For 2019 In Jeopardy
Tampa Bay linebacker Kendell Beckwith missed all of last year while recovering from a broken ankle he suffered in a car accident last offseason. After missing OTAs and training camp, the team was hopeful that Beckwith would be able to join the team midseason as he continued his rehab and recovery.
But Beckwith encountered some setbacks once he began practicing with the team in November and was placed on the Reserve/NFI (Non-Football Injury) list on November 19.
“We’re not going to be able to activate Kendell – Kendell’s not going to be ready,” former Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter said on Nov. 19. “Kendell made progress and he worked his tail off to get back. I don’t think people can appreciate how serious of a surgery he had. It was an uphill battle. He worked hard to get back, but he’s just not going to get back to a point where he feels comfortable playing at the level that he knows he can play at. He’s going to [remain on Reserve/NFI]. Bad break for Kendell with this whole car accident thing. Just wish him the best for continued improvement.”
The news isn’t optimistic about Beckwith being able to play in 2019 just yet, either. The team even has some concerns that Beckwith’s injury might be career-ending, although they are holding out hope that something in his recovery will change for the better this offseason.
With the ominous whispers that PewterReport.com has heard about Beckwith’s future in Tampa Bay, it’s no wonder we have had the Bucs picking LSU linebacker Devin White in the first round in each of the first two PewterReport.com 2019 Bucs’ 6-Round Mock Drafts this year.
It will be interesting to hear what Arians and Licht have to say about Beckwith on Wednesday from Indianapolis.
Brate Will Be Return To Tampa Bay In 2019
Bucs tight end Cameron Brate isn’t going anywhere this offseason. Despite the Bucs needing some salary cap room and Brate being the ninth-highest player in Tampa Bay this year with a $7 million base salary, the team has no plans to trade him or release him to help create some cap space. A year after catching 48 passes for 591 yards and six touchdowns, Brate had just 30 catches for 289 yards and six touchdowns in 2018 while dealing with a torn labrum in his hip.
The injury occurred during the 2017 season but never fully healed as the team had hoped prior to the 2018 campaign. Brate had to endure the pain all season before having surgery on hip on January 19 to repair the tear.
With the Bucs wanting to see how Jameis Winston performs in his fifth-year option season, they’ll need to surround him with some of his favorite targets, and Brate is Winston’s go-to guy in the red zone. Over the past three years, Brate has caught 20 touchdown passes – the most by a tight end over that three-year span.
Don’t expect Brate to take a pay cut, either. Licht is not a believer in reducing players’ salaries because it can reduce some players’ incentive to perform up to their abilities because of the ill will created by making the player to have to play for less.
Humphries Might Not Be Back
As PewterReport.com has previously reported, the Bucs are bracing to lose Adam Humphries in free agency. Humphries is coming off a career year in which he set career highs in catches (71), yards (816) and touchdowns (five) during the 2018 season, and given the thin market at the receiver position in free agency, Humphries could command between $8 million – $10 million per year on the open market.
That’s more than the Bucs are willing to pay for a player they view as a No. 3 receiver behind Mike Evans and Chris Godwin – and No. 4 if DeSean Jackson returns for another season in Tampa Bay in what would be the final year of his contract. The Bucs would prefer paying Humphries closer to $6 million per year, so there is a huge discrepancy between both sides.
Tampa Bay has around $16 million in salary cap room right now, so the team will have to make some hard choices this year when it comes to free agency. There are only so many balls to go around with Evans, Godwin and tight ends O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate must be factored high on to the target list, too. Humphries could wind up in Dallas, Carolina and New England this offseason, and his departure coupled with a big money contract elsewhere could lead to a third-round compensatory draft pick for the Bucs in 2020.
Fitzpatrick Likely Done In Tampa Bay
Ryan Fitzpatrick likely won’t be back as Jameis Winston’s backup in 2019 because of his success last season. With 2019 being the dedicated year to find out if Winston is worthy of a long-term contract extension after his fifth-year option, new head coach Bruce Arians doesn’t want any potential division in the locker room. Arians wants unity behind Winston without his starting quarterback looking over his shoulder.
Winston had to wait until Fitzpatrick floundered in Chicago in Week 4 to get his starting job back, only to lose it after a four-interception performance at Cincinnati. Two weeks later, Winston was reinserted as the starter. If Arians has his way, Winston – barring an injury – will be the 16-game starter this season. Because of Fitzpatrick’s success last year, Arians can’t have any players pining for Fitzpatrick if Winston falters due to last year’s dynamic that affected Winston’s play upon his return from a three-game suspension.
With both Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ryan Griffin poised to become unrestricted free agents, the Bucs will likely be looking for a new veteran backup behind Winston, and could possibly draft a quarterback, too.
Is The Franchise Tag Coming For Smith?
Licht and director of football administration Mike Greenberg will be meeting with agents in Indianapolis, including the representatives for left tackle Donovan Smith, who is a pending free agent. There’s not a whole lot of new information to report on Smith’s contract talks and the chance he could be slapped with the franchise tag.
But one new caveat could be that the Bucs will most likely use the tag on him if Smith’s contract demands are higher than $12 million per year and a long-term deal can’t be worked out before free agency begins on March 13. Using the franchise tag on Smith will cost the Bucs $14 million this year, and it’s almost worth doing to give Smith one more “contract year” situation to prove himself worthy of a long-term deal under Tampa Bay’s new coaching staff if Smith’s demands are at or above $13 million per year.
Will McCoy And Jackson Stay In Tampa Bay?
Tampa Bay Times Bucs beat writer Rick Stroud reported that Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy will stay in Tampa Bay for a tenth season and not be asked to take a pay cut from his $13 million salary he’s due in 2019. Stroud’s report was pretty definitive, but PewterReport.com could not get a definitive confirmation about McCoy’s future with the team.
Arians and Licht will both be asked about McCoy’s future and the future of wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who is due to make $10 million this year, on Wednesday when they take to the podium to address the media at the NFL Scouting Combine, and perhaps they will provide some clarity on the future of both star players in Tampa Bay for the 2019 campaign. Jackson has said that he wants out of Tampa Bay, but Arians has expressed an interest in keeping the deep threat receiver with the Bucs for one more year.