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Here are five things that caught my interest this week:
FAB 1. For anyone who thought for a second that players didn’t want to come to play in Tampa Bay because of Jon Gruden, I have one word for you:
To think that free agents didn’t want to come and play for Gruden is an absolute joke, and the proof of that has been the first 48 hours of 2009 free agency for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Within the first three days of free agency last year, the Bucs had signed center Jeff Faine, tight end John Gilmore, defensive lineman Jimmy Wilkerson, traded for quarterback Brian Griese, had tight end Ben Trope, wide receiver Devery Henderson, cornerback Drayton Florence and linebacker Niko Koutovides in for visits, and was scheduling visits with cornerback Randall Gay, defensive end Marques Douglas, safety Eugene Wilson, running back Warrick Dunn and linebackers Leon Joe, Teddy Lehman and Matt McCoy.
Faine and Gilmore were absolutely frothing at the mouth to play for Gruden and were two of the most upset Buccaneers when he was fired on January 16. You could say Dunn was in that mix, too.
Within the first 72 hours of free agency in 2008, the Bucs had also signed Joe, Lehman and McCoy. That’s 14 scheduled visits to One Buccaneer Place (including Faine, but not including Griese, who didn’t visit because he was traded for), and six acquisitions. Dunn and Troupe would sign a couple days later.
The trio of Gruden, general Bruce Allen and senior assistant Kevin Demoff were leading the way in burning up the phones, signing players, making trades, setting up visits and conducting them from the first minute after midnight on February 29, 2008.
What have the Bucs, who entered the free agent signing period with a league-high $62 million in salary cap room, done through the first two days of free agency in 2009? They came close to signing defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, but finished second. They came close to signing linebacker Jonathan Vilma, but finished second. Their first player acquisition came via trade, and that was tight end Kellen Winslow.
The Bucs’ first “free agent acquisition” since Friday was re-signing special teams captain and backup free safety Will Allen to a one-year deal. I can hear the applause and choruses of “Hallelujah” from Bucs fans right now.
The team also worked out a five-year deal for wide receiver Michael Clayton, who was Tampa Bay’s first-round pick in 2004.
As of Saturday night, the Bucs still hadn’t signed a player from another team in free agency. That’s a far cry from last year under Gruden. You know … the guy nobody wanted to play for.
So what the heck is happening at One Buccaneer Place? What in the world is new general manager Mark Dominik doing?
Do you know who else is asking that question, Bucs fans? Not just you. Several agents for NFL free agents are asking that question, and that’s scary.
The Pewter Report staff on Saturday alone heard from a handful of agents, including some big-name agents, “What in the heck is going on down there in Tampa?!”
I’ll tell you what is going on in Tampa. Domink is drowning at One Buccaneer Place. It’s not that he’s young. It’s not that he’s inexperienced. It’s not that he’s a bad general manager.
Is he in over his head? Yes, and here’s why.
First, let’s rewind to the first day of free agency last year, and paint the picture of what happened at One Buccaneer Place.
Allen, who has a great reputation with agents, is on the phone with them, trying to line up instant deals for guys the Bucs really want badly – Faine, Wilkerson and Gilmore. There could be others the Bucs are targeting and missing out on – I don’t know – but these are the guys they got. I’ve been told that the Bucs essentially went three-for-four, missing out on Koutovides, who signed with Denver for more money.
While Allen is on the phone with agents, he has given Dominik, who was in charge of pro personnel last year, and Demoff a list of agents to call. Pro personnel assistant Doug Williams was given a list of players and agents to call. Allen gave these three the latitude to strike a deal. Like a boiler room setting, Demoff, Dominik and Williams are going into Allen’s room with updates on negotiations for the G.M.’s approval and what deals were struck.
Demoff handled Faine’s deal virtually by himself. He was talking with the agent, while Gruden was talking with Faine himself. Once the agent got the right numbers from Demoff, he called Faine, who was already sold on playing for Gruden. The deal was done in less than 30 minutes. Demoff had already done market comparables and knew what the agent was probably looking for, and he knew exactly what he could offer, given Allen’s directive.
Faine’s deal with Tampa Bay was done before Herm Edwards could get a hold of him and Carl Peterson could even speak to his agent. Needless to say, Kansas City was ticked off. Tampa Bay had out-hustled them. The Bucs front office was a well-oiled machine in the Allen regime with everybody involved and everybody playing a major role in the process.
Once Gruden convinced a player to come visit One Buccaneer Place, director of football operations Mark Arteaga or Gruden’s assistant, Paul Kelly, got on the phone and set up the flights, hotels and all the details while Gruden jumped on the next recruiting call.
This year, Gruden, Allen, Demoff, Arteaga and Kelly aren’t there. All were fired except for Demoff, the team’s capologist, who left for a promotion with St. Louis as the Rams’ chief operating officer and vice president of football operations.
I had written before free agency that Dominik wouldn’t be in a lurch with Demoff’s departure. I was wrong.
Not only are the Bucs missing Demoff, according to multiple sources, they are desperately missing their team lawyer, Roxanne Kosarzycki. The Glazers fired Kosarzycki, too, and no one at One Buccaneer Place can figure out why. Many think it’s simply because she came over from Oakland with Allen, Arteaga and Kelly.
Kosarzycki handled all of the team’s legal affairs – everything from player contracts to marketing deals and Pewter Partnership contracts. She was one of the most liked and respected people in the building, and apparently fired without cause.
She played a major role in free agency because she worked side by side with Allen, churning out contracts and faxing them to agents and players to sign. Like Demoff, she played a big role in getting Faine and others done so quickly.
Currently, the Bucs are farming out their legal work to a local law office. I’m hearing that is really slowing down the process in free agency, and that’s a shame, because that’s not Dominik’s fault. That was not his decision. It was the Glazers’.
To recap, Allen had four people working the phones with agents and negotiating deals – himself, Demoff, Dominik and to some degree, Williams. And he had Kosarzycki right there to do the paperwork and fax it out immediately to beat other teams to the punch.
Who’s manning the phones this year? It’s Dominik and Michelle Zavala, who was Allen’s secretary last year and is Dominik’s secretary this year.
Whereas the Bucs had four people with the basic authority to strike deals, Dominik is the sole decision-maker when it comes to contracts. Zavala is not.
So what does this mean?
It means the Bucs had real manpower last year – four people striking deals last year and only one doing it this year. That’s Dominik, who – by the way – is a first-time general manager without the benefit of an in-house general counsel like Kosarzycki to quickly work through legalese of player contracts.
Maybe the law firm the Bucs are out-sourcing contracts to is on call in the middle of the night or working weekends. Then again, I don’t know many attorneys who work in the middle of the night or during weekends. I would hope the law firm is, but I’ve been told that’s slowing the free agency process down.
Complicating matters is the fact that Dominik has not hired a salary cap guy to replace Demoff. He has done some interviews and wanted to have a cap person in place prior to the NFL Scouting Combine, but that was not done, according to agents Pewter Report has spoken with on Saturday night, and that has also hampered the Bucs in free agency.
When free agents and their agents answered the phone last year, some popular and recognizable voices were on the other end. Allen, the son of Hall of Fame coach George Allen, and a long-term contract negotiator with Oakland and Tampa Bay, was one of them. Demoff, the son of uber-agent Marvin Demoff and former general manager of the AFL’s Los Angeles Avengers, was one of them. Williams, legendary NFL QB, Super Bowl MVP and former Grambling head coach, was one of them. And so was Dominik, who had been with the Bucs for 13 years and was very popular with agents.
Now, it’s essentially just Dominik, and that has played a big role in free agency moving at a snail’s pace at One Buccaneer Place this year. Agents can’t get through to any decision-makers because that’s Dominik. Agents can’t get returned e-mails, texts or phone calls because Dominik is likely overwhelmed because so much of it rides on his shoulder where Allen had people he could delegate to.
It’s sad. Don’t blame Dominik. He’s doing the very best he can. I have no doubt about that. But Williams, Zavala and pro scouts like Justin Sheridan and Richard Mann, Jr. can’t replace Demoff and Allen. It’s not their fault, either.
The Glazers cleaned house and promoted Dominik, but essentially gave him a knife to bring to a gunfight without an adequate front office support staff. That’s not fair to Dominik, this organization or the Bucs fan base.
If the Bucs were truly in the mix for Haynesworth and were willing to pay close to $100 million, here’s my suggestion to ownership. Take some of the money you were prepared to spend and use it to hire some front office help for your new general manager so he can actually return some agents’ phone calls, schedule some visits and sign some free agents.
What’s my advice to frustrated Bucs fans? Cut Dominik some slack. The guy is doing the absolute best he can. The reason no players were signed on the first day of free agency was because he was consumed with trying to sign Haynesworth, trying to sign Vilma, trying to trade for Winslow. I’m sure just doing those three things consumed most of his first night and prevented Dominik from even calling the agents of free agents the Bucs were interested in. Heck, he’s only one man.
Now you know why the Bucs have been fairly inactive in free agency. Dominik was given a chance to comment on this report, but did not get back with me. I know he’s been busy.
FAB 2. But there is more to the story as to why Tampa Bay hasn’t lined up more visits and signed any free agents off other teams. The answer is head coach Raheem Morris. For the record, I think Morris is a great man and a great coach, and I believe the Glazers made the right call in hiring him as a replacement for Jon Gruden.
However, he’s not Gruden – and I don’t mean as a coach. I mean as a recruiter. When Gruden got on the phone and talked to the Jeff Faines, John Gilmores and Ben Troupes of the world last year, he had those guys eating out of the palm of his hand. Gruden could sell ice to an Eskimo with plenty of “Love ya’ bro” lines thrown in for good measure.
The biggest thing Gruden had going for him was name recognition. You could poll every NFL player right now and ask who Jon Gruden is and they would know.
He’s the former Raiders coach. He’s the former Bucs coach. He was the guy that won a Super Bowl title in Tampa Bay. He was in People magazine’s top 50 Most Beautiful People one year. He’s Chucky. He’s popular.
I’ve witnessed droves of fans and college football players at the Senior Bowl bypass the likes of Herm Edwards, Mike Nolan, Tom Coughlin, Jack Del Rio and others and flock to Gruden to shake his hand or get an autograph like Gruden was a rock star. Gruden had the star power a lot of NFL coaches – even Super Bowl winners – simply don’t have.
Now poll every NFL player and ask who Morris is. I would be shocked if more than 50 percent knew who Morris was or could pick him out of a lineup. Heck, new Bucs tight end Kellen Winslow II didn’t even know who Morris was when he met him. Winslow thought Morris was a new teammate, not the head coach. I guess that gives new meaning to the term “players’ coach,” right?
“I thought he was a player,” Winslow said of Morris. “He had that walk. But when I met him, I fell in love with him. Him, the G.M. Mark Dominik, they’re all great people to be around.”
Heck, even famous sports columnist Jason Whitlock didn’t know who Morris was when he met him during Super Bowl week, as was reported on ProFootballTalk.com.
I can’t imagine that Morris, despite being a great guy and full of energy and enthusiasm, has the same pull and street cred with NFL players that Gruden had. Couple the fact that Morris is not a household name outside of Tampa, according to agents and other sources I’ve spoken with, and it’s no wonder Tampa Bay has not been lining up the free agent visits like they have in years past. He’s just not going to have the same pull as Gruden.
I’m not suggesting that the Glazers were wrong to fire Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen and replace them with Morris and Dominik. I can understand why they did it and what’s done is done. I’m excited for guys I’ve covered for years – Dominik and Morris – to get their chance at running the team.
I’m just saying that I would be shocked if the Glazers weren’t having a serious reality check over how ill-equipped they have left the franchise for free agency by virtually cleaning out the front office.
Morris figures to be more of an asset as a coach this year rather than as a recruiter in free agency. If he wins and builds a positive reputation in 2009, his credibility and name recognition will soon be up there with his friend and mentor Mike Tomlin’s. But it’s not league-wide yet outside of Tampa Bay, and I think the Glazers miscalculated that notion.
Despite having a record $62 million in cap room entering free agency, the Bucs have come up short on signings and on free agent visits. With $62 million, Tampa Bay should be setting the market and becoming a magnet for free agents. That’s simply not happening. And now you know why.
FAB 3. If you haven’t read last week’s SR’s Fab 5, which included an intro to who pass rushing guru Chuck Smith is, I suggest you do so before reading this edition to familiarize yourself with the founder of Defensive Line, Inc.,
As I mentioned last week, Smith is a big fan of defensive end Gaines Adams, who was Tampa Bay’s first-round pick in 2007, and wants to work with him at the Wellness Performance Institute at Suwanee, Ga. Adams had six sacks as a rookie – seven if you include the 2007 Wild Card playoff game against the New York Giants – and only improved to 6.5 quarterback captures in his second NFL season.
The scouting report on Adams in his first two years in the NFL is that he is too much of a finesse player who attempts to use his 4.6 speed to run around tackles rather than engage them and try to use a variety of moves to get around them. Smith concurs with that opinion.
“I watch Gaines a lot and I’ll tell you what he’s doing wrong. Gaines tries to be finesse and run around everyone,” Smith said. “He lines up too wide. Derrick Thomas didn’t line up nine feet wide. The great pass rushers didn’t want to be tilted. They wanted to be closer in to the tackle. If you are six feet wide, it’s an unnatural angle for you to rush from. You have to engage the tackle and get that rip move going. You have to be physical to get into that mindset. Gaines has to get into the tackle.
“I teach speed, power and violent moves. When we throw that chop or rip, it’s not just throwing a chop down to get his arm down. We are trying to make sure he feels it. Gaines rips from the elbow. The rip has to come from the shoulder. One thing I like about that damn Chris Long that Howie taught him is that when he throws his rip he throws that sucker from Missouri to Maine and tries to rip the tackle’s labrum out the frame. Then you control that guy.”
Adams’ moves are very limited. Aside from developing rips, chops and swim moves, I’d like to see the Clemson product develop a smooth spin move to counter his outside rush. Adams executed a brilliant spin on New Orleans left tackle Jammal Brown in the second game versus the Saints and drilled quarterback Drew Brees, who just escaped being sacked by throwing a quick slant.
Smith agrees that Adams needs to use the inside spin more often.
“Gaines tries to run around guys too much,” Smith said. “You want to set that corner by using that guy’s body with your shoulder. It’s not about hand-to-hand combat. It’s using his hands as violent weapons. … You can’t just run up-field, you have to engage the tackle. Gaines not only has to add a bull rush, he has to get the philosophy about being physical.”
One of the reasons why Smith wants to work with Adams so bad is because he thinks he can become a dominant pass rusher similar to the likes of other guys in his stable, including Dallas outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware and New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora. Smith not only teaches pass rushing moves, he provides his clients with a wide-ranging approach to pass rushing from how to deal with double teams and certain blocking schemes to how to rush on certain surfaces.
“Osi Umenyiora is another one of my guys,” Smith said. “He plays in New York. You can’t speed rush on the slushy footing in New York. You have to adjust your footing. You can’t speed rush on that surface.
“Gaines Adams rushes from a good surface, but I watched him get chip-blocked too much last year. I want him to come up to Atlanta and I’ll teach him how to chip the chipper. I’ve kind of put the word out indirectly through some of my guys at Clemson and through [Bucs college scout] Reggie Cobb, who is a Tennessee guy, I want to work with Gaines. If Gaines doesn’t develop more than a speed rush, he’ll become Jevon Kearse and Leonard Little. Then what happens is when his speed is gone? What do his have then? What happens if Gaines ends up playing in Philly where it’s bad weather and your speed rush doesn’t work on that surface? I would definitely like to work with Gaines. I love the kid. I think he has real potential, but he’s got to produce. It usually takes defensive linemen a couple years to develop, just like quarterbacks. But this is a high-performance business.”
Aside from the physical aspect of Adams’ pass rush, I think Adams could learn quite a bit about the mental side of being a pass rusher from Smith, who is a bit of a bad ass. Perhaps Smith could inject some “bad ass” into Adams, who is kind of a quiet, reserved guy.
“Guys like Peyton Manning play mind games with young guys like Gaines,” Smith said. “You’ll see him go up there and puts his hands up and starts audibling. That’s a tactic that some of these pass rushers don’t realize. What do all the defensive linemen do when Peyton starts audibling? They go to one knee. They get out of their coil and they aren’t ready to pass rush. Pass rushing is an action – not a reaction.
“Gaines is the most important person on that team. He has to understand that. I know everybody talks about the quarterback, but when Gaines Adams develops into a predator – oh my God – look out! The Bucs quarterback is going to be getting the ball at the other team’s 30-yard line because Gaines will be forcing eight fumbles a year.”
One thing that could really improve Adams’ pass rush in 2009 is some help along the defensive line. Let’s face it, the slow, aging, 35-year old Kevin Carter didn’t scare right tackles like he did in his prime. The Bucs didn’t have any defensive tackles that put the fear into quarterbacks or offensive coordinators. If Tampa Bay can find a defensive tackle or a stud defensive end to apply pressure on the passer, Adams won’t draw as many double teams and he should have more quarterbacks coming his way rather than running away from him. Simeon Rice benefitted greatly when Warren Sapp flushed quarterbacks his way with inside pressure.
“I’ve got seven or eight guys right now at Defensive Line, Inc. that would really complete Gaines Adams and help him,” Smith said. “I’ve got big Ron Brace from Boston College who can big a big three-technique or a one-technique. He’s not just a true one-technique. He can cause havoc over the center at 336 pounds. He’s explosive and violent with his hands. I’ve taught him the art of pass rush as well as how to dominate and the mind-frame you have to have. I’ve got a three-technique in Corey Irvin from Georgia. Do you remember Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice running those stunts? I can imagine Corey and Gaines Adams running stunts together. At 296 pounds, he ran a 4.81 for me, man. He’s a JUCO guy that came to Georgia and had a great Senior Bowl week. I’ve got another guy in Kyle Moore, the 6-foot-6 guy from USC. He’s an absolute animal. I’ve got a lot of guys that can help Gaines. Tell Reggie Cobb and the Bucs’ scouting department to come on down and pick up one of my guys to help the Bucs. I guarantee you success. How many trainers will say that? We do more than just Combine train. We teach the lifestyle and the art of winning on the field.”
FAB 4. While a pass rushing program at Defensive Line, Inc. with Chuck Smith, the Atlanta Falcons’ all-time leading sacker, would be beneficial for Tampa Bay defensive end Gaines Adams, help is already on the way. Smith is very high on new Buccaneers defensive line coach Richard Nunn, who will coach alongside Todd Wash, last year’s D-line coach in Tampa Bay.
“Ask Robert Nunn who taught him how to rush the passer at Northeast Oklahoma as a young freshman. Robert Nunn was a graduate assistant at both Northeast Oklahoma and Tennessee when I was there,” Smith said. “We learned alongside the great Rex Norris and Larry Lacewell. I don’t know Todd Wash, but Robert Nunn absolutely knows how to teach the pass rush. Robert Nunn developed the same philosophy about the pass rush that I did. I’m really, really, really close to Robert, although I haven’t caught up with him this offseason. Robert knows pass rush and if he’s allowed to do what he can do, he will have those guys rushing like absolute animals.
“Pass rushing has been my life. By the time I was a freshman in high school, I loved Lawrence Taylor and I was studying pass rush as a passion. Robert was a young G.A. at my JUCO and when I decided to go to Tennessee, he went with me. I really have a lot of respect for that guy. He and Coach Bates are going to get after it down there in Tampa. Gaines Adams will take his game to the next level.”
Under Nunn in Miami, where he coached from 2000-02, Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Taylor recorded 41.5 sacks, including a career-high 18.5 quarterback captures in ’02. That three-year run was Taylor’s most productive ever in terms of sacks. In 2000, defensive end Trace Armstrong had 16.5 sacks, which was a career-high, under Nunn’s tutelage.
During his stint with Green Bay, which began in 2005, defensive end Aaron Kampman posted 6.5 sacks after recording a total of seven during his first three years in the league. In 2006, Kampman had a career-high 15.5 sacks, and has recorded a total of 21.5 sacks over the past two seasons.
“Robert Nunn is really special person in my life,” Smith said. “You talk about a leader and a role model with that guy. I’m excited to know that there is a guy in Tampa that knows all this stuff. With Robert and Coach Bates in Tampa now, I might have to come down there and pay them a visit.”
Does that sound like music to your ears, Bucs fans?
Even though the Bucs didn’t sign free agent defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, it sounds like Tampa Bay’s pass rush will improve just from Bates’ scheme and Nunn’s presence, according to Smith.
FAB 5. Here are some things to hold you over until the next installment of SR’s Fab 5:
• I’ve had a barrage of e-mails and private messages (most of them have gone unanswered, and I apologize as we have been extremely busy working the phones in free agency – when we know something, we’ll report it) wondering why cornerback Ronde Barber wasn’t purged along with aging linebackers Derrick Brooks and Cato June, wide receivers Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard and running back Warrick Dunn. The reasons are three-fold. First, the Bucs still need help at cornerback. The Bucs felt better about the outside linebacker positions with Quincy Black, Adam Hayward and Geno Hayes in the fold than they do at cornerback where only Barber, Aqib Talib and Elbert Mack have seen the field at the pro level. The second reason is that Barber is a tremendous blitzer – the best blitzing cornerback of all time. Don’t be surprised if Barber has more sacks than interceptions in 2009. New defensive coordinator Jim Bates will be blitzing a lot more this year than his predecessor, Monte Kiffin, did. And finally, with the loss of Brooks, the Bucs do need some veteran leaders in the locker room on defense. Raheem Morris is much like Jon Gruden in that he likes at least one veteran in every unit room. Nose tackle Chris Hovan is the guy in the defensive line room. Middle linebacker Barrett Ruud is the guy in the linebacker room. And Barber, who is one of Morris’ favorite players, is that guy in the defensive backs room.
• Cornerback Ronde Barber isn’t the only Buccaneer left from the Super Bowl team now that linebacker Derrick Brooks is gone. Can you guess the other one? And no, strong safety Jermaine Phillips doesn’t count because he’s technically a free agent and not on the Bucs’ roster. Scroll down for the answer.
• Do I think that general manager Mark Dominik gave up too much in the Kellen Winslow II trade? At first, I did. I thought a third-rounder in 2009 and a fifth-rounder in 2010 would have been more appropriate. Dominik had to have realized that with the drafting of tight end Martin Rucker last year, the fact that the Browns had a new regime with no allegiances to Winslow and that the team was likely to extend the contract of wide receiver Braylon Edwards instead of Winslow, that Cleveland was itching to get rid of him. What we don’t know is what other teams were involved if any were at all. Having another team in trade talks could have forced Dominik to pay more than he wanted to. If a bidding war erupted and the Bucs really wanted to get Winslow, overpaying is the unfortunate way to go. It’s a shame with about $50-$55 million left in salary cap room after the deals for Winslow, free safety Will Allen and wide receiver Michael Clayton that the Bucs can’t use some of that cap room to simply buy a second-round draft pick. I know fans saw that franchised New England quarterback Matt Cassel and defensive end Mike Vrabel were acquired for a second-round pick on Saturday and might be miffed about only getting Winslow for a second- and a fifth-rounder. Understand that Bill Belichick dealt Cassel and Vrabel to his good buddy Scott Pioli, who worked with Belichick for years in New England and is now the general manager in Kansas City. This was a sweetheart deal between friends, and such a deal would not have been extended to Tampa Bay. Besides the market value had already been set last year for first-round tight ends when Jeremy Shockey was dealt from New York to New Orleans. Shockey was the 14th overall pick in the 2002 draft for second- and fifth-round picks. Shockey is 28, while the 25-year old Winslow was the sixth overall pick in the 2004 draft. If Winslow stays healthy, the Bucs will get a steal.
• Maybe it’s a good thing that the Bucs didn’t sign linebacker Jonathan Vilma. The Bucs offered him similar money to come to Tampa Bay, but it became clear that Vilma wanted to stay in New Orleans, which showed it wanted him even though he was coming off a knee injury because the Saints traded for him last year. Vilma wanted to remain loyal to the Saints because they took a chance on him. But what was somewhat puzzling was why Tampa Bay was pursuing Vilma so hard. On Sundays, Vilma’s a great player. But the word is that he didn’t practice a lot last year in New Orleans due to resting his surgically-repaired knee. Remember when former Saints defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs was rumored to be hired by Tampa Bay? Well he wasn’t. The team wanted to meet with him in early January to see if he would be a good fit for Raheem Morris’ defensive staff (he wasn’t), but also so the front office could probe him on Vilma, a free agent the Bucs liked. Gibbs said there was some real concern over osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), a bone defect that can cause instability and loose particles in the joint, according to a report in the New York Daily News. Vilma injured his right knee back in high school and was diagnosed with the condition back then. With Morris wanting to run practices where everyone participates and no one gets days off, it’s curious the Bucs pursued him with such vigor as Morris or general manager Mark Dominik had to have either been in on the Gibbs meeting or known of Gibbs’ scouting report on Vilma. Vilma played last year without incident to his knee, but something tells me his career will be shortened by OCD.
• From what Pewter Report can gather, Raiders offensive guard Cooper Carlisle has been the team’s lone free agent visit. That took place on Saturday as we first reported. Carlisle visited with the Bucs last year, so it’s somewhat curious as to why he is back for a second visit, and why Tampa Bay is even interested in him with two quality starting guards in Pro Bowler Davin Joseph and Arron Sears, in addition to last year’s third-round pick, Jeremy Zuttah. My hunch is that the Bucs feel Zuttah can play center as well as guard, and there might not be any need to have such a high-priced backup like Sean Mahan, who is making over $3 million in base salary in 2009 by virtue of his original contract with Pittsburgh that the Bucs inherited when they traded for him last year. If Zuttah can back up center Jeff Faine, Carlisle might be the reserve guard. He does have experience in zone blocking schemes. The Bucs also might be bringing him in to get some intel into Raiders running back Michael Bush, whom they have an interest in acquiring.
• I wish I had more on the Bucs’ supposed interest in trading for Denver quarterback Jay Cutler, but I don’t at this time. All I know is that when I asked my sources at One Buc Place if the team was the mystery team trying to land New England quarterback Matt Cassel on Saturday, I was told no. And technically, that was correct. The Bucs didn’t have any interest in Cassel as their quarterback. They were trying to grab Cassel from New England and then trade him to Denver for Cutler, according to various national media reports. It’s not that the Bucs don’t have any confidence in recently re-signed Luke McCown, it’s just that Cutler is an experienced quarterback who has been to the Pro Bowl. The number one rule in the NFL is that when the opportunity presents itself to upgrade the quarterback position – do it. That’s all Mark Dominik was trying to do and he should be applauded for trying to make a bold move to better the quarterback position.
• So who else is left from the 2002 Super Bowl team on the Bucs’ 2009 roster aside from cornerback Ronde Barber? Fullback Jameel Cook. Kudos to you if nailed that one.
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