SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, Pewter Report publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place:
FAB 1. A FULL-BLOWN FREE AGENCY FRENZY IN TAMPA BAYWow!
What an absolutely crazy start to free agency at One Buccaneer Place under the watch of new head coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht. There are so many points to hit on with the flurry of activity that I will spend the first part of this week’s SR’s Fab 5 on what stood out to me during the Bucs’ first 96 hours of free agency.
• First and foremost, PewterReport.com’s web traffic is up 50 percent from a year ago in March. Granted the only real free agent splash the Bucs made last year was signing free safety Dashon Goldson, and this year the Bucs have already signed nine unrestricted free agents, including three of their own. Throw in the hoopla over the team’s updated logo and helmet and uniform change and it’s been a record month of March already – and we still have 17 days left.
I know there are a lot of places to go for Buccaneers information and insight. New Bucs blogs seem to pop up every day. But I’ve been covering Tampa Bay professionally for 19 years as a credentialed member of the media and I want to thank each and every one of you fans for continuing to rely on PewterReport.com as a trusted source of Bucs news. Your support is greatly appreciated. Now here’s some analysis on your favorite team.
• The addition of veteran journeyman Josh McCown is a strong signal that the Bucs will be drafting a quarterback this year, possibly with the seventh overall pick. The player I firmly believe Tampa Bay will be targeting is Fresno State’s Derek Carr. If you remember, PewterReport.com was the first to focus on Carr’s history with Tedford, and that prompted us to put Carr in PewterReport.com’s initial 2014 Bucs’ mock draft.
The 34-year old McCown, who signed a two-year deal with the Bucs, will only be a stop-gap player until the quarterback of the future is acquired, and it doesn’t seem to be Glennon given how McCown has already been named the starter by Smith. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tampa Bay trade down in the first round to acquire another pick or two and then grab Carr a little later in the round. Then the Bucs could trade Glennon for a mid-round pick as he is a far better player – with some proven NFL experience – than NFL teams could get in the middle or late rounds this year as the QB class is not overly strong or deep with talent.
With McCown being the transition quarterback, Carr wouldn’t have the pressure of starting as a rookie and could see some spot duty in 2014 to get his feet wet while learning from McCown, who could serve as his mentor. A big reason why Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, a former pupil of new offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford at the University of California, developed into a star quarterback in the NFL was because he sat and learned for a few years behind Brett Favre.
Quarterback makes the most sense for the Buccaneers in the first round as the team has already acquired a starting left tackle, a starting defensive end, a starting defensive tackle and a starting cornerback in free agency this year. The one thing Smith battled for years in Chicago, and what ultimately led to his demise as the team’s head coach was the quarterback position. Smith went through Kyle Orton, Brian Griese and Rex Grossman before finally trading for Jay Cutler. And when Cutler was injured in 2012 the Bears’ season went down the drain and Smith was fired because the team didn’t have adequate depth at the QB position.
• PewterReport.com was the first to give you a head’s up that the offensive line was going to be blown up. Right after the season was over in an early January edition of SR’s Fab 5, we revealed that the former regime of general manager Mark Dominik and head coach Greg Schiano were going to cut left tackle Donald Penn, who gave up 11 sacks last year, and force right guard Davin Joseph to take a big pay cut or face the threat of being released. It’s obvious that the tape didn’t lie and that Smith and Licht felt the same way after watching it as both Penn and Joseph were axed this week to make room for younger, cheaper, better players.
On Friday, the Bucs signed Green Bay center Evan Dietrich-Smith, whose addition could mean the end of Jeremy Zuttah’s tenure in Tampa Bay. Dietrich-Smith inked a four-year deal worth $14.25 million, and he’ll earn less than the $4.25 million that Zuttah is set to make. The Bucs could keep Zuttah and have him compete at guard, but might make him take a pay cut to do so. Stay tuned.
• Smith has been beating the 4-12 drum all offseason, saying whenever given the opportunity that the team’s record last season was unacceptable. He’s holding a lot of players from last year’s team accountable, too. He’s all but declaring war on former Dominik and Schiano players that didn’t play very good football in 2013, with the exception of Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis, who was cut for salary cap reasons. I’ll have more on Revis later.
But players like Zuttah and his $4.25 million salary, and punter Michael Koenen and his $3.25 million salary, have to feel very uneasy about their current standing at One Buccaneer Place. There are more roster cuts to come, but Smith and Licht are going about it a certain way.
Because of the respect that the organization had for Joseph, a former captain and all-around great guy, who represented the Buccaneers with class on and off the field, the team let him go on Saturday so he could get a jump on free agency. But as Smith and Licht acquire new players they are smart enough and patient enough to wait until they have a replacement for an older player under contract before releasing the players they want to move on from.
Linebacker Jonathan Casillas was under contract with a new one-year deal before free agency and prior to Dekoda Watson and Adam Hayward hitting the open market. Verner was signed prior to the release of Revis. Collins was signed prior to Penn’s release. Expect the same method of operating at center and punter, and that’s why Zuttah and Koenen should be sweating. However, if the team is not able to land a suitable upgrade in free agency or the draft, the Bucs could hold on to them for one more year and then part ways with them in 2015.
It’s an incredibly intelligent way of doing business and a clear sign that Licht and Smith know exactly what they’re doing. Despite the flurry of free agent moves, Licht said Tampa Bay still has plenty of salary cap room, especially by clearing just over $23 million additional cap dollars with the release of Revis and Penn this week.
• As I’m sitting there listening to the newest Buccaneers in their introductory press conferences this week I was struck by how they are all like-minded. They are all perfect soldiers ready to follow Smith’s lead. Every single one of them made a very strong first impression on me. The words humble, loyal, high-character, hard-working and classy come to mind when describing the likes of defensive end Michael Johnson, defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, cornerback Alterraun Verner, tight end Brandon Myers, quarterback Josh McCown and left tackle Anthony Collins.
These are the first players Smith and Licht have added to the roster under their regime and these are the kind of players they are looking for. My second thought was how Bucs wide receiver Mike Williams absolutely does not fit in with this group of players nor do reckless, hard-partying ways fit the mold of what Smith and Licht are looking for in people they want to represent the Buccaneers organization and the citizens of Tampa Bay.
PewterReport.com was out in front of the Williams story back in January, revealing how the former regime was going to cut him during the offseason, which drew criticism and a sense of disbelief from some Bucs fans. But then Greg Auman and Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times followed up our report with a strong investigative piece detailing Williams’ partying lifestyle and how it disrupted others in his old Sanctuary neighborhood in Lutz.
I’m telling you that after seeing the high-character players Smith and Licht trotted out to the media this week that Williams is not long for Tampa Bay as we previously reported unless the wide receiver has a “come to Jesus” meeting with Smith – literally and figuratively – and does an immediate and serious 180-degree turn with his personal life.
• A speed receiver is coming to Tampa Bay. You can tell by the Buccaneers’ interest in Carolina receiver Ted Ginn, Jr., who signed with Arizona, and Pittsburgh’s Emmanuel Sanders, who would be an ideal fit in Jeff Tedford’s offense, that the Bucs are looking for a player with jets. Don’t be surprised if Sanders ends up signing with Tampa Bay. Smith, who hails from Big Sandy, Texas and has a Texan accent, loves Texans, evidenced by the signing of McCown, who is from Jacksonville, Texas, Collins, who is from Beaumont, Texas and McDonald, who is from Jacksonville, Arkansas, which is a neighboring state. Sanders hails from Bellville, Texas and went to SMU.
Smith is a strong Christian man, and Sanders is also a man of faith, and that’s an important connection. I’ll have more on that later in this edition of SR’s Fab 5.
• When looking at Smith and Licht interact with each other the word “cohesion” immediately comes to mind. Smith agreed with me on Wednesday after the team’s press conference.
“We’re just getting on the same page right away,” Smith said. “[Jason and I] might as well be in the same office. It’s just [back and forth from office to office] early to late. The [players] aren’t here right now, so we’re definitely just ball coaches right now putting this all together. Some of the things that we like about Tampa [the free agents] are seeing, too. Guys want to be a part of something that you develop. The jerseys and the new helmets – it all goes along with what we’re trying to do.”
Speaking of the new jerseys and helmets, the new helmets look amazing. The jerseys will grow on you when you see them in person. I have to agree with Bucs co-chair Ed Glazer on that one. I’ll have more on that topic later in this edition of SR’s Fab 5.
FAB 2. EXPERIENCED PLAYERS ARE PREFERRED IN TAMPA BAY FOR SMITH, LICHTAnother important aspect to the way Tampa Bay head coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht are building the Bucs their way is the fact that they don’t want young, inexperienced players on the field – at all.
Whereas former general manager Mark Dominik and head coach Greg Schiano played as many rookies as they could it seems – quarterback Mike Glennon, tight end Tim Wright, running back Mike James, cornerback Johnthan Banks, nose tackle Akeem Spence and defensive end Will Gholston with some having to play due to others being injured and not having adequate depth – Licht and Smith wouldn’t mind sitting their rookies and let the established veterans play. That’s not to say that a rookie or two won’t see the field or even start, but ideally, Smith wants as much experience on the field as possible. That, coupled with the fact that the Bucs only have five draft picks currently, is the reason why Tampa Bay is being so aggressive in free agency.
“In an ideal world you don’t want guys to go through the growing pains,” Smith said. “We’re getting those [new free agents] after they’ve gone through a lot of the growing pains right now. Really, the second contract should be the prime of your career, and we’re getting some of those guys right then. I’m going to go back to Josh [McCown, a former backup quarterback]. If you haven’t played a lot it puts a little more time on you, too. We’re going to be a young football team. We really are, but we don’t want inexperienced play. We want a little bit of youth with experience.”
The fact that experienced players like cornerback Alterraun Verner, 25, defensive end Michael Johnson, 27, defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, 27, tight end Brandon Myers, 28, and left tackle Anthony Collins, 28, are so young is a huge plus for Tampa Bay, according to Licht.
“I hope so, it sure would increase the chances of me having some longevity in my profession here, too,” Licht said. “It’s a big, big bonus that these players were young and some of them still haven’t hit their prime yet. To get a Pro Bowl cornerback, to get a Pro Bowl-level defensive end, to get a tight end that has similar production to Antonio Gates at their age is very exciting.”
I think that’s also the reason why Bears cornerback Charles Tillman wasn’t signed and why Bears return specialist Devin Hester isn’t a Buccaneer yet. Tillman, who re-signed with Chicago for one year on Friday, is 33, and Hester is 31 and the Bucs aren’t going to pay top dollar for guys in their 30s. That’s part of the reason why Joseph and Penn are gone. When the market comes down for Tillman and Hester then the Bucs will be interested in signing either one or both.
While the aim is to have as many young players in their prime on the roster, Tampa Bay isn’t opposed to having older veterans on the team, evidenced by new starting quarterback in McCown, who will be 35 this season.
“From Day 1, we’ve been transparent about our goal to get a veteran, seasoned quarterback on this roster that’s playing his best, and that’s Josh McCown,” Licht said. “What better person to have here to help Mike Glennon develop than Josh McCown? We win on both ends. That’s the way we’re looking at it. Any quarterback who would be here would benefit from Josh. He is eager because he’s naturally a mentor on and off the field, with anybody he comes across.”
FAB 3. THE TRUTH ABOUT THE REVIS SITUATIONThis week I have heard the craziest notions from members of the national media, local media and some Bucs fans regarding the trade for cornerback Darrelle Revis, who was released on Wednesday to create $16 million in salary cap space. Most prominent is that the Revis trade was one of the worst trades in Bucs history, NFL history and even world history.
Let’s see, the Bucs gave up a mid-first-round pick and a fourth-round pick for a player regarded as the best cover cornerback in the game of football and all he did was successfully rehab his knee, start 16 games for Tampa Bay, force two fumbles, pick off two passes, record a sack, recover a fumble, earn a spot in the Pro Bowl … and somehow that’s a bad trade?
I don’t get it. Trading away quarterback Steve Young is a bad trade. Giving up a first-round pick for defensive end Booker Reese is a bad trade. Trading for Revis, who shut down half the field with his coverage ability wasn’t a bad trade at all.
You could say paying him $16 million was too much and that would be fair. But also to be fair, the way that deal was structured with such a high base salary was put in place to create a scenario where there wasn’t any salary cap-crippling dead money, either, whenever the team wanted to part ways with him.
“There are different elements to the Darrelle Revis contract,” former Bucs general manager Mark Dominik said on Sirius XM Radio this week. “The main, most important thing when I negotiated the deal with his agents was the fact that we had flexibility if we ever needed to walk away from it we could. That’s why even with the trade to the Jets, we had a fourth-round conditional that could go to a third if we didn’t feel great about it. We could do that and I think that’s what Lovie Smith and Jason Licht are thinking about. Do they want a third-round pick or a fourth-round pick? Do they want Darrelle or do they not what Darrelle on the football team?”
The Buccaneers certainly had the salary cap room to keep Revis if they wanted to. The new regime of Smith and Licht just simply preferred to keep the third-round draft pick instead of the fourth, and wanted the $16 million in salary cap space gained by releasing Revis Island, so they cut him.
The reality is that the decision to cut him after just one year – a Pro Bowl season – is just as dubious as trading for Revis. The Bucs had the salary cap room to keep Revis, and I liked the idea of pairing him with Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks. However, Tampa Bay really wanted to overhaul the roster and decided the cap space tied up in Revis was too valuable. According to Licht, the Bucs wouldn’t have been in position to add as many free agents as they have this week with Revis and his $16 million still on the roster.
“That’s very safe to say,” Licht said. “There may have been multiple ones. I’ve said it repeatedly. We’re building a team. No one person can make the impact that four, five, six, seven or eight players can make on a team.”
That’s fine, and that’s Licht and Smith’s prerogative. But ultimately what makes the Revis deal a disappointment was that the new regime wanted to part ways with him after Tampa Bay traded for him a year ago.
Renting a player for one year and giving up a first- and a fourth-round pick to do so is a bad deal. Yet if Dominik were still running the team, Revis would be, too. The more years the Bucs could have gotten out of Revis’ service the better in terms of truly evaluating the trade. If Revis played four years in Tampa Bay and went to four Pro Bowls, getting a stud cornerback for four years for a first- and a fourth-round pick would have been considered to be a great trade.
Blame Dominik for overpaying Revis with a $16 million base salary, which is $6 million more than the second-highest paid cornerback, but don’t blame him for only giving up a first-rounder and a fourth-rounder. But you also have to blame Smith and Licht for not giving it a try for a year and trying to make it work.
It’s hard to blame Revis for not taking a pay cut to stay in Tampa Bay, either. The guy has never seen free agency and wasn’t going to if he stayed with the Bucs. Free agency is an avenue that allows players to do three things – get paid and pick the team they want to play for and pick the city they want to live in.
Revis was traded to a 7-9 Buccaneers team and never got the chance to be courted by a legitimate Super Bowl contender. His compensation for not having that opportunity was a mega-contract worth $96 million over six years.
So where was Revis’ loyalty to Tampa Bay you say? Well, the new regime didn’t have any loyalty to him by asking him to take a pay cut right off the bat, either.
Revis was likely thinking, “I was worth $16 million coming off a torn ACL that cost me much of the 2012 season. Now that I’m back and playing in all 16 games and making another Pro Bowl I’m somehow worth less?”
I don’t blame Revis for not wanting to take a pay cut. He knows the Bucs aren’t going to win a Super Bowl in the next three years and Revis would likely be cut then at age 32, which would make him past his prime, especially at that mega-salary.
Why not refuse the Bucs offer and force the team to cut you and hit free agency for the first time? If you are going to have to take a pay cut, why not choose where you want to play if you are Revis and put yourself in position to win a Super Bowl? That’s exactly what he did.
Licht said that he did try to reduce Revis’ salary but wouldn’t even reveal what the acceptable number for keeping him in red and pewter was.
“There was an attempt, but I’m not sure what that price is,” Licht said. “We exhausted all avenues and we just came up empty. We got into some very in-depth discussions about it with his people. They were very amicable discussions. His agents are great people and easy to deal with, but unfortunately not easy enough for us to come to an agreement with. They have his best interests in mind. They made the best decision for Darrelle and we made the best decision for the Buccaneers.”
Like with left tackle Donald Penn, Licht was unable to find a trade partner willing to cough up a draft pick for a player that the entire league knew was going to hit the open market anyways. Complicating matters was the fact that there was a hard deadline in place as there was with Revis, who was due $3 million on Thursday.
Don’t damn Licht or Smith for not being able to come up with anything for Revis on the trade market. Carolina couldn’t trade wide receiver Steve Smith and Dallas couldn’t trade outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, either, due to those players’ age and high salary cap figures.
This wasn’t necessarily a bad trade for Revis. This wasn’t necessarily a bad decision to cut Revis. It just is what it is. The Bucs move on without their 2013 first-round pick, their 2014 fourth-round pick and their Pro Bowl cornerback with only the $16 million in cap space to show for it.
FAB 4. SMITH’S FAITH IS A HUGE DRAW FOR NEW BUCCANEERSLet me preface this section of the SR’s Fab 5 by saying I’m not advocating religion or Christianity in this column, nor am I trying to alienate or anger anyone by talking about Lovie Smith’s Christian beliefs and the beliefs of some of the newest Buccaneers. I am sensitive to the fact that some of you may practice a different religion or none at all, and you have that right.
I am asking that you open your mind to this football-related mention of Christianity and how it is affecting the Buccaneers’ recruitment free agency under Smith’s watch. Without further adieu, the fact that Smith is a strong man of faith and public with his Christian beliefs, similar to his friend and mentor Tony Dungy, played a big role in attracting some of the top free agents the Bucs were able to land this week.
And perhaps more importantly, his faith-based belief will help shape Tampa Bay’s roster this year and years to come.
Make no mistake, though. Smith is a football coach, not a minister. He’s not looking to build a congregation. He’s looking to build a football team.
You don’t have to be a Christian to become a Buccaneer. Smith is not going to shun a good football player just because he doesn’t believe in God. But if a player is a believer there’s definitely an added attraction there, and that goes both ways as the latest round of free agents are definitely further drawn to Smith because of his faith.
“It’s strong, it’s very strong,” Bucs defensive tackle Clinton McDonald said. “When you have one or two gathered in His name, good things are going to happen. Just have the support of a man of faith and to have the support from other teammates that have the same faith that you have it brings a stronger, more cohesive unit together. Finding out that more people like Gerald McCoy that have that same faith and mindset is very encouraging.”
Pro Bowl cornerback Alterraun Verner has the saying “Many goals and ambitions but let it be up God’s will!” at the top of his Twitter page, and said that Smith’s faith was a strong selling point for him coming to Tampa Bay.
“Definitely,” Verner said. “That’s a big part of Lovie and his reputation. He’s a sincere guy and that’s how people view him. [Cornerbacks coach] Gil Byrd is the same way. He’s very outspoken about his faith. I actually worked out with Gil coming out of school. He took me out to eat and we talked about life and things in general. Their character – that was a big thing for me. I’m going to get honesty from them. I’m going to get the truth. They aren’t going to sugarcoat things – good or bad. If I’m not playing well I expect both of them to be on me. I respect them from that sense.”
Tight end Brandon Myers wrote the word “Blessed” on his Twitter page on March 11 after signing with Tampa Bay.
“He brings it all to the table,” Myers said of Smith. “He’s a guy of faith and he’s a great leader. He can pull guys together. It was a big deal to be able to come here and I’ve heard a ton of great things from other guys about him. I couldn’t be more excited.”
Myers said he was encouraged by the fact that there are many other Christians on the Buccaneers.
“I feel like everyone here has the same mindset,” Myers said. “They are here to win games and change the organization. [Christianity] is just a bonus. If everyone believes and has a single focus, good things happen. If you don’t have guys that are focused things can get off track.”
One of the most outspoken Christians on the team is new quarterback Josh McCown, who had this to say during his initial press conference in Tampa Bay.
“I’ve learned throughout my life that, as a person of faith, there’s a scripture that says “Tomorrow is not promised” and all those things,” McCown said. “That’s kind of how I’ve tried to view the world is that things change very quickly. My whole career has kind of been that way.”
Verner is already familiar with McCown having attended a Christian workshop with him a year ago.
“It’s funny because some of the players on the team I’ve run into in some type of a Christian setting,” Verner said. “Josh McCown was actually my PAO leader. The PAO is Pro Athletes Outreach and it’s a Christian conference the NFL has. Last year, Josh was my group leader. He led our group and was the ambassador. Seeing that part of him and seeing him play well with the Bears and now seeing him here it’s cool.
“Gerald McCoy and I train together and we’ve gone to numerous Bible studies together. At the Pro Bowl we went to the chapel service together, so I know where his faith is. Those are extra bonuses that matter to me. You know that you have brothers on the team that I can help and that can help me [spiritually].”
Left tackle Anthony Collins is the latest Christian to join the Buccaneers due to the opportunity that awaited him in Tampa Bay and Smith’s convictions, which helped him pick suiting up in red and pewter over offers from Carolina and Cincinnati. Collins revealed his faith in his initial press conference in Tampa Bay when talking about having to wait six years for the chance to become a full-time starter in the NFL.
“God always has his own timing,” Collins said. “You’ve got to wait. Patience is a virtue. Now is my time.”
When Dungy was Tampa Bay’s head coach in the late 1990s there were several outspoken Christians on the team – including quarterback Trent Dilfer, running back Warrick Dunn, wide receiver Horace Copeland, and linebackers Derrick Brooks, Hardy Nickerson and Shelton Quarles among others – that were nicknamed the “God Squad” by outsiders. That nickname was seen as a term of endearment by believers, and was a bit of a shot at the supposed “do-gooders” by non-believers.
It seems like Smith, who was alongside Dungy from 1996-2000, is assembling the God Squad Part II in Tampa with a host of new believers via free agency joining the likes of McCoy and others in Tampa Bay.
Smith will be the first to tell you that his faith has helped make him the man of conviction and character that he is today. Religion is a vital part of his life, and Smith’s approach to coaching football with his beliefs at the heart of it all makes his players – believers and non-believers alike – want to play for him.
“I think because he cares,” McCown said when asked what makes Smith so special.
“You spend five minutes with him and you feel like he cares about you as an individual and as a person. That matters to players. As long as I’ve played, if I’ve learned one thing it’s that relationships matter and the relationships that you can build in the building matter.
“As much as we talk about this being a business, the guys that I’ve played with through the course of my career – it’s resounding how much, when an issue comes up, how much you can look at why an issue happened and go, ‘Man, it’s because the relationship is fractured between the player and the coach and because the player doesn’t feel cared for.’ I believe that more than anything, and appreciate that so much from Lovie is that I believe he cares and the guys believe that as well.”
McCown has known Smith for years, but even relative newcomers like McDonald can feel Smith’s presence at work and it definitely is an attraction.
“Lovie is a great coach and he has great schemes on defense going back to the Bears,” McDonald said. “All the things he’s done going back to here with Coach Dungy – his body of work just speaks for itself. He knows how to get guys motivated and to get guys going.
“It’s a great honor [to play for him]. It’s a responsibility to Lovie. He chose me. He brought me here and he wanted me. I have a responsibility to Lovie to perform the way he needs me to perform. I’ve got to be dedicated to my craft and what I think I can be each and every year.”
Licht said that the Buccaneers have been so successful in recruiting top-notch free agents and signing them without having to overpay due to Smith’s aura. Players want to play
“There is no doubt that he is the best recruiting tool that we have in this building and perhaps the NFL,” Licht said. “I’ve talked about this before, but it’s his presence. He’s demanding and you don’t want to let him down. He has that presence about him that I’ve talked about – that calmness, but how he expects everyone around him to do your best. Whether you are a player or a staff member, you do your best around him.”
The feeling that you get when you are in Smith’s presence is incredibly hard to explain. There is a charisma and a sense of absolute legitimacy about him, even during personal interviews with him, that draws you to Smith.
It’s way beyond likability. It’s more like magnetism, really, and I haven’t experienced it since the days of interviewing Dungy.
Now imagine that presence from a man of faith like Smith, combined with the chance to start for the Buccaneers and a lucrative paycheck. That’s quite a sales pitch.
Smith’s presence has to come from somewhere. Some would say it’s his God-given talent.
FAB 5. Here are a few things to hold you over until the next edition of SR’s Fab 5:
• One more faith-based-related Bucs’ matter. One of the most spiritual players and outspoken Christians in the 2014 NFL Draft is Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr, who was the Bulldogs’ leader and prayer leader over the past couple of years. Given my reporting about Lovie Smith being a man of faith, and the fact that offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford has known Carr since he was six years old after having coached his brother, David Carr, at Frenso State, you can see why there is a logical connection between Carr and Tampa Bay in PewterReport.com’s pre-draft reporting.
• Some pundits will point to Washington and Dallas in the annual running for winning the offseason, but not having anything – playoff wins or Super Bowl titles – to show for it in recent memory, and temper Bucs fans’ enthusiasm for the big splashes made by Tampa Bay thus far in free agency. The Bucs have had made big splashes before that seemed to hold much promise in April, only to bring disappointment in September. Names like Alvin Harper, Bert Emanuel, Todd Steussie, Derrick Deese, Charlie Garner, Derek Ward and Eric Wright come to mind through the years.
But free agency, when done right, can be an instant shot in the arm. Take the 2002 Buccaneers as a prime example. Almost every free agent signed that year by former general manager Rich McKay and head coach Jon Gruden, except for tight end Marco Battaglia and guard Matt O’Dwyer, made a huge impact in helping Tampa Bay’s first and only Super Bowl championship. Names like Roman Oben, Greg Spires, Kerry Jenkins, Michael Pittman, Joe Jurevicius, Keenan McCardell, Ken Dilger and Rickey Dudley come to mind.
Free agency is no different than the NFL Draft most of the time. There are hits and misses, and teams are just trying to get more hits than misses. But when you factor in money, new coaches, new systems, new teammates, new cities, new expectations and new circumstances you can’t always expect the same results from free agents landing in Tampa Bay that they had with their former teams. Again, it’s about getting more hits than misses.
• New Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht has been extremely pleased with the work of the front office staff he inherited. Tampa Bay’s free agent signings are a testament to the hard work of Licht, head coach Lovie Smith, director of football administration Mike Greenberg, who is handling the contract negotiations with agents, and others.
“Everyone has worked incredibly hard from Shelton Quarles to Scott Cohen, Rob McCartney and Eric Stokes,” Licht said. “When I was first hired, we put together a plan and we stuck with it. Our plan was to be sitting here today with multiple players that could help us win a championship.”
And that’s what happened during the first week of free agency in Tampa Bay.
• And finally, I have an admission to make. After voicing my displeasure over Tampa Bay’s revamped uniform in last week’s SR’s Fab 5 and getting to see the Buccaneers’ new jerseys in person, they do look a lot better. Ed Glazer, you were right.
Tampa Bay’s new cutting edge uniforms are incredibly lightweight, which the players like, and tight-fitting courtesy of the latest technology by Nike. While I’m still not crazy about the font, which seems to be the biggest issue among fans, the red jerseys look so much better in person than they did in the photos released by the Buccaneers.
Bad photography of the new uniforms due to an ill-advised black background, and the decision to release photos where the uniforms and helmet actually look black rather than pewter is what marred the team’s first impression of the new jerseys and pants with the Buccaneers fan base. The bungled uniform rollout on social media rather than via a live press conference could have been avoided, and ultimately detracted from the team’s enhanced logo and updated helmet, which actually look awesome in person.
I predict the new logo and helmet will be a huge hit, and that the majority of Bucs fans will ultimately come around to the new uniforms in time.
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd 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 enjoys 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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