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. Whether or not Ronde Barber returns to the Buccaneers for a miraculous and record-breaking 17th season in 2013, he has already cemented his place in Tampa Bay history. Barber’s accomplishments – coupled with his longevity – have moved him up in the top 5 on Pewter Report’s All-Time Buccaneers List regardless of him playing another down in pewter and red.
Here’s a look at the list and the reasoning behind Barber, who will turn 38 on April 7, climbing ahead of some other legendary Buccaneers.
PEWTER REPORT’S ALL-TIME BUCCANEERS LIST1. LB Derrick BrooksNo Bucs player has accomplished more than legendary linebacker Derrick Brooks, who went to a team-record 11 Pro Bowls (four more than any other Buccaneer), was named a first-team All-Pro five times and was the 2002 NFL Defensive Player of the Year while leading Tampa Bay to its first and only Super Bowl title. He deserves to be atop this list and will undoubtedly be a first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer next year when he is eligible for nomination.
2. DE Lee Roy SelmonThe late Lee Roy Selmon was the franchise’s first-ever draft pick in 1976 and is still the club’s all-time leading sacker. Selmon was also Tampa Bay’s first Pro Football Hall of Fame entry in 1995 after becoming a six-time Pro Bowler and leading the franchise to the cusp of the Super Bowl in 1979 after going 0-14 during its inaugural season three years earlier.
3. DT Warren SappNew Hall of Famer Warren Sapp was one of the NFL’s best defensive tackles of all-time, evidenced by his seven Pro Bowl appearances and four first-team All-Pro honors. Sapp is the second-leading sacker in franchise history and was an instrumental leader in turning Tampa Bay into a perennial playoff team in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
4. CB Ronde BarberBarber has surpassed the likes of linebacker Hardy Nickerson (fifth), strong safety John Lynch (sixth), defensive end Simeon Rice (seventh), fullback Mike Alstott (eighth), left tackle Paul Gruber (ninth) and running back James Wilder (tenth) on Pewter Report’s All-Time Buccaneers List to move up into fourth place. While Nickerson and Lynch certainly have their places in Buccaneers lore, Barber has simply accomplished more. Here is a list of Barber’s amazing accomplishments:
• Barber has played more seasons (16) than any other player in Tampa Bay history. If he returns for a 17th season, Barber will tie Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis for the second-most in NFL history for the most seasons with an original team. Kicker Jason Hanson holds the record for spending 21 years with the Detroit Lions.
• Barber is a five-time Pro Bowler, a distinction that ties him for the third-most appearances in franchise history with Lynch and Nickerson, in addition to being a three-time All-Pro, which is one more year’s worth of that honor than either Lynch or Nickerson received. In 2012, which was his first year as a starting free safety, Barber was a Pro Bowl alternate.
• Barber has played in 240 consecutive games, and has 215 consecutive starts. Both are franchise records. His 215 consecutive starts are the most by any current NFL player.
• Barber has 232 career starts, including 200 consecutive starts at cornerback, which is the most in NFL history.
• Barber has 10 career NFC Player of the Week awards (nine on defense, one on special team), which is the most in Buccaneers history. Barber’s nine NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors are tied for the most in league history with Lewis and three Hall of Famers in defensive ends Chris Doleman and Bruce Smith, and linebacker Lawrence Taylor.
• Barber is the second-leading tackler in Tampa Bay history with 1,428, ranking behind only Brooks, who notched 2,198 stops in his Buccaneers career.
• Barber is the franchise’s all-time leading interceptor with 47 picks. He is the only player in NFL history to record at least 40 interceptions and 25 sacks in his career. In 2001, he led the NFL with 10 interceptions.
• Barber’s 92-yard interception return for a touchdown in the 2002 NFC Championship Game at Philadelphia sealed the team’s victory and paved the way for the Buccaneers to win the franchise’s first and only Super Bowl title, which came against Oakland a week later. Barber’s pick-six of Eagles QB Donovan McNabb is widely regarded as the top play in Tampa Bay history.
• Barber’s 28 career sacks are the seventh-most in Buccaneers history. With two more sacks and three more interceptions Barber would become the only player in NFL history with an even 50 picks and 30 sacks.
• Barber has scored the most non-offensive touchdowns in Buccaneers history (12). His 12 regular season scores are tied for the third-most in NFL history. With one more defensive score, Barber will be tied for first all-time with former NFL defensive backs Darren Sharper and Rod Woodson.
• Barber has a franchise-record three defensive touchdowns in the postseason to give him a total of 15 non-offensive scores in his illustrious career.
• Barber is the first player in NFL history with at least eight interceptions returned for a touchdown, four fumble returns for a touchdown and a punt return for a touchdown.
• Barber is the first Buccaneer to have blocked a punt, a field goal and an extra point in franchise history.
With all of these accomplishments due to his talent, instincts, intellect and longevity, an argument could be made that Barber could be atop the list of Buccaneers players. However, the positions he has played – cornerback and free safety – typically do not impact opposing offensive game plans the way a defensive end (Selmon), a defensive tackle (Sapp) or a linebacker (Brooks) in the front seven could with regards to teams attempting to run the ball and drop back to pass. Therefore, Barber’s elevation up Pewter Report’s All-Time Buccaneers List is halted at number four.
One thing is for certain. With Brooks almost undoubtedly joining the ranks of Selmon and Sapp in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014 when he is eligible, Barber won’t be far behind to represent the Buccaneers. There is absolutely no reason why Barber should not be considered a Hall of Fame-caliber player.
For Barber not to be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame would be beyond ludicrous given all that he has accomplished in Tampa Bay and the NFL. If Barber were to be snubbed that would be an incomprehensibly negligent act by incompetent voters in my humble opinion.
FAB 2. For the longest time, Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber didn’t feel like he belonged in the conversation when it came to discussing the franchise’s all-time greats. In 2011 for a Pewter Report Conversation interview when Barber reached the 40-interception mark, I asked him if he realized that the old expression of “Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and John Lynch” when describing Tampa Bay’s defense was outdated and that his name should be included in that conversation.
“A couple of years ago I was at the stadium for Tony Dungy’s retirement party and all four of us were there,” Barber said at the time. “The three of them (Sapp, Brooks and Lynch) got up there together and were saying stuff about Tony and I thought to myself, ‘I’m not in that group. I don’t need to be up there. I’m not part of that.’ At the time I was thinking, ‘You have this great defense and you have one guy from each unit.’ But that was a couple years ago. Now with what I have done for this football team and the 40 interceptions, looking back, I probably should be part of that group.”
I told Barber that with his accomplishments and longevity with the team that he definite
ly deserved to be among the likes of Sapp, Brooks and Lynch when discussing the iconic Bucs defense that encompassed the Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden eras.
“At the time, I didn’t think I should have been,” Barber said in agreement. “But it’s a nice comment by you to say that I should be. Thank you. I appreciate it.”
I also asked Barber about his legendary touchdown on a 92-yard interception return against Philadelphia in the 2002 NFC Championship Game that catapulted the Buccaneers to their first and only Super Bowl.
“It’s a great place to start, but I don’t want that play to define me,” Barber said. “Obviously, it still resonates in this building. There are pictures of that hanging all over the walls. It’s propelled me into stardom around here. Not that I wasn’t a good player before, but it separated me. I think that play made me a brand name around town, but amongst my peers – the old guys before and the new guys now – I wanted them to think I was a guy that did everything and would do everything, and that I’m a great player because of that.”
And outside of One Buccaneer Place, what type of legacy does Barber want to have in NFL circles?
“Outside of this building I’d like to be known as a guy that had the best interests of this team in mind,” Barber said. “I excelled in spite of what everyone else thought I couldn’t do. The guy that preserved and had pride in being able to preserve – I think that’s what I want people to know me as.”
Part of Barber’s success comes from the fact that after 16 years of football he has never removed that chip from his shoulder that he entered the league with as a third-round draft pick in 1997. At 5-foot-10, 180 pounds coming out of the University of Virginia and running in the 4.55 range, Barber’s draft stock slid further than he thought it would.
Barber’s rookie season went so poorly he saw action in one game – against Arizona – and faltered so bad in coverage that he was inactive for the rest of the season until the playoff game against Green Bay. The Buccaneers didn’t even think Barber would pan out, so they spent a second-round draft pick the next year in 1998 on USC cornerback Brian Kelly, whom Tampa Bay thought would beat Barber out and team with Donnie Abraham in the secondary.
Not big enough. Not fast enough. Not good enough. Those thoughts by others fueled Barber’s meteoric rise in Tampa Bay and the NFL. But to this day, Barber is not considered a sure-fire Hall of Fame candidate the way Sapp, who was a first-ballot select a month ago, and Brooks are – despite actually accomplishing more in some cases than either did in Tampa Bay.
Even during the Bucs’ Super Bowl march, Barber’s chip on his shoulder was on display as he shouted, “Pro Bowl my ass!” on the sidelines after his historic, 92-yard interception return for a touchdown at Philadelphia. That was meant as a shot to the league, which did not name him to the Pro Bowl that year – instead voting the Eagles duo of Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor, who was considered overrated by some.
Barber doesn’t like criticism. Who does? But he has used doubts by others to erase any doubts he has had about himself and push him towards success.
“I hear everything that everybody says about me,” Barber said. “I’m not one of those guys that say they don’t read the news. I follow it all. In one instance or another, I’m going to use it – good or bad – to my advantage.”
Advantage, Barber. He has accomplished more than enough to have his named mentioned in the same company as Sapp, Brooks and Lynch when it comes to Buccaneers lore.
FAB 3. Now that the NFL scouting combine is over, NFL teams, including Tampa Bay, have a better understanding of which players will be taken in the first round, and obviously that will set the pace for the rest of the draft. What the Bucs want to do is gain an understanding of which players could potentially be on the draft board when the team selects at No. 13.
While there are always a few surprises in the top 10, Tampa Bay can easily eliminate a few candidates that seemed destined to be in that group. Here are some safe bets that will be unavailable to the Bucs unless they trade up:
Texas A&M OT Luke JoeckelCentral Michigan OT Eric FisherAlabama G Chance WarmackAlabama CB Dee MillinerFlorida DT Sharrif FloydOregon DE-OLB Dion JordanNorth Carolina G Jonathan Cooper
While there are five more wild card players that will be picked before Tampa Bay selects at No. 13, those seven players seem to be consensus top 10 picks on most major mock drafts. So let’s include them in a mock draft with the first 12 picks and see which players we come up with as potential first-round picks for Tampa Bay.
1. Kansas City – Texas A&M OT Luke JoeckelWith Alex Smith being traded to Kansas City, the Chiefs take Joeckel, the best player in the draft, to help protect him and block for running back Jamaal Charles.
2. Jacksonville – Florida DT Sharrif FloydIn an effort to shore up a weak pass rush and help fill the stands, defensive-minded head coach Gus Bradley selects Floyd from down the road in Gainesville.
3. Oakland – Alabama CB Dee MillinerMilliner’s 4.37 time in the 40-yard dash cemented him atop this year’s cornerback class, and Oakland is desperate for big, fast, cover corners.
4. Philadelphia – Oregon OLB Dion JordanThe Eagles are switching to a 3-4 defense under new head coach Chip Kelly and the explosive Jordan, whom he coached at Oregon, makes perfect sense.
5. Detroit – Central Michigan OT Eric FisherAlthough CB is a need, there are plenty in this year’s draft, and keeping franchise QB Matthew Stafford upright remains a priority with Fisher from nearby CMU.
6. Cleveland – Florida State DE Bjoern WernerAlthough he didn’t light it up at the combine, the fact that Werner, who is similar to Rams DE Chris Long, had 24.5 sacks in three years at FSU helps Cleveland’s pass rush.
7. Arizona – West Virginia QB Geno SmithThe Cardinals desperately need a quarterback and take the highest-rated passer in Smith, who has good speed and escapability, which is a must behind Arizona’s O-line.
8. Buffalo – Alabama G Chance WarmackNew head coach Doug Marrone needs to upgrade the offensive line, especially at guard where Warmack represents a major improvement.
9. NY Jets – Georgia OLB Jarvis Jones Jones was diagnosed with spinal stenosis at the combine, which will shorten his NFL career in time, but not limit his pass-rushing and play-making effectiveness right away.
10. Tennessee – North Carolina G Jonathan CooperThe Titans need help at guard, and Cooper is definitely a top 10 talent in this draft that can help open holes for Chris Johnson.
11. San Diego – Tennessee WR Cordarrelle Patterson Lane Johnson could be the pick, but instead of drafting the third-best OT, the Chargers opt for the top receiver to help quarterback Phillip Rivers.
12. Miami – Florida State CB Xavier RhodesThe Dolphins are expected not to spend much to retain Sean Smith in free agency and will likely lose him, thus the need for another big, fast cornerback to replace him.
If the actual draft pans out the way this mock draft did, here will be some of the players the Buccaneers could strongly consider with their first-round pick at No. 13:
Oklahoma OT Lane Johnson The Bucs would be lucky if Johnson got by Arizona and San Diego. This top 10 talent has seen his stock rise up after phenomenal showings at the Senior Bowl and the NFL scouting combine. Johnson, who is one of my favorite players in this year’s draft, could start his Bucs career at right tackle and eventually move to the left side to replace Donald Penn.
BYU DE Ezekiel AnsahThe Bucs’ interest in drafting a defensive end in the first round could largely depend on what happens in free agency with Michael Bennett. The African-born Ansah only had 4.5 sacks in college, and that came during his senior season. But he has great size, freakish athleticism, uncanny hustle and untapped potential, which was on display at the Senior Bowl where he recorded two sacks, seven tackles and forced a fumble to win the Defensive MVP honors. Ansah could become a starting left defensive end in time with proper coaching and more experience.
Alabama OT D.J. FlukerAt 6-foot-5, 339 pounds, Fluker has rare size, strength and athleticism to go along with an 87-inch wingspan and 10.5-inch hands. The Bucs would love to upgrade the right tackle position where Demar Dotson is solid, but not spectacular. Fluker, who has trimmed down from 355 pounds that he weighed at the Senior Bowl, could help keep Josh Freeman upright and provide Doug Martin with holes to run through on the right side of the line.
Utah DT Star LotuleleiLotulelei was once viewed as a top 5 draft pick, and perhaps the top-rated defensive tackle in the draft before an echocardiogram at the NFL scouting combine revealed an abnormal heart condition. Now his draft stock is in question. The left ventricle of the 6-foot-2, 311-pounder was pumping at 44 percent efficiency, with the normal range being 55-70 percent. Lotulelei had five sacks and three forced fumbles during his breakout senior season and had 21.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks and four forced fumbles in his Utah career, and could play nose tackle next to Gerald McCoy.
Washington CB Desmond TrufantWith Milliner and Rhodes off the board, the next best cornerback in the draft is Trufant, who’s brothers are also NFL cornerbacks (Marcus in Seattle, (Isaiah with the New York Jets). Trufant’s stock is rising after an excellent Senior Bowl and a great showing at the NFL scouting combine. He broke up 32 passes at Washington and picked off six others. He also forced three fumbles, had two sacks and returned a fumble 17 yards for a touchdown while amassing 195 tackles for the Huskies. Trufant is a fast, tough, competitive corner that could help Tampa Bay right away.
Notre Dame TE Tyler EifertEifert likely isn’t regarded as the 13th-best player in the 2013 NFL Draft, but he is clearly the best tight end, which is a position of need for the Buccaneers. At 6-foot-6, 251 pounds, Eifert lined up as a receiver a great deal of the time on the perimeter or in the slot where he caught 140 passes for 1,840 yards and 11 touchdowns during his Notre Dame career. Last year he caught 50 passes for 685 yards and four touchdowns, following a junior season that saw him catch 63 balls for 803 yards and five scores. Eifert, who has 4.68 speed, could be Tampa Bay’s starting tight end, but needs a lot of work on his in-line blocking.
Missouri DT Sheldon RichardsonRichardson, a junior, is coming off a season in which he led all SEC defensive linemen with 75 tackles, in addition to 10.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, three forced fumbles, one blocked kick and a 60-yad fumble recovery. Richardson has elite quickness and is better suited to be a three-technique tackle as he doesn’t have the stout frame to anchor against double teams from the nose tackle spot. The Bucs could use Richardson at nose tackle in nickel rush situations and at the three technique tackle spot to rest Gerald McCoy and provide depth at the position.
Just taking a quick glance at these seven options for the Buccaneers you can see why Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik likes selecting at No. 13. If he has to stick and pick, Dominik and the Bucs have several enticing choices to select from. And if he can move down a couple of spots and pick up an extra draft pick in doing so, all the better because he will still have a couple of the same targets available into the early 20s in the first round when he moves down.
FAB 4. Last November in an SR’s Fab 5, I wrote about one of the more intriguing draft-eligible pass rushers in Western Kentucky’s Quanterus Smith. While not a household name to general football fans, Smith has been on the radar of NFL scouts all season long. He startled the NFL scouting world by registering three sacks against Alabama in the second game of the season, and also forced a fumble by quarterback A.J. McCarron.
One sack came against right tackle D.J. Fluker, who is a candidate for the first round of the draft this year, and the other two came against sophomore left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, who has the talent to be a first-round draft pick as early as 2014. On one sack, Smith split a double team from Kouandjio and left guard Chance Warmack, a top 10 pick in this year’s draft.
“It was a good game for me,” Smith told Matthew Fairburn of MockingTheDraft.com. “Kind of got in the zone a little bit. Seeing the opportunity to play against those guys, I tried to take advantage of it. Alabama helped me solidify (my game) in other people’s eyes.”
After going sackless against Kentucky and Southern Miss, Smith posted 3.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss against Arkansas State in a 26-13 victory. Three weeks later at Florida International, Smith was a one-man wrecking crew, notching a career-high five sacks and a forced fumble to seal the game in a 14-6 road win.
Two weeks later in a heartbreaking 37-28 loss against Florida Atlantic, Smith had nine tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a 75-yard fumble return for a touchdown prior to tearing his ACL the next week at Louisiana-Lafayette after registering five tackles and two tackles for loss in a 31-27 defeat.
With 12.5 sacks in the first 10 games of the 2012 season, Smith finished as the leading sacker in the FBS with 1.25 sacks per game despite missing the final three games due to his knee injury. Because Smith’s injury occurred so late in the season on November 17, he was unable to perform at the NFL scouting combine and will likely not be ready to work out at his pro day prior for scouts prior to the draft.
“It was very frustrating, but it is what it is,” Smith said.
Smith had 38 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery during his senior campaign, and posted 135 tackles, 41 tackles for loss, 24 sacks, five forced fumbles, three pass breakups and a fumble recovery for a touchdown in his Hilltoppers career.
The Hilltoppers’ best pass rusher could be picked as high as the fourth round because of his college production and potential, but seems destined for the fifth round because he will likely have to start the 2013 season on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list and may not be able to contribute at all in 2013 due to possibly missing out on training camp. Because of his lengthy frame and edge pass-rushing ability, Smith is appealing to 4-3 teams looking for a right end or 3-4 teams looking for an outside linebacker and that could raise his stock somewhat.
“A lot of people told me just keep working hard,” Smith said. “You know because they see me out there and see me working on the field trying to get my game right. They tell me keep doing what you’re doing and it will pay off.”
Smith recorded sacks in 10 out of his last 22 games at WKU, including five games with multiple QB captures. He’s got good talent and potential, but he’s far from a finished product. Recovering from late-season knee surgery will cost him valuable on-field time with coaches during the OTAs (organized team activities) and possibly tr
aining camp, which will set back his development. However, Smith will likely be one of those players that will be worth the wait.
With defensive end Daniel Te’o-Nesheim getting a one-year tender from Tampa Bay, the Bucs could draft Smith in the fifth round if he’s there and develop him for 2014 when the contracts for Aaron Morgan and Markus White are also up.
FAB 5. Here are a couple of things to hold you over until the next edition of SR’s Fab 5:
• Did you know that Ronde Barber’s first NFL touchdown didn’t come on an interception return or a fumble return? It came on a punt return against Chicago on November 29, 1998 in his second NFL season when a punt was deflected by a teammate and the ball crossed the line of scrimmage. Barber scooped up the ball and raced 23 yards for the score.
His next touchdown came on a fumble return against Chicago on September 10, 2000 where he returned a loose ball 24 yards for a TD. Barber’s first interception return for a score came two weeks later against the New York Jets when he returned a pick 37 yards for a touchdown.
• Looking for a common denominator in the type of players Greg Schiano likes to draft? The Bucs head coach likes no-nonsense, quiet football players. Take a look at Tampa Bay’s first three draft picks – strong safety Mark Barron, running back Doug Martin and linebacker Lavonte David. All three are very low-key, hard-working, nose-to-the-grindstone individuals that don’t say much in the locker room.
Barron, Martin and David do a really good job of towing the company line also don’t offer much up to the media. Those reporters looking for salacious and scandalous details can come away thinking that trio of Bucs are rather bland interviews – and that’s just fine with Schiano. He’s looking for good soldiers, so if a player is really outspoken and chatty with the media he may not be an ideal fit in Tampa Bay.
Having said that, a Bucs source told PewterReport.com that Schiano has his guilty pleasures on offense and defense in wide receiver Mike Williams and free safety Ahmad Black, respectively. Both Williams and Black are cozy with the media, genuinely like doing interviews and aren’t strangers to social media – to the point where it can almost be excessive. However, both gregarious Buccaneers also love football, have upbeat, infectious personalities and work hard at their craft, which gives them a pass in Schiano’s world of ideal soldiers.
• If the Buccaneers are not going to re-sign defensive end Michael Bennett, as Tampa Bay Times reporter Rick Stroud suggested on Thursday, then the team will almost certainly target the position in the first two rounds of the 2013 NFL Draft. Not making a real effort to re-sign the team’s most accomplished pass rusher is a big risk for a team that generated only 27 sacks in 2012.
While the Bucs are expected to tender a one-year contract to reserve defensive end Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, Bucs general manager Mark Dominik is rolling the dice that Adrian Clayborn will be healthy enough from his torn ACL last year to start at right defensive end, and that Da’Quan Bowers can escape a gun possession charge in New York last month to start at left defensive end in Bennett’s place.
It’s hard to imagine the Bucs not bidding for Bennett’s services given the fact that he produced nine sacks and three forced fumbles to lead the team in 2012 – unless Dominik has heard through agent Drew Rosenhaus that other teams are prepared to spend more than Tampa Bay has budgeted for Bennett, who was second on the team with 18 tackles for loss. But of course for Rosenhaus to possibly know that would be an indication that there was some tampering going on, and of course there isn’t any tampering in the NFL.
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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