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SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, PewterReport.com publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place and around the NFL.
FAB 1. Bucs Need To Re-Sign Humphries
The Buccaneers have several players that will be poised for free agency in 2019 – some of them are big-name players like Pro Bowl middle linebacker Kwon Alexander, four-year starting left tackle Donovan Smith and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. But there is a pending free agent that shouldn’t get anywhere near free agency. There is a pending free agent that deserves an in-season contract extension right now.
No, it’s not Smith or Alexander – not yet.
The most deserving player of a new contract in Tampa Bay is wide receiver Adam Humphries.
The player known as “Hump” in the Bucs locker room has simply balled out in his contract year and is well deserving of a long-term deal.
With five games left in the season, Humphries has caught 46 passes for 565 yards and a career-high four touchdowns. His 64 targets are third on the team behind Mike Evans (99) and DeSean Jackson (70), and just ahead of Chris Godwin (61), who has 44 catches for 575 yards and four touchdowns this year. Humphries needs 16 catches over the next five games to set a new career high, as he caught 62 passes last year. His 545 yards this season are 86 yards away from matching last year’s total of 631 yards, which was also a career high.
It used to be that if the Bucs needed a first down, they would turn to Humphries. Now, Humphries is doing more than just picking up first downs. He’s picking up touchdowns.
Humphries had four touchdowns in his first three years in the league, but he’s already got four this season, including his first two of the year at Carolina. Humphries’ latest touchdown came last week on a beautiful catch-and-run against San Francisco.
“I think Adam is one of the steadiest and most consistent players on our team,” Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter said. “The whole (touchdown) thing, four games in a row – I guess the thing that he’s doing is really running after the catch. His runs – that was a beautiful cut back on his score last week. I guess that’s maybe the punt returner in him. It looked like they had the angle on him then he cut it back against the grain. Just a real steady player that is on a team where there are guys that get more targets than him. He’s kind of always in position and rarely makes a mistake.”
For the record, Humphries wants to be back in Tampa Bay. Regardless of who is the head coach next year or who is calling the plays, Humphries has value and should remain a Buccaneer.
“Yeah, I feel like I do fit in well here and want to stay,” Humphries said. “I love the city. I love where I’m at, obviously, and I like the players in the locker room. It’s something that I would be interested in, it’s as simple as that.”
As a restricted free agent, Humphries signed a one-year, $2.914 million this offseason. Because he’s a third-string slot receiver, Humphries won’t break the bank in free agency. He’s not a No. 2 receiver. He’s a valuable No. 3 receiver who deserves No. 3 money.
The guess here is that the Bucs will come in and make him an offer in the $4-5 million per year range in the offseason. Tampa Bay has some leverage because Humphries wants to stay (hometown discount), and it is deep at wide receiver with Evans, Godwin and Jackson, who has one year left on his deal, but not return, in addition to young receivers like Justin Watson, this year’s fifth-round pick, Sergio Bailey, who is on injured reserve, and and Bobo Wilson, who is on the practice squad.
The Bucs will be better off with Humphries in 2019, especially if Jameis Winston continues to be the quarterback. The Clemson product is one of Winston’s most trusted wide receivers.
“Yeah, we came in together, we’ve been working four year together, and have a really good connection,” Humphries said of Winston. “Jameis is a competitor. Obviously he wants to make big plays. Sometimes it doesn’t work out. Sometimes as a receiver we don’t run our best route for him. So that’s not on Jameis, that’s on us.”
On Sunday, Winston was scrambling to his right just outside the red zone when he spotted Humphires wide open across the middle of the field, hunkered down in an open spot in San Francisco’s zone defense. Instead of continuing to run, Winston stopped, threw the ball across his body to the middle of the field where Humphries caught it and raced upfield for a 28-yard touchdown.
That was Humphries’ sixth catch of 20 yards or more this year, which ties his career high set in 2016. Humphries’ 51-yard catch against Atlanta this year, which came a yard away from scoring, established a new career-long reception.
In a contract year, the smallest receiver on the team at 5-foot-11, 195 pounds is coming up big. For years, Humphries has gotten some good-natured ribbing in the wide receiver room about getting tackled at the 1-yard line too often, as was the case in Atlanta and Cincinnati this year. He had a 17-yard catch against the Bengals that was initally ruled a touchdown, only to have it overturned by instant replay that showed that Humphries’ knee was down before the ball broke the plane.
However, a week later, playing in front of plenty of family and friends in Charlotte, the Spartanburg, South Carolina native played the best game of his career, catching all eight of his targets for 82 yards and two touchdowns against the Panthers.
“That was really cool, especially for Adam, who seems to always get the ball inside the five yard line but something happens and he doesn’t end up scoring,” said Brate, Humphries’ roommate for years. “So for him to get two touchdowns in front of, I know he had a bunch of friends and family there, was really awesome to see.”
Humphries laughed about his penchant for coming up short of the end zone a few times in the past.
“I know there are a lot of people that want to see me get in there and are pulling for me, and that’s great,” Humphries said. “I just try to do the best I can catching the ball and heading north.”
Last year, Humphries had to endure the fact that reserve tackle Leonard Wester caught a touchdown before he did. Wester scored on a 1-yard catch on a tackle-eligible play in a 24-21 loss at Detroit. Humphries’ first and only touchdown of 2017 would come a week after Wester’s score with a touchdown against Atlanta on Monday Night Football.
“I asked Chris Godwin earlier in the year in practice, ‘Do you know who has more touchdowns over the past two seasons, me or Leonard Wester?’” Humphries chuckled. “I told him Leonard had one last year and I had one last year and we both have none this year. Leonard Wester was still tied with me for receiving touchdowns at the beginning of the year.”
Now Humphries has four touchdowns and Wester has zero.
In fact, Humphries has as many touchdowns as Brate, Jackson and Godwin entering the rematch against Carolina, a team that he grew up watching and rooting for. While the Panthers will need to account for Evans, prevent the deep ball to Jackson and cover Brate in the red zone, they can’t sleep on Humphries otherwise he could easily have another chain-moving, eight-catch, 82-yard, two-touchdown day on Sunday.
“Adam is all the prototypical words for a crafty slot receiver – gritty, intelligent, instinctive, good after the catch, he’s just a good football player, man,” Brate said. “Whether it’s in the run game or obviously in the passing game, he always knows what to do, he always knows how to find a good spot, and has really good hands. I think that helps him a lot, obviously. He can adjust to footballs really well. He’s playing the best football I think of his career right now. Hump’s invaluable. He just knows the offense like the back of his hand, he’s always going to be in the right place at the right time. Whenever he gets a one-on-one matchup he finds a way to win.
“The reality of this business of the NFL is there are only so many people that you can keep together with the salary cap. So I hope we keep him as long as we can, and if he can’t stay here he’ll end up with someone else next season. He’s a really good player. But hopefully he’ll be with us.”
Humphries also brings value on special teams. He hasn’t wowed anyone with his punt return ability, but he fields the ball cleanly, has averaged close to nine yards per return over his career and makes good decisions about when to fair catch the ball and when to let it go into the end zone.
Humphries should get some opportunities to return kicks. After all, he has the longest kick return in team history – a 109-yard kick-six after a missed field goal against Detroit in the preseason – even though it doesn’t count officially.
“It was something that happened and I thought he was going to kick it through the end zone,” Humphries said. “It was something that we work on in practice and I was able to take advantage of it. It was cool going home during the bye week and people were coming up and saying they saw the kick-six. Other special teams coaches come up to me and talk to me about it, and call it the ‘109,’ which is cool. It was a fun play.”
Humphries credits great blocking from his teammates for his incredible touchdown.
“I went right and then I went left, and as soon as I cut back to kind of go right I saw the holder and the kicker slide and I knew they weren’t going to tackle me,” Humphries said. “That’s when I knew I was going to be in the clear. I had a feeling the offensive linemen weren’t going to catch me from behind! [Vernon] Hargreaves and JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul) threw some great blocks for me, and Lavonte [David] and Adarius Taylor were double-teaming a guy for five seconds. It was incredible. It was a great play.”
Humphries is willing to do whatever he can to help out the team, and that makes him a coach’s dream.
“Whatever they need me to do, I’m available to do it,” Humphries said. “One week we didn’t have a ton of depth at gunner, so we were low on gunners and I took some gunner reps at practice. That’s something I hadn’t done in three years. Honestly, whatever they ask me to do, I’m happy to do it. I’m going to work my hardest to help this team win and do my part to help us out. That’s as simple as I can put it.
“Mentality-wise I want to be the best at what I do. In college, we had ton of receivers and I didn’t get as many targets my senior year as I thought I would because I was the one guy that was really good at blocking on certain plays. That cut down on my number of targets. Whether it’s at receiver, playing gunner, returning punts or kicks, or you can throw me in at corner or nickel. I actually had a PBU in college.”
The Bucs need more guys Hump in Tampa Bay. Get this man a contract extension. He wants to stay here and he’s proven his value with a career season.
Humphries saw fellow receiver Russell Shepard, who was Tampa Bay’s special teams captain and fourth wide receiver, sign a three-year, $10 million deal with Carolina last year. The Panthers viewed as a potential No. 3 receiver, while the Bucs viewed him as a No. 4 and made him a contract offer that reflected that and was obviously less than Carolina’s offer.
Shepard left a great situation and took more money elsewhere. He was cut after one year and is now with the New York Giants after signing a one-year deal worth $900,000.
Humphries has kept a watchful eye on Shepard’s situation and is not eager to leave a good thing behind in Tampa Bay.
“That’s something that you obviously evaluate, and something you talk to your agent about,” Humphries said. “That’s the beauty of watching film is you can see how people are being used on teams and can kind of see what would be good somewhere else. Looking at Shep’s situation, I think obviously he’s more of a special teams guy. I haven’t really thought about free agency a ton right now, so I can’t really speak on it as much as I would like to. But I definitely want to stay here.”
You heard the man, Jason Licht. Make him an offer, Mike Greenberg.