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. IT’S TIME FOR THE BUCS TO SUMMON “THE KRAKEN”
As is typical every year, by the third or fourth day of free agency all of the top pass rushers are off the market and have been signed to lucrative deals.

The most important position in the NFL is the quarterback. The second most important position is either the guy that protects the QB – the left tackle – or the guy that rushes the passer – the defensive end. The Buccaneers desperately need a defensive end that can get to the quarterback and their options are drying up quick.

On the second day of free agency, the Buccaneers cut Michael Johnson, the overpaid and underwhelming defensive end that was signed to a five-year, $43.75 million last year. By the fourth day of free agency, there aren’t any names that remain. Tennessee pass rusher Derrick Morgan and Washington’s Brian Orakpo signed with the Titans, while Tampa Bay’s Adrian Clayborn signed a deal with NFC South division rival Atlanta. Johnson remains unsigned, but he’ll likely head back to Cincinnati.

The Bucs didn’t want either Johnson or Clayborn, and Morgan, who visited the Bucs on Wednesday, has never recorded more than 6.5 sacks in a season and has 23 in his four years with the Titans. Orakpo is capable of producing double-digit sacks when healthy, but he has missed 24 games over the past three seasons and will be 29 this summer. He didn’t consider the Bucs, nor did they consider him.

Every other “name” pass rusher is on the wrong side of 30, including the New York Giants’ Mathias Kiwanuaka, Atlanta’s Osi Umenyiora and San Diego’s Dwight Freeney.New York Jets v Carolina Panthers

All that may be left is Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy, who after notching a sack against Tampa Bay quarterback Josh McCown in the season opener, missed the final 15 games of the 2014 season after being suspended by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for a domestic abuse arrest, and a conviction by a judge that was later overturned by a jury when the victim, Hardy’s former girlfriend, did not show up for the trial. Hardy and the victim had agreed to a settlement to avoid a civil trial.

Out of all of the available pass rushers available in free agency, Hardy was – and still is – the best one based on production and sheer talent. With the Bucs desperately needing an edge rusher capable of producing double-digit sacks, which he did with 11 in 2012 and a career-high and Carolina-record 15 during the 2013 season, Tampa Bay has to seriously consider the risk of adding the rush end known as “The Kraken.” The Oakland Raiders already are, and could sign him on Friday if the Bucs don’t act quickly.

Hardy’s 15 sacks were the third most in the NFL and earned him his first Pro Bowl, and he has 34 in his career, in addition to 18 tackles for loss, 15 pass breakups and seven forced fumbles. For a team that has an urgent need to hunt the likes of New Orleans’ Drew Brees, Atlanta’s Matt Ryan and Carolina’s Cam Newton, Hardy is the hunter the Bucs have to have.

Of his 34 career sacks, 13.5 have come within the NFC South. “The Kraken” has sacked Ryan six times, Brees four times and the Buccaneers’ quarterbacks 3.5 times during his five years in Carolina. Hardy ended his record-setting 2013 season in style with three sacks over Brees in a 17-13 win in Week 16, and followed that up with a Panthers-record four-sack effort the next week against Ryan in a 21-20 victory at Atlanta.

Imagine how bad he would like to sack Carolina’s Cam Newton as the Panthers ultimately turned the page on Hardy following his suspension from Goodell and didn’t attempt to re-sign him after making the team’s sixth-round pick in 2010 Carolina’s franchise player in 2014.

Hardy has sacked the likes of Brees, Ryan, Tom Brady, Joe Flacco, Philip Rivers, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Jay Cutler and Eli Manning during his time in Carolina. With Brees, Ryan, Newton, Manning, Cutler, Dallas’ Tony Romo and Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck on Tampa Bay’s 2015 schedule, the Bucs defense will have to get pressure on those quarterbacks to have a chance to win.

Signing Hardy will undoubtedly draw some media scrutiny and some fans will revolt over the Bucs adding an NFL player fresh off a domestic abuse charge. But what the Glazers need to determine is just how much of the Tampa Bay fan base will actually dwindle if the Bucs sign Hardy to an incentive-laden, team-friendly contract. With attendance each game hovering about 15,000-20,000 shy of capacity at Raymond James Stadium the Bucs need to attract more fans with wins.

Carolina Panthers v Atlanta FalconsHaving Hardy gets sacks to help the Bucs produce victories to gain more attendees will undoubtedly offset any fans that abandon their Pewter Pirates over principle. Most everybody loves a winner, and if Hardy turns his life around in Tampa Bay by being around great influences like head coach Lovie Smith, wide receiver Vincent Jackson and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who will be side by side with him on a daily basis, it will be a classic American redemption story. Legendary Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and NFL quarterback Michael Vick are prime examples of this.

Although Hardy received $13.116 million last year as the Panthers’ franchise player despite playing in just one game, he would have every incentive to be a Boy Scout in Tampa Bay – except for three hours on game days – in 2015.

Let’s face it. The Bucs haven’t had a double-digit sacker since Simeon Rice notched 14 in 2005. We’re approaching a decade now without an edge rusher that truly scared opposing quarterbacks. It’s no coincidence that the Bucs have only had one playoff berth during those nine years (2007), while Hardy has helped the Panthers make the playoffs in 2013.

What’s holding back the Buccaneers and other NFL teams from signing Hardy is that it is unclear what type of punishment the league will dish out. Even though charges were dropped from his successful appeal, Goodell could still levy fines and suspend him.

Just because Hardy was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list last year doesn’t mean he’ll escape a suspension because he’s already had time served. Hardy was paid even though he missed the last 15 games of the regular season, but there still could be a suspension and fines coming.

Still, having Hardy for 12 games, 10 games or even eight games would be better than not having him at all in Tampa Bay, considering how desperate the Bucs are for an edge rusher to complement McCoy. What’s the old adage? Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Smith is a strong man of faith and high character and believes that he can help young men walk the straight and narrow. That’s why he was not afraid to sign guard Ritchie Incognito last year (ownership nixed that signing, though) and he’s not afraid to draft Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. Smith shouldn’t be afraid of taking on “The Kraken,” either.

If you want to know more about Hardy’s domestic abuse incident before making up your mind about whether you would want Hardy in red and pewter, excerpts can be found in this article. A full transcript of Hardy’s 9-1-1 call to authorities about his former girlfriend attacking him on the night of his arrest can be found here.

Do you want to see the Bucs pursue Hardy in free agency? Click here to vote in the latest Gerber Collision Pewter Poll question on PewterReport.com.

FAB 2. TAMPA BAY HAD QUICK CASE OF BUYER’S REMORSE WITH JOHNSON
The release of defensive end Michael Johnson was a long time coming. Within the first few months of Johnson becoming a Buccaneer, the team developed a case of buyer’s remorse.

Desperate for a fast, athletic defensive end that could put pressure on opposing quarterbacks in Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2 scheme, the Bucs signed Johnson to a five-year, $43.75 million deal based largely on potential rather than production. Surrounded by the likes of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins and defensive end Carlos Dunlap in Cincinnati, Johnson notched 11.5 sacks in 2012, which prompted the Bengals to place the franchise tag on him for the next season.

During an underwhelming 2013 campaign, Johnson didn’t live up to expectations and saw the Bengals draft Margus Hunt in the second round and give big contract extensions to both Atkins and Dunlap. He recorded just three sacks and the writing was on the wall that Johnson was expendable. Cincinnati allowed him to hit free agency last year and Tampa Bay and Minnesota, which had hired Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer to be its coach, were the two front-runners for Johnson’s services.

Zimmer was prepared to offer Johnson a nearly identical contract, but he opted to play in the warm South, closer to his home in Alabama than a frigid state like Minnesota. But once Johnson got to Tampa Bay a sprained ankle he had from the 2013 season lingered and he rarely participated in drills during the OTAs and mini-camps.

Johnson was more of a regular participant in training camp, but he severely sprained his ankle in Tampa Bay’s Week 1 loss to Carolina and missed the next game against St. Louis and most of the Week 3 game at Atlanta. The Bucs had waited patiently for him to come to life as a pass rusher, which he did against Pittsburgh the next week, recording two sacks and a forced fumble in Tampa Bay’s 27-24 upset win.NFL: SEP 07 Panthers at Buccaneers

But Johnson didn’t record a sack or a tackle the next week in New Orleans as the Bucs’ lost a 37-31 overtime thriller, and he disappeared for the next five games before notching a second half sack at Washington in a 27-7 victory. As Tampa Bay’s 2014 season came to a close with a six-game losing streak, Johnson notched just one sack – against Green Bay – and recorded just one tackle in three of the last six games of the season. Johnson broke his hand late in the season, which didn’t help his cause.

The Bucs became nervous during the mini-camps and training camp about Johnson’s sporadic playmaking ability. Yet it was after Johnson’s best game of the season at Pittsburgh in Week 4 when the team began to really doubt him and question whether they made a mistake.

In a potential season-shifting game in Week 5 at New Orleans, Johnson didn’t record a single statistic and only got close to Drew Brees once, pushing a lineman into the Saints quarterback to cause a bad pass, which was intercepted. By then, the team knew that he was a docile, soft player that lacked the instincts and awareness they were looking for in a pass-rushing defensive end. Only a strong second half of the 2014 season would save him, and that didn’t happen.

I hinted at the team’s displeasure with Johnson when I called for him to be benched in a SR’s Fab 5 column from October. The Bucs probably would have benched him if they had any other credible defensive ends other than Jacquies Smith on the team, and even slightly considered keeping him this offseason because of that same reason.

But in the end, the Bucs quickly recognized their mistake with the Johnson signing, just as they did with the signings of quarterback Josh McCown and offensive tackle Anthony Collins last year. The worst thing a general manager or a head coach can do is to hang on to a mistake out of pride and ego.

The Bucs deserve plenty of criticism for signing Johnson, Collins and McCown in the first place, as their signings helped contribute to a dismal 2-14 record. But Tampa Bay also deserves credit for cutting bait and for not compounding its mistakes.

FAB 3. CARTER ISN’T ONLY LINEBACKER THE BUCS ARE EXCITED ABOUT
The Buccaneers’ splashiest free agent signing thus far has been adding Dallas’ Bruce Carter, who is expected to move to middle linebacker in the Tampa 2 scheme, which is similar to the defense he played in for Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. But Carter isn’t the only free agent linebacker that Tampa Bay is excited about.

This move didn’t cause many waves when it happened, but the Bucs were thrilled to re-sign Jason Williams, who inked a one-year deal worth $745,000 prior to the start of free agency. Williams was signed late last year when injuries ravaged Tampa Bay’s linebacking corps, and he played in the final three games of the season.

The muscle-bound linebacker starred on special teams, recording two against his former team, Carolina, in his first game with Tampa. He would tally four tackles on special teams in just three games, which tied him for fifth on the team. Williams, who was backing up Lavonte David at weakside linebacker, also got some snaps on defense against New Orleans in the second half of the team’s 23-20 loss to the Saints.

“I was only here for three weeks, but I’ve loved every moment of it,” Williams said at the end of the 2014 season. “Special teams has always been my main thing since coming into the league, but I’m looking forward to any and all opportunities I have to play defense. With Lavonte going down at halftime I had that opportunity, and you need to capitalize on every opportunity you can and that’s what I tried to do.”

NFL: DEC 28 Saints at BuccaneersWilliams proved to be a quick study, picking up the Bucs’ scheme in just a matter of weeks, thanks in part to having played for the Panthers, which deploy a similar 4-3 defense.

“It tested my knowledge of the scheme, which is similar to Carolina’s,” Williams said. “There are some differences, but it was great to be out there competing with my new teammates.”

Williams was a former third-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 2009 out of Western Illinois where he tied the NCAA record with 14 forced fumbles, including six as a senior. The Cowboys ran a 3-4 defense at the time that he struggled to adjust to, and he was released during the 2010 season, bouncing between Carolina (2010-11), Philadelphia (2012) and then back for another stint with the Panthers (2012-14).

Williams has notched 64 tackles, two pass breakups, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery during his six-year NFL career with a handful of starts. But Williams’ value to the Buccaneers is on special teams where he has notched 40 special teams tackles, a blocked punt and a forced fumble in his career.

“When you are as big as I am and can move like I do, it’s hard to be blocked on special teams one-on-one,” Williams said.

The Bucs are intrigued by Williams’ size, speed and athleticism. At 6-foot-1, 250 pounds, he stands out in Tampa Bay’s smallish linebacking corps.

“I’m the biggest linebacker on the team by far,” Williams said. “I’m 250. That was one of the first things I noticed about Tampa Bay. When they called me and wanted to sign me, one of the first things I did was to Google the roster and looked at the linebacking corps at the guys I would be joining and I think the heaviest guy was 240.

Strongside linebacker Danny Lansanah weighed 250 pounds when he arrived in 2013 before head coach Lovie Smith asked him to shed 10 pounds during the offseason upon his arrival last offseason.

“I haven’t been at or below 240 since my senior year in college,” Williams said. “Lovie already talked to me about that and he wants me to get my weight down.”

Williams weighed 240 pounds coming out of Western Illinois and ran an eye-opening 4.49 in the 40-yard dash with an impressive 1.49 in the 10-yard split. That speed and a 39-inch vertical leap and bench-pressing 225 pounds 26 times caused his draft stock to soar towards the top of the third round in 2009.

Entering his sixth season in the league, the 28-year Williams said he’s just as fast as he was coming out of college. For a team like the Buccaneers, whose defense is predicated on speed, that’s music to Smith and general manager Jason Licht’s ears, which is why he was re-signed.

“I’ve been the same weight the last three or four years,” Williams said. “Speed is something where if you have it, you have it. You really don’t lose it, so I’ve been able to adapt to getting bigger and still being able to move.”

Williams will be battling for the right to backup David as Tampa Bay’s reserve weakside linebacker, but he could also get a look in the middle as a replacement for Dane Fletcher, who wasn’t re-signed this offseason. The Bucs are very high on Williams and are eager to see what he can do with an entire offseason under his belt in Tampa Bay with linebackers coach Hardy Nickerson.

FAB 4. BETTING AGAINST KEYSHAWN JOHNSON
To celebrate my 20 years of covering the Buccaneers I’m going to share with you some of the behind-the-scenes encounters I’ve had over the last two decades. These stories will appear in the first 20 SR’s Fab 5 columns of 2015, which encompasses much of the offseason.

When wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson arrived in Tampa Bay in 2000 I first got to really know him when he did a radio show with Steve Duemig during the 6:00 p.m. hour on Wednesdays after my 5:00 p.m. radio show. I remember asking for Johnson’s phone number and he quickly gave it to me with one caveat.

“Just because I give you my phone number doesn’t mean I have to answer your call,” Johnson said.

Johnson and I ended up hitting it off quite well and we would chat in the locker room during the interview period and usually weekly on the phone. I think Johnson, who grew up in Southern California and went to USC before playing for the New York Jets, was kind of lonely in Tampa. There were some nights he would dial me up and we would talk for hours. Usually he did the talking and I did the listening.Rose Bowl - Illinois v USC

I think Johnson liked to vent to me about his desire to have Bill Parcells come down to Tampa Bay to coach at the end of 2001 when the writing was on the wall for Tony Dungy, how he was underused in the red zone in Clyde Christensen’s offense, and about his love-hate relationship with head coach Jon Gruden from 2002-03. Johnson and I were friendly to the point of us making a little wager on the USC-Kansas State football games in 2001 and 2002.

It started off with me asking Johnson if he wanted to bet on the game our alma maters would play at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. K-State came in ranked 11th in the USA Today Coaches Poll and 13th in the Associated Press poll, while USC was unranked in the first season with Pete Carroll at the helm. Yet it was a Trojans team that had junior Carson Palmer at quarterback, Kareem Kelly at wide receiver, Justin Fargas at running back, Mike Patterson, Shaun Cody and Kenechi Udeze along the defensive line and Troy Polamalu at safety.

In that game, Polamalu, then a sophomore, had a cheap shot personal foul on wide receiver Aaron Lockett, the Bucs’ 2002 seventh-round pick and the uncle of 2015 NFL Draft prospect Tyler Lockett.

Johnson, who was a multi-millionaire after becoming the highest-paid wide receiver in NFL history, asked me if I wanted to bet $1,000 on the game. At the time that was close to one of my paychecks, so I quickly said, “No way!”

Realizing that $1,000 was chump change to an NFL player like Johnson, but a lot of money to me, I countered by saying, “Why don’t we bet paycheck for paycheck?”

Johnson laughed and offered up a $500 wager. With my first-born daughter, Ellie, on the way that was still too rich for my blood. We settled for a $100 bet. I had never bet on a Wildcats game before and it was agonizing watching my team eek out a 10-6. It almost made watching K-State uncomfortable for me because if I lost I would be upset my alma mater last, I would be out $100, which was a lot of money to me at the time, and I would never hear the end of it from the loud-mouthed Johnson.

But I won the bet and Johnson was mad about it on Monday in the locker room. As you could imagine, he was a bit of a sore loser. He said, “You were lucky to hang for the win,” but he didn’t have any cash on him.

So I went back on Wednesday to the open locker room session and confronted him about the $100 he owed me. He said he didn’t have any cash on him at that time, either, and to come back the next day.

“You’ll get your money, Scott,” Johnson said.

When I politely asked him if he had the $100 on Thursday, Johnson said, “Scott, you’re killing me. I don’t have your money.”

You’re probably thinking what I was thinking at the time. How could a multi-millionaire not have $100 laying around somewhere that he could bring to work?

Johnson, feeling bad, went into another player’s locker – I won’t say who – reached in that player’s jeans, pulled out their wallet and gave me five $20 bills.

“There – are you happy now?” Johnson said dismissively.

He turned to put his teammate’s wallet back into the locker and muttered under his breath, “I’ll pay him back.”

So Johnson ended up swiping $100 from a teammate to pay off our bet on the K-State vs. USC game in 2001. Both teams would finish with 6-6 records.

The next year, the 25th-ranked Wildcats hosted the 11th-ranked Trojans, who had the same returning cast, plus Frostee Rucker at defensive end and Darnell Bing in the secondary next to Polamalu. But this time, the Wildcats had a freshman running back named Darren Sproles to play alongside quarterback Ell Roberson, wide receiver James Terry and cornerback Terrence Newman.

Johnson and I made the same $100 bet and the Bill Snyder’s Wildcats beat Carroll’s Trojans again, 27-20. But it was another close game that wasn’t any fun for me to watch with what was riding on the outcome. This time, Johnson had a $100 bill waiting for me the following Monday at One Buc Place and didn’t have to “borrow” it from a teammate. I had won $200 from Johnson over the past two years along with bragging rights.

Both teams finished the season 11-2 and in the top 10. K-State won another thriller in the Holiday Bowl, 34-27, over Dirk Koetter’s Arizona State team led by Terrell Suggs, who set the NCAA record for sacks in a season with 24, including two against the Wildcats.

Because it was agonizing to bet money on my alma mater and stole my joy I haven’t wagered a single dime on watching the Wildcats since those bets with Johnson. I just can’t bring myself to do it anymore. I cover professional football for work, but college football is my release. I watch it for enjoyment – as well as some draft study – and that’s the way I like it.SRGMAC

But my wagering days aren’t quite over. I did bet Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy that he would look good in a K-State hat last year if my Wildcats went into Norman, Okla. and beat the Sooners. I had to wear a Sooners hat around One Buc Place if K-State lost.

I think you can tell by the look on Geraldini’s face (and the hat on his head) that his Sooners were upset at home last year, 31-30.

FAB 5. SR’s BUC SHOTS
• With the Buccaneers having in the neighborhood of $30 million worth of salary cap room left, how are they going to spend it? Per league rules, Tampa Bay is obligated to spend 89 percent of their $144.9 million salary cap per Collective Bargaining Agreement rules. With the Buccaneers’ rookie salary pool estimated to be around $8.1 million, and the team’s manta of “value signings” this year, how will the Bucs eat up all that cap room to become compliant with NFL rules?

Later this spring, probably after the draft and before training camp, Tampa Bay will extend the contract of linebacker Lavonte David, who was an All-Pro in 2013 and a Pro Bowl alternate last year. David could fetch in the $7-$8 million per season range, and like the Bucs did with Gerald McCoy last year, they could really stack David’s 2015 base salary so that it consumes a lot of the available cap space and helps reduce his yearly average over the life of the deal with a front-loaded contract.

McCoy signed a seven-year, $95.2 million deal at the end of October. Even though the average for McCoy’s contract was $13.6 million per year, the Bucs paid the Pro Bowl defensive tackle $20.8 million in base salary to drive his salary cap last year to $21.295 million. In 2015, McCoy’s cap number falls to $14.595 million and then slides to $13 million in 2016.

Tampa Bay could do the same thing for David later this spring and not have to worry about not meeting the league’s threshold for salary cap spending. The Bucs could also give starting offensive tackle Demar Dotson a well-earned raise to eat up some cap room, too. Dotson is making just $2.5 million this season and is one of the league’s most underpaid starting tackles.

Tampa Bay has until the last day of the league year to be in compliance, so there is no concern about not adhering to the league’s spending rule.

• One of the reasons why the Bucs wanted to get Bruce Carter signed to play middle linebacker is that it takes one need off the team’s draft board heading into the 2015 NFL Draft. Tampa Bay was faced with the prospect of having to consider a middle linebacker in the second round or an offensive lineman.

With the Bucs not signing an offensive lineman yet in free agency, it takes away the second-round dilemma that the team was faced with having to choose a lineman or a Mike linebacker. The Bucs will now probably use that pick on an offensive lineman and plan on starting that player in 2015. Tampa Bay could draft a second-round tackle like Colorado State’s Ty Sambrailo or Oregon’s Eric Fisher, or trade that high second-rounder and move up into the first round to get Florida State tackle-center Cameron Erving or Miami’s Ereck Flowers.

Of course drafting an offensive lineman isn’t necessarily set in stone. Tampa Bay still has a pressing need for a pass rusher after having released Michael Johnson, and the Bucs may take a liking to a second-round defensive end like UCLA’s Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Utah’s Nate Orchard, Washington’s Hau’oli Kikaha or Mississippi State’s Preston Smith.

• Bucs general manager Jason Licht, director of player personnel Jon Robinson and quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian were all in attendance at Oregon’s pro day to watch quarterback Marcus Mariota, who is contending with Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston to be the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, which Tampa Bay owns. But the Bucs weren’t just there to watch Mariota. Nickel cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olumu carried a first-round grade prior to suffering a torn ACL in a December practice preparing for the college football playoff game against Florida State.

That injury caused him not to participate in Thursday’s pro day at Oregon and will cause his draft stock to slip. With his rookie season in jeopardy due to the fact he’s only four months into his recovery, Ekpre-Olomu could slip into the third round where he would be a steal. At 5-foot-9, 195 pounds, Ekpre-Olomu was one of the most physical corners in college football, racking up 244 tackles, 48 pass breakups, nine interceptions and eight forced fumbles. He would be an ideal playmaking nickel cornerback for the Bucs.

If Tampa Bay did draft him, it could redshirt him during the 2015 season if it signed Dallas veteran free agent Sterling Moore to compete with Isaiah Frey and Leonard Johnson for the nickel cornerback this year.

• Speaking of nickel cornerbacks, one of the 2015 draft prospects that has caught Tampa Bay’s eye is Arizona State safety Damarious Randall. He’s one of the players the Bucs will be bringing in for a private visit, according to CBS Sports’ Dane Brugler. Randall had a great Senior Bowl and carries a mid-round grade. The Bucs believe he could thrive at either free safety or nickel cornerback.

• If you haven’t noticed, there has been a trend at One Buccaneer Place this offseason in terms of the free agents the Bucs have signed. Safety Chris Conte and defensive tackle Henry Melton were drafted by Lovie Smith in Chicago and know the Tampa 2 scheme inside and out. Melton also played for Smith’s close friend and Dallas’ defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, as did linebacker Bruce Carter.

It’s likely that Marinelli gave Smith a ringing endorsement on two players the Cowboys didn’t have salary cap room to keep, but the key is that the Bucs aren’t messing around with defensive players that aren’t the right fit for the Tampa 2 after whiffing on defensive end Michael Johnson last year. That’s why the Bucs are also interested in Dallas nickel cornerback Sterling Moore, too.

• I’m sure a lot of you following the Buccaneers’ pursuit of Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, who could be the number one overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, have read the New York Times stories on Winston’s sexual assault investigation and his draft prospects. You’ve also probably heard about Erica Kinsman, Winston’s accuser, appearing in a documentary called “The Hunting Ground” in which he details Winston’s alleged assault.

Well there has been quite a rebuttal issued by the National Review that picks apart her depiction of what happened and chastises the film for quite a bit of omissions of the facts in the case that led Winston not to be charged with any crime. It’s a very insightful read and provides some balance to the New York Times’ report and the stance that “The Hunting Ground” attempts to take.

• If you are disappointed in the lack of activity by the Buccaneers in free agency, you can’t say I didn’t try to warn you. Faithful readers of SR’s Fab 5 learned last week that the Bucs were going after more “value” free agent signings like Clinton McDonald a year ago, rather than the “splash” signings of defensive end Michael Johnson.

Then on Monday, I tried to temper your enthusiasm for high-priced, over-paid mediocre linemen like Orlando Franklin, Mike Iupati and Bryan Bulaga by saying that the team should (and ultimately would) pass on them and draft starting-caliber linemen instead. On Sunday we had Bruce Carter as the No. 1 Bucs’ Best at linebacker for Tampa Bay, and on Tuesday we had Chris Conte as the No. 2 Bucs’ Best Bet at defensive back in our free agency previews.

There’s a reason you visit PewterReport.com. You want the inside scoop on the Buccaneers, and that’s what we try to deliver.

• If you haven’t already, please take the time to vote in the Gerber Collision Pewter Poll. PewterReport.com – and specifically the weekly SR’s Fab 5 column – is widely read at One Buccaneer Place by the Glazers, the front office and the coaches. There are some public relations aspects to pursuing defensive end Greg Hardy, so if you want “The Kraken” in Tampa Bay, vote now on the front page of PewterReport.com and let your voice be heard.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th 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 spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

48 COMMENTS

  1. That’s a funny story regarding Keyshawn, Scott! Too bad he couldn’t be talked into “paycheck for paycheck” or you’d be on the beach in Fiji. e

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  2. Oh, the Winston National Review link doesn’t seem to work?

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    • e,
      Link that works until PR provides fix!

      http://www.nationalreview.com/article/415269/cinematic-railroading-jameis-winston-stuart-taylor-jr

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      • Thanks Mac.

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      • Wow… An interesting read. I would hope that this information would also be presented more prominently on PR as the the draft draws near. e

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        • The thing is, us NOles fans have known and seen these facts long ago. But we get called “homers” when we try to say otherwise. Only those two know what happened outside of Casher and Darby, but her credibility is horrible at best and it seems the whole thing is a money grab.

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  3. One of the worst FA seasons ever! Went into FA with major needs and came out with more problems then we went in with. Looks like another lost season.

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  4. I also found the Keyshawn story entertaining. I also still don’t like Keyshawn so reading that he took $100 from another player doesn’t surprise me, but that could be common locker room behavior for all I know. I’m all in on bringing in “The Kraken” even if he’s suspended a few games. He’s the guy I said we should have been focusing on instead of Suh since we already have a good NT. It doesn’t align with the current MO of the Glazers though so I don’t know if it will actually happen.

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    • Pink: I thought you were more concerned with a player’s character as the basis for your Mariota preference. What gives?

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  5. Direct link…

    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/415269/cinematic-railroading-jameis-winston-stuart-taylor-jr

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  6. Time is of the essence! If the Bucs are interested they should come out in the light (sic) and attempt to get the deal done or publicly express as have a few other teams that they have no interest.

    Sooner or later some team with money like the Raiders is going to attempt to get the guy at a discount because of his situation with the league.

    It will go along way to show the guy that you believe in his abilities and is willing to give him a chance to redeem his reputation. Pay him what he’s worth and don’t seek to exploit his situation. If he agrees, stipulate the contract to insulate the team against risks. The fans who object initially will cheer and shout with his first sack of Cam Newton!

    Come to play or stay at home!

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    • Didn’t mention him in my initial post, but everyone know i’m referring to Greg Hardy. I might add that I’ve listened to almost every top tier FA presser and a common theme is “I signed with the guys that I thought really wanted me”, most leaving money on the table. The human side of negotiations should not be discounted!

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  7. From what I’ve read about Hardy’s case he is a dangerous criminal that no other team wants to touch. A ticking time bomb that we do not need to represent the Buccaneers in any way, shape or form. This isn’t about wanting to only sign “choirboys” but not wanting to sign sociopaths with violent tempers.

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    • You may be right Garv, but for the record Adam Schefter disagrees with you. He says there are at least 6 teams vying for his services.

      Adam Schefter ‏@AdamSchefter 13m13 minutes ago
      Panthers free-agent DE Greg Hardy drawing more interest than some predicted:… http://fb.me/1GzFcWEhU

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  8. I say sign Hardy and take a shot with the kraken…If he ends up missing 4 games,he will be looking to hit the field with fire~be nice to have a monster DE we havent had since Simeon(one of my all time favorite Bucs)…Also~and this might just be crazy talk,why dont we take a meeting with Trent Richardson..He was a beast for the Tide but never seemed to settle in with the Colts.He could be signed to a prove it contract and see if the change of scenery will do him good and bring him back to form..It took Ingram a bit to warm up,maybe TR can finally get it going…

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  9. As far as signing Hardy let me quote my friend Scu “its not what they do on Fri and Sat Nights that matter its what they do on Sundays” so with that rationale lets sign him, lol

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    • I didn’t say that JonnyG. But it is what matters when you’re sitting in the stands surrounded enemy fans. Retorts like, “Oh yea, our players went to Bible study and yours went to Hard Rock” when your team is getting rolled.

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      • “its not what they do on Fri and Sat Nights that matter its what they do on Sundays” I quoted you, thats exactly what you had said to me

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        • I know you quoted me but I didn’t say it. I do think it.

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          • You said it to me thats where I got it, lol

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  10. A lot of credit is being given to the Bucs for cutting McCown, Johnson, and Collins. However, it looks like those moves might be dissuading FAs from signing here this year. I mean, if you are a FA, do you want to risk getting injured and having a poor season to only get cut? While I am happy some of these players are gone, I can also see how it might be a red flag for FAs. You want to sign with a franchise that is committed to you. Bucs look a little flaky cutting bait so quickly, especially with Johnson who battled injuries all season. I am fine to see him go, but it is a tough pill to swallow knowing that into free agency we are now worse at DE than we were before free agency started.

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  11. Yep – Kracken, Winston, Peterson, Rice, Incognito…and then we can spend our cap savings on a team of psychologists, private investigators, defense attorneys….Scott: just a point, I thought the cap floor was “over a period of time” not year-by-year…like we could go under 89% in one year as long as we were over by the same amount in the next year…or something like that?

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    • According to the 2011 CBA, the salary cap floor does not apply to any single season, only to the entire 2013-2016 period. That means that not being in compliance in any single year is not going to be a problem for any team. A team will only be held accountable if they are below the 89% floor after 4 years.
      And even then the CBA does not spell out any specific penalties for non-compliance. The owners basically wrote the CBA and the players opted for the money and reduced practice time!

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      • Sorry mac, I didn’t read your post before I typed mine.

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    • EastEndBoy, your right about the cap floor. Teams need to spend on average 89 percent over four years. The problem is they don’t have a penalty in place if you don’t. I believe they have until the end of the 2016 season to comply.

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  12. While this is not the worst Fab 5 I have ever read, it is the most boring. I would prefer less as more to this wordy exposition on not so much.

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  13. The two parties involved (hardy and his ex-girlfriend) are looking to move past it and have it resolved.It seems like the media is the force behind this and the supposed rape story involving winston~its a lot of horse s**t and conjecture…
    Bush and Peterson on the other hand deserved their punishment and I wouldnt want either on the Bucs.
    Its difficult at best to really get the ‘TRUTH’ from most situations like those of Winston and Hardy~as there are many factors and emotions that tend to distort truth(and many people have different perceptions of ‘the truth’). You could meet a lady out at a club,hit it off and have relations.It could go without a hitch or things can change drastically the following morning when clearer heads start to take over.a willing partner last night can easily feel victimized the following day due to a myriad of reasons.a girl might want you to pull her hair in the heat of passion but feel the next day that it was a bit to aggressive and that her partner found too much pleasure in it~its freakin tricky.Alcohol and drugs further complicate situations such as these…The Hardy and Winston issues are ‘he said,she said’ situations and the Rice and Peterson incidents are drastically different due to the physical evidence and proof~they are not the same thing~not even close.

    Young men have to be smarter and sometime realize that the head down stairs doesnt often do the best thinking.Also you are no less of a man for saying no to a sexual experience with a woman or not getting involved with a woman who uses emotions as weapons(not to say guys dont do the same).Many people get involved sexually before they are emotionally developed enough to deal with it properly.Relationships~even good ones take work and suffer set backs.We should remember this when thinking of Winston and Hardy.Rice and Peterson on the other hand have real world anger issues and should have grown past that crap…

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    • Ahhh yes, the head “downstairs” often makes less than intelligent decisions. It’s basically a poor design by Mother Nature. The “little guy” needs a flow of blood to work properly. It’s clear that the blood comes from our brain which then defers control of our thoughts to “little guy” who has but one thing on its mind. A better design would take the shot of blood from our feet since few of us have the urge to go jogging when “little guy” is in command.

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  14. Good article Scott. I enjoyed it.

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  15. “MeShawn” is my most hated Buccaneer of all time, I have a collection of super bowl bobble heads on a mantle only one I refuse to display is that selfish prick

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    • Amen Jongruden. I’d do the same thing.

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  16. FAB 0.5

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  17. With Hardy, I think we need to take a shot. Give him the option to at least try to earn back some measure of trust from teams…if this is possible.

    Try to sign him to a deal that in some respect similar to the deal they had with Revis. Not in amount of total dollars, but basically a Contract that worked out to a series of 1 year deals with team options after each season.

    I know a player will never go for it, but it allows a team to attempt to save face with its fan base (who might not like the fact a player with this history is signed), and also allows the team to cut bait should the player get into more trouble off the field. It also gives the player a chance to prove that he is worth playing again and can live up to the total contract amount/length.

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  18. Sr. love your consistentcy. Hardy will make the perfect mentor for winston. Mons Venus should adverts on pewter report. I’m really surprised that as smart as you guys are you don’t see the risk. In the post Ray rice nfl gooddell will have to throw the book at everyone. Once instance with a chick and winston is done… I’ll repeat my prior comments if Winston played at Ohio state most of his supports in Tampa would be running from him!,

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  19. I’m not quite sure what to make of the Greg Hardy incident, as the testimony is remarkably contradictory. I do admire him for standing up for himself and going through a jury trial. Copping a plea is what people often do just to get it over with, innocent or guilty. The fact that the witness against him took money from the settlement and then blew off the trial certainly makes her look like a person of lesser integrity.

    You can never tell what the league will do. Goodell is terrified of bad publicity that jeopardizes the league’s attempts to reach out to women fans. Corporate sponsors don’t want to feel like they’re supporting a league that looks the other way on domestic violence. I’d say missing 15 out of 16 games should count as punishment, as it hurt his stock with free agency coming up.

    If I were the Bucs, I’d interview him to assess what he was like, then ignore any smoke from all the controversy and make my decision based on his interview. That’s what sober people and organizations do. The less courageous and wise join the lynch mob that want to make him suffer and serve as an example of what should happen to men who are accused of wrongdoing by women. Gone girl can happen to anyone.

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  20. Difficult decision, last several months we have weighed the off-field exploits of a QB, and now we find ourselves considering those of a much needed pass rusher. had i not grimaced as i watched so many O-line FA’s vanish from our grips last week, i may not be so perplexed, i guess sometimes you have to go all in and ignore the risk. Winning the primary objective, thats why we keep buying tickets. Put me down ford Hardy. Go Bucs,,,

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    • Not a difficult decision. run not walk from Winston and this guy. No thugs needed.

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  21. Off topic, I know. Hey there anyone at PR, why can’t we bring Wisinewski in as the C and move EDS to G?? I thought when we got EDS, he was touted as a C or G also. Would love to have Mankins and EDS as Guards and Wisinewski at Center.

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  22. Sign Hardy to a one year deal and see how he pans out. If he doesn’t, we cut him and move on. I’d rather say we had him and he didn’t pan out than to say we missed out on the next Simeon Rice. We should go after Moore too to free up our picks to build the OL

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  23. For every “not on my team” fan that we lose signing Winston and Hardy, we’ll gain 3-4 bandwagon fans from the wins we pick up. Go Bucs!

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  24. How in the world does Morgan get out of our building without a contract? I mean who the hell is going to play right end for us this year? We almost have to bring Hardy in at this point. I’m all for it.

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  25. Lovie’s D doesn’t work w/o front 4 disruption. Doesn’t Work. So, just hand over a starting job to a guy w/ minimal production: Bowers. Try drafting a physical specimen of a rookie Very High in the Draft: Adams. Well, you can’t put a criminal in the Bucs’ Locker Room, we like quiet guys that lead by example. We don’t celebrate angry Alpha males that intimidate others around them, and we Certainly don’t put their names in the ring of honer…Twice. Also, congrats on your divorce Key, after only 7 months of marriage. Can’t keep a promise on the field, off the field, or in the locker room. I do like consistency.

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  26. Good read this week. I think Winston is innocent of the rape allegations, but wish he would have been more mature. I think his presence and talent on the football field are great, but off the field, he’s trouble. From bb gun fights(you’ll shoot your eye out!), to obscene meme’s being shouted on table tops to boosting crab legs, the guy needs a life coach to protect hIm from himself!

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  27. So much for predictions but here’s another opinion. See Greg Hardy prediction (first one).

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2396610-nfl-free-agents-2015-rumors-and-predictions-for-top-remaining-veterans

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  28. @macabee- I personally hope that prediction is right…would love to unleash the kraken and drive Cam,Drew and Matty Ice repeatedly into the turf…

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  29. So in the Winston Article is not ok to critizie a athlete but it’s ok to total dismiss a sexual assault allegation because it’s against a Star athlete. Not to mention the treatment this woman has incurred after attempting to seek justice.

    What’s even more sad is that Pewter Report has jumped on the bandwagon of apologists with Winston and now they are ok with signing a convicted Domestic abuse for the sake of winning games.

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  30. I’d think that Tampa bay will do very well in the draft.Go Bucs

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  31. The more testosterone a player has, the more aggressive he will be on and off the field. Just look at Michael Johnson compared to the Kraken. Johnson is as soft as cotton while the Kraken likes to involve assault rifles as foreplay. No question who I’d rather line up next to on Sundays. This could make or break our season. We must sign the Kraken!

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