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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 Trade Rumors
The NFL trading deadline is next Tuesday, October 30 at 4:00 p.m., and as of right now, expect the Bucs to be rather passive barring a calamity in Cincinnati with injuries that forces general manager Jason Licht to make some moves in an attempt to salvage the season – win or lose.
“Jason and his staff are working on that,” Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter said. “Jason has talked to me about a couple guys, but I personally am not involved in that right now other than to listen to whatever they want to tell me because we’re busy doing our other thing. I can assure you that Jason’s looking into all avenues and it’s his job to make decisions that are best for the Bucs. I trust him to make those decisions because he’s good at that.”
An Internet report surfaced on Thursday suggesting that DeSean Jackson was on the trading block, citing frustration with quarterback Jameis Winston’s inability to hit him with the deep ball. While the latter part of that statement may be true, Jackson is not on the trading block for a couple of reasons.
The first of which is the fact that the Bucs love their depth at receiver. There are still 10 games to go, and if Jackson were traded and Mike Evans were to miss some time with an injury, all of a sudden Tampa Bay’s receiving corps is reduced to Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries as the starters with Justin Watson as the No. 3. The Bucs would have to bring back Freddie Martino or bring Bobo Wilson up from the practice squad to go to a four-wide receiver set.
While Jackson isn’t being utilized the way he was with Ryan Fitzpatrick and the deep connections against New Orleans and Philadelphia, Jackson did score on a 14-yard end around against Cleveland and had a key 14-yard catch to set up Chandler Catanzaro’s 59-yard game-winner in overtime.
“Every game is different depending on the defense,” Koetter said. “If you remember in the very first drive, the very first time we had him open and Jameis [Winston] overthrew him. Then going this other way later in the game it was a pretty good throw, DeSean had is hands on it – [Denzel] Ward actually made a heck of a play on that. That’s why Ward was drafted where he was drafted. He made a nice play.
“DeSean had a touchdown, had a big play at the end, probably could’ve had two other touchdowns if we execute a little bit better. The other team’s getting paid as well. We played 95 snaps on offense, so we’ve got to rotate those guys and as much as DeSean’s running deep routes, probably somewhere 40ish is probably a good number for him. We have packages. We have stuff where we think this ball is going to go to Mike, we think this ball is going to go to DeSean, think it’s going to go to Chris, think it’s going to O.J. [Howard], but ultimately we don’t get to pick. The defense can take a guy out by rolling it, doubling it, etcetera. We try to even it out, it’s never going to be perfect.”
Jackson still plays a vital role on the team with his speed, drawing safety help away from Evans and Godwin as decoy on some plays.
Secondly, Jackson will still be owed $6.1875 million after Sunday’s game at Cincinnati. Only about 15 teams have the necessary cap room to acquire Jackson’s salary in a trade. Eleven of those teams reside in the AFC, which is where Licht would ship him if he’s inclined to pursue a trade, which I don’t believe he will. Out of those 11, only a handful would probably be interested in Jackson.
Have the Bucs fielded inquiry calls about Jackson? I’m guessing they have, as teams like to poke and prod around the trade deadline to see who’s available. When the phone rings, you answer it.
Is Jackson on the trading block with the Bucs calling around other teams to try to unload him? No, they’re not.
Jackson has one more year left on his three-year contract, but the Bucs can release him or trade him next year with no dead cap ramifications and save $10 million towards their 2019 cap if they so choose. If they traded him now, the Bucs would save $6.1875 million on this year’s cap, but Tampa Bay still has over $6 million worth of cap space, so it’s not like it needs the room right now.
The Bucs will need to find some cap room next year for contract extensions for middle linebacker Kwon Alexander and left tackle Donovan Smith, in addition to taking on the $20.92 million reserved for Winston. They might need Jackson’s $10 million in 2019, but he still has value to the team in 2018.
The Bucs won’t be trading Humphries, either. The running joke is that New England head coach Bill Belichick hasn’t met a quick, undersized white receiver he hasn’t loved – referencing former Patriots receivers Wes Welker and Danny Amendola, and current pass-catcher Julian Edelman.
Yet it would take a premium draft pick to pry one of Winston’s favorite and most-trusted receivers from the Buccaneers. Licht won’t be parting ways with Humphries, who signed a one-year deal worth $2.914 million as a restricted free agent because the Bucs are hopeful that they can sign him to a long-term deal in the offseason before he hits free agency if the numbers work out for both sides.
The only player I could see Tampa Bay deal right now given their injury situation at several positions is defensive end Noah Spence, the second-rounder from the 2016 draft. Spence has regressed from his rookie season when he recorded 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles despite playing with a shoulder that kept going in and out of socket. Spence played in a handful of games last year before going on injured reserve and needing a second shoulder surgery, but only recorded one sack-fumble, which came in the season opener.
While Spence is fully healthy this year, and added 20 pounds of size to hold up better against the run, he had a poor preseason in which he logged just half a sack despite getting plenty of opportunities in all four games. Once a second-rounder, Spence would have little trade value right now I’m guessing.
And with Licht and Koetter’s jobs on the line, don’t look for them to trade backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. He’s too valuable to part ways with this year in case Winston gets hurt.
So will the Bucs be active on the trade market in terms of acquiring a player or two? You could make the case that Tampa Bay could use a cornerback like New York’s Janoris Jenkins, a running back like Buffalo’s LeSean McCoy or a strong safety like Oakland’s Karl Joseph or New York’s Landon Collins.
Licht has already swung a trade with Giants general manager David Gettleman for defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, dealing the Bucs’ 2018 third-round pick. Why not offer a 2019 third-round pick for Collins or Jenkins to see if the Giants bite? The fact that the Bucs travel to New York to play the Giants might be a bit of a barrier in any trade, but with the G-Men’s season already over at 1-6, it shouldn’t be.
I really liked the hard-hitting Joseph, a former first-round pick, coming out of West Virginia and he had two decent years with the Raiders before landing in Jon Gruden’s doghouse. I bet he could be had for a Day 3 pick next year and could come in and compete with Jordan Whitehead for the strong safety job.
I have no doubt that Licht did his due diligence and called good friend Steve Keim out in Arizona to inquire about the availability of cornerback Patrick Peterson last week, only to find out that the Cardinals are keeping their best player. That’s a smart move on Keim’s part as Peterson is still one of the best shutdown cornerbacks in the game.
It will be interesting to see what happens over the next couple of days and if Licht ends up pulling the trigger on a trade. But unless there is another major injury in Sunday’s game, don’t bet the mortgage on it happening.