FAB 3. Bucs’ Free Agents-To-Be Are Striking Out

Not only will the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cost head coach Dirk Koetter and his coaching staff their jobs next year if the losing continues this season, the team’s free agents-to-be are also costing themselves and leaving a lot of money out there on the field by stinking up the joint week after week.

With the 2-6 Bucs playing lousy on both sides of the ball, this is not the ideal time to be in a contract year in Tampa Bay. The Bucs’ 2018 roster will look radically different than it does this season, and not just because the team will naturally add players through the draft and free agency. There will be plenty of free agents-to-be that are playing their way out of Tampa Bay unless their play dramatically improves over the second half of the season.

Before we identify those players, let’s take a look at their age in 2018 and how much they were paid in 2017.

Bucs’ 2018 Unrestricted Free Agents
CB Brent Grimes – 35 – $6,750,000
SS T.J. Ward – 32 – $4,000,000
C Evan Smith – 32 – $3,562,500
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick – 36 – $3,000,000
DT Clinton McDonald – 31 – $3,000,000
TE Luke Stocker – 30 – $1,750,000
DT Sealver Siliga – 28 – $1,100,000
DE Darryl Tapp – 34 – $1,000,000
FS Keith Tandy – 29 – $925,000
LS Garrison Sanborn – 33 – $900,000
CB Robert McClain – 30 – $775,000
RB Charles Sims – 28 – $768,330
DE Will Clarke – 27 – $690,000
G Kevin Pamphile – 28 – $604,625

There are plenty of other Tampa Bay players that can be released after 2017 with little or no salary cap penalty, including running back Doug Martin ($6.75 million base), reserve running back Jacquizz Rodgers ($1.6 million base), defensive tackle Chris Baker ($4.875 million), safety Chris Conte ($2.25 million base, $125,000 option bonus) and reserve center Joe Hawley ($2.5 million base, $125,000 cap hit) among others. But discussing potential roster cuts is a story for another day as I focus on Tampa Bay’s 2018 free agent class.

The Bucs picked up the fifth-year option for wide receiver Mike Evans, who was the team’s first-round pick in 2014, so he won’t be a free agent next March. Tampa Bay continues to have dialogue with his agent about a long-term contract extension, but talks have progressed at a snail’s pace thus far.

Which Bucs should stay and which ones should go based on their play thus far? Which Bucs need to pick up their play down the stretch to have a chance to stay? Let’s take a look.

WHO SHOULD STAY?
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
Unless the Bears decide to cut Mike Glennon, why not bring Fitzpatrick back for one more year as Jameis Winston’s backup? He performed well in Arizona when Winston went down with a shoulder injury and certainly has more experience than Ryan Griffin. Fitzpatrick got more playing time last week in New Orleans and didn’t fare as well. Now he’ll get the start for the next two weeks to show what he can do.

Bucs DT Clinton McDonald - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs DT Clinton McDonald – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

DT Clinton McDonald
McDonald will turn 31 next season and he’s worth at least a one-year deal because of three things: leadership, professionalism and production. While Chris Baker is making twice what McDonald is, McDonald is outperforming him on the field and is a starter. McDonald deserves to stay – even for depth.

TE Luke Stocker
Fans see a big, slow tight end that isn’t a factor in the passing game – outside of his touchdown catch at New Orleans. But Stocker, who turns 30 next year, brings value as a blocker and for his leadership in the locker room and on the field. Ask the coaches and they’ll tell you he’s been instrumental in the development of Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard. He’s worth at least a one-year deal.

SS Keith Tandy
Tandy made a bunch of clutch, impact plays on defense at the end of last year, but has seen injuries and the addition of T.J. Ward take away some playing time. Tandy will be 29 next year and is valuable from a depth and special teams standpoint, but does he want the chance for more playing time elsewhere? He’s worth keeping around if he wants to stay.

LS Garrison Sanborn
So far so good for Sanborn, who has had clean snaps on punts, field goals and extra points, so why not bring him back? Good long snappers are hard to find and his age really isn’t a concern at that position. A one-year deal wouldn’t hurt for the Tampa native.

OL Kevin Pamphile
Pamphile has had a disappointing season thus far. He isn’t even a full-time starter at left guard like he was last year. Pamphile’s versatility is what the Bucs like, and he might get a chance to play left tackle this week if Donovan Smith can’t go. Perhaps he can boost his chances for a payday in free agency with a good showing outside. The Bucs should attempt to re-sign Pamphile, but not break the bank for him because he failed to beat out Evan Smith for the full-time starting job.

The Bucs and RB Charles Sims couldn't stop Arizona from taking over before halftime. - Photo by: Getty Images
Bucs RB Charles Sims – Photo by: Getty Images

WHO SHOULD GO?
RB Charles Sims
Sims has been a major disappointment over the last two years. After rushing for 149 yards and one touchdown in seven games last year, Sims has just 31 yards rushing in eight games and has been relegated to third-down back duties. But after catching 24 passes for 190 yards and one touchdown in 2016, Sims has 17 catches for 117 yards, but a career-low 6.9 average. Sims is too one-dimensional and doesn’t make enough plays to stay.

SS T.J. Ward
Ward is a good player, but hasn’t had the chance to really show it because the Bucs have him rotating with Chris Conte and Tandy for some reason. Ward likely won’t want to stick around past this dismal season and I can’t blame him.

G Evan Smith
Smith has had a fine year and has some intriguing versatility, but he’ll be 32 next year, and the Bucs should be looking for better and younger talent along the offensive line. While Smith has played well enough to earn some playing time with the starters, he hasn’t played well enough to be the full-time starter at left guard.

DT Sealver Siliga
The Bucs wanted to get bigger at defensive tackle to help stop the run, but Siliga is too one-dimensional and has been inactive more than he’s been active this year. With Tampa Bay needing help rushing the passer all across the defensive line, it’s doubtful that Siliga will return next year.

DE Darryl Tapp
Tapp is just a stopgap defensive end signed for depth this year. At age 32, the Bucs will want to get younger and more athletic along the defensive line next season. Tampa Bay needs pass rushers and Tapp is more of a run stopper.

CB Robert McClain
McClain has been a solid addition at cornerback, but he’ll turn 30 next year and the Bucs need to get younger and add more talented players in the secondary. With McClain in the twilight of his career, he may want to explore around next year and find a team that has a better chance of winning.

DE Will Clarke
Clarke has been a serviceable defensive end in Tampa Bay, but hasn’t shown much pass rush ability. He hasn’t even been as productive as Ryan Russell and he needs to pick it up over the last eight games if he even wants to be in consideration to return.

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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]

29 COMMENTS

  1. Jesus. Just trade Winston away and be done with it. The kid can’t do anything right. Check it down! No, throw it deep. No, complete 70% of passes while chucking it deep. Be a leader, but don’t say anything and don’t be yourself. Quit trying to change and neuter him. This culture of losing infects the entire locker room. Winston will still fight for every game. He expects his teammates to fight with him. GMC isn’t a pregame guy. Kwon doesn’t seem to give speeches. LVD? Nope. Mike? Nope. We let Shep, great pregame talker, leave for Carolina. Who else on the team is left beside Winston? The pre game speech in NO was corny as hell, but it was also desperation. Brady, Goff, Wentz, Dak all have better teams than Winston and have better systems around them. Good teams don’t need pregame speeches.

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    • Well said. While some of this Fab 5 is good, Scott seems to grasp at straws when explaining field play. It started with the training camp discussion and this whole Jameis pep-talk discussion is simply a continuation of that same line of thinking.

      Being soft in camp might have an effect 1-2 weeks into a season, not 10. In a same vein, if Tom Brady twerked for his game warmups, I’m sure he would be calling Winston out for not twerking because there is exactly 1 template to success for players in this game and if you don’t do it than you’re clearly not a leader or a good QB.

      It’s almost like voodoo nonsense is being legitimized as a serious reason why the team is 2-6. I say “almost” because, for some reason I’m unaware of, the Fab 5 also suggests resigning Fitzpatrick when everyone knows what that does to your starting QB. The irony.

      I think the quote “I’ve been waiting for weeks to write this, waiting for the perfect moment.” is a pretty succinct summation of the mindset that wrote Fab 2.

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      • I beg to differ on how a soft training camp only affects the first or second week of the season. Teams do not do any tackling in practice in-season nor do they have much contact in practice due to the recovery time necessary from the games. It’s hard to establish physicality during the season. That’s exactly what training camp is for and why it’s about a month long.

        The Bucs couldn’t run the ball in the preseason and haven’t been able to run it with any consistency during the season. Outside of Week 1 when a fresh Bucs team ganged up to stop the run against the Bears and made Mike Glennon beat them with his arm, Tampa Bay has had trouble stopping the run.

        You can choose not to believe that a soft training camp had any impact on this team if you want, but when you have established veterans on this team telling me how easy camp was this year, I’m telling you it had an effect. You play like you practice, and the Bucs are soft.

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    • Okay he’s not going to be a top 5 quarterback probably not a top 10 quarterback. Why would you trade in? Do you think other teams are stupid. We’ve got bigger problems than Winston fur sure.

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      • To be clear, Horse, I’m not actually saying trade him away. I’m a huge believer in Jameis. I was just typing out my frustrations at the never ending things he has to live up to or change or do to appease this fanbase. It’s absurd at times. He will be a top 10 QB. The scheme he’s in actually magnifies his flaws. It doesn’t limit them. And yes, we have bigger issues than Jameis. Even if he’s contributed to some of the issues on the team.

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        • Jameis has to live up to being the no. 1 overall pick in the draft – that’s the burden that comes from such high expectations … and he has to live up to being the designated starting quarterback of a team that has given him more weapons to throw to than any other quarterback in the league today. Jameis has to live up to being midway through his third season, which most folks were calling his inevitable “breakout year”. Jameis has to live up to at least minimal standards of sportsmanship, which he clearly violated last Sunday with his dick act coming onto the field from the sideline to rap an opposing player ON THE BACK OF HIS HELMET, for gosh sakes. He was duly reprimanded by his head coach who declared that his starting quarterback should have been ejected from the game.

          There’s always excuses from the Winston fans, but no demands for performance, while they call for the heads of everybody else on the team, from the coaches to the receivers to the offensive line to the running backs to the tight ends and even to the defense.

          Everybody else is supposed to be accountable for what they do on the field, except Jameis Winston, apparently, whose supporters have an endless supply of excuses.

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    • we should ride with Jameis for at least another year. build an OLine in the meantime. I wouldn’t mind drafting Chubb but i’d be much more excited with Mike Mcglinchey OT, Notre Dame. He could be one of the best OT in the league plus it’s a position of need

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  2. Trade Winston? That’s probably what the Falcons thought of a young Brett Farve, when they dealt the wild child to G.B.. It took a real coach, Holmgrem to mold him into a HOFer. I think that’s what Winston needs, a real coach, a real G.M. to put players around him that help him succeed. Expecting a 23 yr old to carry a sorry franchise over the finish line is unrealistic. Scott did you hear what Gruden had to say about Winston’s antics? Pretty much what you said. Gruden, I’d tell him to tone it down. I’d tell him to follow Joe Montana’s example, be more of a flat liner. He went on to say he has all the talent in the world. He hates losing, and the Bucs are bad right now. He needs to take this time to heal, and reevaluate all he’s done so far. I think he’ll do just that. What we need is someone like Gruden to help him along. The current regime is not getting that done.

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    • Maybe,surfer.

      Maybe a new coaching regime will transform Jameis as he’s been into a beautiful butterfly.

      Or not.

      Each year it’s been a litany of excuses. His rookie year, well, he’s a rookie, and he passed for a lot of yards .. but didn’t score many points, and it was all blamed on his coaches under the Lovie Smith regime. Second season, it was all blamed on having no running game, and no offensive line (both of which were actually pretty good during his ineffective rookie season … but whatever), and most of all, Jameis had no “weapons” to throw to (which was true, but maybe as it turned out not that relevant). Now this season, Jameis’s spotty performance is being blamed on “bad play calling”, and no offensive line – despite having more weapons to throw to than any other quarterback in the league.

      If the new regime comes in and decides they want to make Jameis play for his job in the last year of his rookie contract, I’m totally OK with that, but with the following caveats:

      1) No more excuses

      2) No more fake leadership. What Jameis and his fans call leadership is mere cheerleading, and it’s very old and very annoying. Practice real leadership by shutting up and performing on the field.

      If neither caveats are honored and he fails to perform like a fourth year quarterback who was the number one overall pick in the draft, then Jameis needs to go.

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      • It’s clear from the totally-expected mumber down votes that there are more Jameis Winston fans here than Bucs fans. Bucs fans demand performance from everybody associated with the franchise. For Winston fans, that applies to everybody EXCEPT Winston – the “sacred cow”.

        Jameis needs to be every bit as accountable as any other person on the team … no sacred cows, period.

        He needs to shape up or ship out.

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    • Surferdudes you’re slowly winning me over; still not there yet. We would have to have a very seasoned GM who understands what it takes to have a good defense.

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    • No, I did not see Gruden’s comments about Winston’s pre-game speech in New Orleans. Where and when did that occur? I would be interested in hearing it or seeing it.

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  3. Good Fab5, Scott.

    I like your recommendations on free agents ….. nobody on the team now should feel safe, even the ones you like and I like. A test in the last half of the season is to see who is still giving their all, and who is mailing it in when the playoffs are not a possibility. The mailers need to be given one way postage out of One Buc Place.

    As for Winston, you said what most Bucs fans are thinking. I rather suspect it is exactly what most of Winston’s teammates are thinking too. Amongst a certain contingent of Winston fans, it is sacrilige .. attacking the sacred cow.

    My answer to those who say, “Well, it’s just Jameis being Jameis” and “Let Jameis be Jameis!” is this

    If this is what Jameis is, it isn’t good enough. At least as far as performance on the field goes. Let Jameis be Jameis somewhere else, if this is all we’ll get.

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    • Naples I was a BIG supporter of Winston!
      I know he has been injured this season but I have to wonder if he made the choice to play and ignored med. staff to rest it a week or two. If that is the case not only did it cause him to be hurt worse but also may have hurt the team. I applaud his toughness but sometimes you have to do what is best for the team. IMO there are a lot of ??? MARKS with Winston.

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  4. One guy they have to really start thinking about as well is McCoy. He is the highest paid Buc and tho under contract, he only would count $500K against the cap. He is in position for a restructure to a more team friendly deal or a trade and sign somewhere else. Given the contracts that are coming up, it would seem smart business to handle this with him sooner than later. I’m personally not sure what I would do with him. The more film I watch isolating on him, the less sense it makes to me sinking huge money into a DT.

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  5. This team this year has been all talk and no substance. We have the talent on both sides of the ball (except D-line, minus McCoy). We jsut don’t seem to know how to win games. We lose because of Kicking. We lose because of the Offense. We lose because of the Defense. We lose because of bad play calling.

    Players aren’t even sure what our identity is. Let me tell you what are identity is. We are Under Dogs. Since the inception of this franchise, we have always been under dogs. Even in our Super Bowl season, we were under dogs. Doesn’t matter matter who the players are. Doesn’t matter if the media thinks we are about to have a big season. Doesn’t matter if we just went 10-6 and are “Youngry”. The moment we think we are great because of how we did last season, or last game, or last half, is the moment we forget who we are. We have to fight everyday, every practice, and every play, because the moment we lose a game, we are back to being the Yucks in every other fanbase’s eyes.

    We finished 9-6 last year. So what. You don’t get a ring for that. Who cares if you have more twitter followers because people liked you on Hard Knocks. How many wins does that get you? The moment we started expecting to win instead of fighting to win, is when the season was over. If we don’t play with an under dog mentality every game, then we are not winning anything.

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  6. As far as the “Winston sucks early in the game” argument. He is a young player who will continue to mature. The coaches and all of the captains need to help getting these guys motivated. That speech he gave in New Orleans was terrible, but even more terrible was the guys around him. That was the flattest group of guys (I’m saying before the whole finger licking thing) I’ve ever seen. Winston probably looked around and saw this, got desperate and failed miserably at a spontaneous attempt to get them going. Hopefully, someone else will emerge on this team to help motivate this team. This will develop. However, this can be learned. They so need one BAD A.. defensive stud that will come out and take this team by the throat. Maybe this is Chubb.

    All said, I would be much, much, much more worried if he lit it up in the first quarter only to fold like a cheap chair in the fourth. Folding late in games is often uncorrectable. Struggling early is more easily correctable.

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    • If being a consistent first half failure is “more easily correctible”, then why hasn’t it been corrected?

      Excuses excuses, always more excuses.

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      • Like I stated clearly. He’s a 23 year old maturing player.

        And I clearly stated they are more easily corrected. Not easily corrected. I never said they shouldn’t be corrected. Fact of the matter, 4th quarter leaders generally have it or don’t have it.

        Whatever

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  7. Man, I am trying not to start thinking about the draft already, but you definitely got me excited about Chubb. This team badly needs some nasty.

    Speaking of nasty, I love me some Jameis, but the “always positive” schtick has worn thin on me. Facing a horribly disappointing 2-6 start is no time for rah rah pregame crap. Seriously, could there have ever been an easier time to choose the right words before a game? “We’re a 2-5 football team. We suck. Is that who you are? Are you a 2-5 football player? Are we better than 2-5? Lets go show these motherf***ers who we really are!”

    That simple…end of story.

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  8. Jameis is 23 and maturing into his role as the leader of this team. Their will be growing pains but him being passionate is great maybe we need someone else to relay the message but that has been the problem since Sapp left. NOBODY ever delivers the message as a result it never happens. Jameis is not perfect but people so eloquently look at other young QBs having success and act like their offensive lines have nothing to do with it. Philly and Dallas protect their QB something Bonehead has still to get right. Our front office attempted and failed to address the line which has created minimal protection and zero lanes for the running game. Anybody that thinks writing of Jameis solves this problem is probably related to Licht. Terrible line of thinking, build around your QB and that happens with the OL. We know the running game is the key to the offense yet we stood pat at RB and OL, the problem is higher than Jameis.

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  9. Good points all, it’s obvious it’s not just one thing, or one player that’s holding this team back. We traded Steve young years ago, let Doug Williams walk, both turned into S.B. MVP’s. I’m not giving up on a 23 yr old first round pick. Jameis had a running game, and a defense when at FSU, we have neither. Geoff was a bust until McVay came along, and I believe as good as Wentz is, he’d struggle on this team. Enough of first time H.C., and G.M.’s. Glazers need to hire someone, to hire someone. Tom Coughlin has done wonders as the Jags president of football operations, we need that kind of person.

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  10. Well here comes one of the things I have said many times before? We need a lot of draft picks especially in the early rounds. For me I’m trading down 10 to 15 spots for a additional 2nd and 3rd rounder or an additional first-rounder. I’m convinced we need a left tackle who’s going to protect Jameis in 2018 first priority; I know we need defensive ends too; that’s why I’m suggesting we trade down and still pick up one or two good DE.

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  11. We know their are problems across the board on thi team. However I believe that Smith’s defense is a joke. It is non aggressive with no imagination. 4 down lineman with linebackers 5 yards from the line, corners 5 to 10 yds off the ball and safeties playing centerfield begs for long gains. When he does blitz the other team knows it’s coming and adjusts for usually big gains. That’s because instead of 4 linemen he puts 5 or 6 which doesn’t happen very much.

    In Carolina game they never touched Newton. You got to be kidding. 8 sacks in 8 games this is a joke.

    Watch good teams how they lineup 7 or 9 literally on the line. You never know when they are going to blitz. Corners right up against receivers on line chucking them at line if not blitzing.

    He has to go. Play aggressively to win not to lose! How bad can it get,

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  12. Cam Newton must be searching for the towel he puts over his head when his spit goes bad because we Bucs fans stole it and have thrown it into the middle of the Ring of Dishonor to announce we have given up on the season. How quick we often are to flip flop or lay in wait for something bad to happen so we can regurgitate our previous bias. Here, we seek any sort of crumb so we can do as we have for 40+ seasons…………. blame the QB and coach. Oh, how easy that is to do.

    Now we declare, the “team” is so fragile that Winston licking his fingers in a symbolic gesture or getting a win “W” causes each of these players to roll their eyes into the back of their head and go into a coma for the rest of the game. Perhaps if Jameis would simply echo Brady’s “Let’s go!” or copy Favre’s romps around the stadium with his fist raised, his teammates would play much better.

    There’s no question that, if only the youngster would just play as well as the aforementioned QB’s, the team of slackers could hang on for the ride. But Jameis looks around and sees that few on the team share his passion and work ethic. He goes a bit over the top sometimes to put the team on his sore shoulder. If only he could limit his energy to focusing on his own responsibilities instead of thinking he has to wake them up. If only he didn’t believe he has to do more, take chances and hope for the best outcome, he would play within himself.

    I don’t have time to do a bunch of analysis, search the internet to get an expert’s opinion or stay at a Holiday Inn to get smarter. I go by what I see. To me this team has too many free agent players brought in as mercenaries who have done little to help the team win, unwilling to blame themselves, unwilling to adapt, so they become a disruption. They’re like the new hire who can’t live up to his resume’, talks about how they did it at his previous company and brings down his new co-workers . We all know the type who jumps from job to job.

    I’m pretty sure Scott and the Pewter Report clan have seen evidence. The free agents aren’t “Buccaneer Men”. Unfortunately the pattern of poor drafting had led to Jason Licht having to acquire free agents to supplement it. Look at the collection on the Defensive Line. We have but one draftee (McCoy) who has done anything while Ayers and Baker flounder. Look at the Secondary in which we thought we were getting a future star (Hargreaves) and having to replace him in the line-up with a cast-off (McClain). Look at the Special Teams and the parade of kickers because of the Aguayo fiasco.

    It all ties together. Poor drafting leads to imported free agents who do little, which leads to losses, which leads to regime changes and more of the same. It’s Groundhog Day all over again. Patriots, Packers, and my hometown Steelers are consistent winners. They draft well, limit free agents and keep the regime intact.

    When’s the Draft?

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    • Scubog, that makes good sense. I’m putting this on Licht because we have come full circle once again. Rather than obtaining additional draft picks by trading down and actually using them to build your team for the now and future, Licht always trades back up and there goes those extra draft picks.

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  13. Jamies is in doubt by this ownership and management do you really think Bucs are going to place a franchise tag and pay 22-26 Million a year on a QB that has been a constant 87% QB rating with more losses than wins. Not a chance!
    The question is do you want to solve QB problem 2018 draft year or wait till 2019 after Jamies Rockie contract runs out.
    If they base this team next year on Jamies we will have good shot at first pick 2019.
    I would rather fix team new QB and coach end of this year
    Giants have 3 easy games left Bucs will be looking at 3rd pick this year.
    Clevland will not draft QB that leaves one good QB available at 4 million a year Glazers like those numbers.

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  14. Scott, those comments were from his call in last Weds, every Weds, around 7 A.M. on the Mike & Mike show.

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  15. The Bucs really need to nail the first three picks in next years draft. There are some very talented players in this draft and NC State’s DE Bradley Chubb is the top DE. The Bucs could pick as low as number 5 or somewhere between 5 and 10. Chubb may go as high as number 4. DE Harold Landry, Boston College and DE Arden Key, LSU, are both special players and should be available when the Bucs pick. If S Minkah Fitzpatrick (6-2 216) Alabama is still there when the Bucs pick, he will be difficult to pass up. He can play safety, nickel corner, and outside corner. Fitzpatrick is a versatile defender with the size, athleticism, instincts and play-making skills to handle multiple roles in the defensive backfield. The Bucs should go DE in the first, then CB in the second then move back into the second to draft a RB. I like CB Tarvarus McFadden (6-1 201), Florida State and RB Nick Chubb (5-10 228) Georgia.

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