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 25th 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 sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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RootsCrew

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… Read more »

JustaBuc

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… Read more »

Horse

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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RootsCrew

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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Naplesfan

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… Read more »

EataW

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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surferdudes

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… Read more »

Naplesfan

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… Read more »

Naplesfan

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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Horse

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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Naplesfan

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… Read more »

Buc 1976

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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tnew

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… Read more »

Destino102

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… Read more »

tnew

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… Read more »

Naplesfan

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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tnew

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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BrianDorry55

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… Read more »

stlbucsfan

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… Read more »

surferdudes

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… Read more »

Horse

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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VinceC

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… Read more »

scubog

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… Read more »

Horse

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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Mike.Seven

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… Read more »

surferdudes

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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rob roy

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… Read more »