FAB 5. SR’s Buc Shots
• Although re-signing a team’s own free agent usually is a safer path than signing a player that doesn’t have any history with the team, there’s no such thing as a sure thing, as re-signing wide receiver Michael Clayton proved. Clayton, the team’s first-round pick in 2004, was re-signed to a lucrative contract extension in 2009 despite not recording 500 yards receiving in any of the four years following his 1,193-yard rookie season. It would go down as one of the worst free agent signings in Mark Dominik’s career as general manager.
It didn’t work out with Clayton, but the best free agent signings in free agency are often re-signings, which the Bucs are embarking on now that the team finally has some talent from recent drafts worth keeping. By re-signing its own players, a team usually knows what it’s getting. The locker room fit isn’t the question. The scheme fit isn’t the question. Usually the only question is how a player’s hunger will be affected by a big money contract. In Clayton’s case, he rested on his laurels and didn’t get any better and was released one year after signing his second big contract in Tampa Bay.
In recent years the Bucs re-signed former draft picks in defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David, which were great deals, in addition to running back Doug Martin, which was a terrible deal in hindsight. The jury is still out on Will Gholston, a 2013 draft pick, who was re-signed last year, but Tampa Bay is preparing to re-sign three more draft picks in middle linebacker Kwon Alexander, offensive lineman Ali Marpet and left tackle Donovan Smith before the start of the 2018 regular season. And Tampa Bay just made another former draft pick, Mike Evans, one of the highest-paid wide receivers in the league with a new five-year extension, so things are heading in the right direction as far as continuity is concerned.
• Tampa Bay added a new kicker in former New York Jet Chandler Catanzaro, and that most likely means that the Bucs won’t be re-signing Patrick Murray. We’ll see. Expect the Bucs to add some training camp competition with a new kicker – likely an undrafted free agent.
• Just because Baltimore center Ryan Jensen left Tampa Bay yesterday without a contract doesn’t mean that the Bucs missed out on him. Jensen gave his word to the Colts that he would visit Indianapolis where he is viewed as a potential starting guard there. The Bucs covet Jensen’s toughness and leadership ability and made that known on his visit. A decision could come later tonight or on Saturday, and I think the Bucs have a very good shot at landing Jensen, who would likely play center in Tampa Bay and allow Ali Marpet to move back to guard.
• The Pewter Nation Podcast is back with a new free agency edition. In the most recent podcast, which was recorded live at One Buccaneer Place on Thursday, March 15, Trevor Sikkema, Mark Cook and I discussed the additions of defensive linemen Beau Allen and Mitch Unrein and what could be next for Tampa Bay in free agency.
Plus we talk about the team’s salary cap status and why the Buccaneers weren’t as active in free agency as fans hoped they would be. Listen and you’ll learn why. You can click here to listen to Episode 65: Free Agency Ain’t So Free After All.
If you haven’t listened to this week’s podcast yet, it’s the perfect way to enjoy your lunch on a Friday afternoon or battle rush hour traffic on your way home from work. In addition to listening to the Pewter Nation Podcasts on PewterReport.com you can also subscribe to the free podcasts at PodBean by clicking here and on SoundCloud by clicking here.
• The Bucs scouts and assistant coaches have been busy this week going to several pro day workouts across the country. According to Rotoworld’s Josh Norris, Tampa Bay running backs coach Tim Spencer privately worked out LSU halfback Derrius Guice on Wednesday, March 14. Bucs linebackers coach Mark Duffner was at Wisconsin to see linebacker Jack Cichy, and safeties coach Brett Maxie was in Madison to observe safety Natrell Jamerson, who was the defensive MVP of the East-West Shrine Game. Tampa Bay quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian was at Richmond to see Senior Bowl star QB Kyle Lauletta, and wide receivers coach Skyler Fulton was at Northern Arizona to attend the pro day of wide receiver Elijah Marks, who could be a real diamond in the rough.
Despite his slight frame, the 6-foot, 185-pound Marks is a tough wideout who plays bigger than his size indicates. He has 150 career catches for 2,360 yards (15.7 avg.) and 20 touchdowns. Marks burst on to the scene as a sophomore with 770 yards and seven touchdowns on 43 catches (17.9 avg.). Last season, Marks had a career year with 71 receptions for 1,170 yards (16.5 avg.) and six scores.
Marks has some experience on special teams as a return specialist, returning 15 punts for 129 yards (8.6 avg.) and 50 kickoffs for 1,195 yards (23.9 avg.) and one touchdown. According to Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com, Marks was a bit slower than expected, running times in the upper 4.4 and lower 4.5 range when it he was expected to run in a high 4.3 range based on his film. Marks did run on a suspect track at NAU, which could have led to the slower times. He did run an impressive 6.9 in the three-cone drill and 4.25 in the short shuttle after posting a 36.5-inch vertical leap. Marks could be a late Day 3 option for Tampa Bay.
• Here are the contract numbers for Beau Allen’s three-year, $15-million deal. Allen will receive $7.25 million in guaranteed money, including a $2.25 million base salary and a $2.75 million roster bonus in 2018, a $3.5 million base salary in 2019 (of which $2.25 million is guaranteed) with a $1.5 million roster bonus on the fifth day of the 2019 league year and a $5 million base salary in 2020. Allen also has up to $750,000 base salary escalators during the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
• Saturday, March 17 is a big day for Bucs defensive end Robert Ayers, who is due a $1 million roster bonus if he is still on the team by Sunday, March 18. Ayers is set to make $5 million in base salary in 2018, and including the roster bonus he’ll count $6 million against the salary cap.
The Bucs did re-sign reserve defensive end Will Clarke to a one-year, league-minimum deal, but Ayers could stick around for the final year of his contract unless the team signs New Orleans defensive end Alex Okafor before Sunday. The 6-foot-5, 264-pound Okafor, who was drafted by Jason Licht in Arizona and coached by new defensive line coach Brentson Buckner, spent last season in New Orleans where he recorded 27 tackles, 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles before tearing his Achilles tendon in Week 10.
The 27-year old Okafor visited One Buccaneer Place on Thursday, but left without a contract. It’s unclear whether Okafor was offered one and opted not to sign, or if he’s not fully healthy yet and the team will monitor his rehab and possibly sign him when he is healthy.
• Stay up to date with the latest Bucs free agency news this weekend by following us on Twitter. Join the 28,800 fans that follow @PewterReport on Twitter please click here, and to follow us on Facebook please click here.
• I had the chance to ask Oklahoma defensive end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo about some of the NFL Draft prospects from Georgia he played against in the Rose Bowl, beginning with left tackle Isaiah Wynn, who projects to guard in the NFL and kept the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year away from quarterback Jake Fromm.
“He was a really good player and it was it really good battle,” Okoronkwo said. “He was really tough. We exchanged words all game, but at the end of the game we had a lot of respect for each other.”
As for two running backs the Bucs have interest in?
“Sony Michel is a game-breaking type back,” Okoronkwo said. “He’s like Le’Veon Bell and LeSean McCoy. He can cut on a dime and he’s quick as a cat. His acceleration is out of this world. I saw that firsthand.
“A lot of people think that Nick Chubb is just a north and south guy, and he can do that very well, but he also has great vision and great patience at the line. That guy was a load to bring down, too.”
And speaking of Okoronkwo and Chubb, who were both featured in PewterReport.com’s latest 2018 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft with Tampa Bay’s second- and third-round picks, here is a funny video of both of them freaking out on a Guardians of the Galaxy ride at Disneyland. Enjoy.