FAB 5. SR’s Buc Shots
• PewterReport.com’s Mark Cook was the Florida State pro day on Tuesday and asked Seminoles safety Derwin James, a native of Haines City, Fla., if he wouldn’t mind being drafted by Tampa Bay next month.
“That is great,” James said. “That is close to home. I grew up in Florida – a central Florida kid. I feel like it would be great (to be drafted by the Buccaneers).”
James, who is cousins with former Florida State players Vince Williams and Karlos Williams, and former Bucs running back Mike James, has never played with former Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston, but has met him several times at Florida State games and admires his competitiveness, which is akin to his own.
“I [play football] because I love it,” James said. “There is no question. I am passionate about this game. I didn’t start playing this game for the money or anything. I remember being three or four years old and I was just in the backyard playing with my friends and neighbors. I just wanted to win and score the touchdowns. I just feel like I play this game to be a competitor and I just love to compete.”
• The Buccaneers have added three players that can play defensive end in the 2018 offseason in signings of Vinny Curry and Mitch Unrein, and the trade for Jason Pierre-Paul. With the expected return of Noah Spence, it is possible that the Bucs don’t draft a defensive end this year, as it’s not a great year for pass rushers – but don’t rule it out, either.
The acquisition of those three defensive ends also does something else. It puts a great deal of pressure on Will Gholston to step up his game – and fast. Gholston signed a five-year, $27.5 million contract last offseason that included $13 million in guaranteed money. Gholston, who had two seasons with three sacks apiece before registering zero during the 2017 campaign, made $7 million and underachieved.
Now slated to make $6.5 million, the 26-year old Gholston must stand and deliver this year or lose playing time to the likes of Unrein, Spence or Pierre-Paul. After the 2018 season, Gholston doesn’t have any more guaranteed money and the Bucs could trade or release him without any cap penalty next offseason.
• New defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul’s cap value in Tampa Bay this year is $12.5 million in the form of an $11.25 million base salary, a $250,000 workout bonus and $1 million in roster bonus money, which is payable each week that he is on the active roster this season. Despite such a high salary cap number, the Bucs still have enough cap room to extend the contracts of middle linebacker Kwon Alexander, guard Ali Marpet and left tackle Donovan Smith before the 2018 regular season.
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• Like all teams, the Buccaneers have players that were eligible for performance-based pay, which is a pool of $4.2 million paid by the NFL for rookies and league-minimum veterans – players that aren’t paid a lot but play a lot of minutes. The NFL keeps its pay scale formula under wraps, but here is the breakdown for the top 10 Bucs who earned some extra money.
1. LB Kendell Beckwith – $270,427
2. CB Robert McClain – $245,156
3. WR Adam Humphries – $203,727
4. CB Ryan Smith – $196,792
5. MLB Kwon Alexander – $190,362
6. WR Chris Godwin – $173,427
7. FS Justin Evans – $159,333
8. DE Ryan Russell – $155,200
9. TE Cameron Brate – $151,925
10. RB Peyton Barber – $146,415
• The Buccaneers incorporated a different recruiting tactic with former Baltimore Ravens center Ryan Jensen. Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht knew Jensen, his No. 1 target in free agency was drawing interest from the Indianapolis Colts to play guard and would be visiting both teams before making a final decision. Licht and director of football administration Mike Greenberg knew they were going to have to make Jensen the highest-paid center in the NFL, and Licht took Jensen out to dinner with guard Ali Marpet and tackle Donovan Smith to help with the sales pitch.
But Licht took it a step further. Aside from personally connecting with Jensen, who grew up just 60 miles away from Licht’s Midwestern hometown, Tampa Bay’s general manager had a local airbrush artist paint a helmet for the former Baltimore center with his likeness on one side next to the Tampa skyline, and a version of the Bucs’ skull and crossed swords logo on the other.
Jensen was given the gift on the way out of town so that he would have a parting gift from One Buc Place to view on his flight to Indianapolis. Licht’s helmet didn’t seal the deal. The opportunity to play next to Marpet and Smith and snap the ball to quarterback Jameis Winston did, along with the huge payday. But Jensen appreciated the helmet and the fact that the Bucs were pulling out all the stops in their recruitment of him. He felt wanted in Tampa Bay, and Licht got his man.
• I have a lot of respect for former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden, who came back to the NFL to coach the Oakland Raiders again. I learned more football under him than any other coach I’ve ever covered in Tampa Bay. When the Glazers were contemplating replacing Dirk Koetter with Gruden at the end of the 2017 season I was excited about the prospects of having Gruden’s energy and fire back on the sidelines of Raymond James Stadium.
But when his price tag became $10 million per year over 10 years, the Glazers wisely bowed out of contention. That’s too much for any NFL coach not named Bill Belichick.
Granted, he may not have made the exact same moves, such as signing running back Doug Martin, who was let go by Tampa Bay this offseason. But I have not been impressed by Gruden’s personnel moves in Oakland, and that was the knock on him during his tenure in Tampa Bay when the Bucs whiffed on a lot of draft picks and signed a bunch of aging free agents at the end of their careers.
Gruden has signed Martin, quarterback Josh Johnson, wide receiver Jordy Nelson, safety Marcus Gilchrist, linebacker Tahir Whitehead, cornerback Rashaan Melvin, tight end Derek Carrier, fullback Keith Smith, linebacker Kyle Wilber, defensive lineman Tank Carradine, and has re-signed tight end Lee Smith and defensive tackle Justin Ellis.
Although the Raiders have different needs than the Bucs do, I just happen to like what Tampa Bay has done in free agency a lot more than what Gruden has been doing in Oakland. While Gruden has been working with Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, those signings reek of Gruden. I don’t know how well Gruden and Bucs general manager Jason Licht would have fared in free agency together, but knowing how Gruden has to get his way, I don’t think it would have been as productive as it has been for the Bucs this offseason. Do you agree or disagree?
• A brand new Pewter Nation Podcast will be taped later today at One Buccaneer Place, so look for that later on Friday – just in time for your afternoon commute home from work. Trevor Sikkema, Mark Cook and I will discuss how the trade for Jason Pierre-Paul affects Tampa Bay’s defensive line and the Bucs’ draft plans and much more, so don’t miss it.
If you didn’t get a chance to listen to our latest Pewter Nation Podcast, which was one of the most listened-to podcasts we’ve ever done, you can hear the PR staff break down the team’s salary cap status and why the Buccaneers weren’t as active in free agency as fans hoped they would be initially. 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.
• And finally, we’ll have a brand new PewterReport.com 2018 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft for you on Monday morning. There will be a lot of changes in this mock draft, so don’t miss it.
And don’t miss PewterReport.com’s coverage of the NFL Owners Meeting in Orlando next Tuesday. Trevor Sikkema, Mark Cook and I will be there interviewing Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter live from the NFC Coaches Breakfast with the media, in addition to interviews with Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht and Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer.