FAB 5. SR’s Buc Shots
• Even though they wouldn’t admit it publicly, members of the Bucs’ brass were thinking that the team might have to part ways with DeSean Jackson and his $10 million salary next year after this season to come up with the cap room necessary to pay for Jameis Winston’s $20.92 million fifth-year option. But with Jackson having such an amazing start to the 2018 season with 26 catches for 594 yards and four touchdowns, there is an argument to keep Jackson over Winston next year, especially if Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to play well.
Fitzpatrick was re-signed to a one-year, $3.3 million contract this offseason. Even if the Bucs tripled his salary and paid him $9.9 million next year, and cut or traded Winston, Tampa Bay would save $10 million in cap room by not having to pay Winston’s huge fifth-year option contract and can certainly afford to keep Jackson. If the 31-year old Jackson keeps up this pace he’ll record 59 catches for a career-high 1,357 yards and nine touchdowns, which would match his career high set in 2009 and tied in 2013.
It’s not a foregone conclusion that Winston has to be gone to keep Jackson and even Fitzpatrick next year. Keeping all three is still doable from a salary cap perspective, but the Bucs do have to afford contract extensions for left tackle Donovan Smith and middle linebacker Kwon Alexander. There has to be carnage somewhere, and that could come along the defensive line.
Gerald McCoy is set to make $13 million next year and hasn’t been giving Tampa Bay the bang for their bucks this year with 1.5 sacks. This very well could be his last year with the Bucs. Defensive tackle Beau Allen will make $5 million next year and the team will have to decide if he’s worth keeping. Reserve defensive lineman Will Gholston is on the books for $3.75 million in 2019, and starting defensive end Vinny Curry, who has 1.5 sacks, is scheduled to make $8 million. The Bucs can part ways with McCoy, Gholston and or Curry next year with no dead salary cap money in 2019.
• One defensive lineman who won’t be back with the Bucs next year is defensive tackle Mitch Unrein, who is on injured reserve due to a concussion he suffered back in training camp. Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter confirmed that Unrein is still in concussion protocol in November for an injury that happened in late July. That’s a scary and sad predicament.
Unrein signed a three-year, $10.5 million deal this offseason, but only this year’s $3 million was guaranteed. The 31-year old Unrein is due a $1 million roster bonus if he’s on the roster by the fifth day of the start of the 2019 offseason, which is March, in addition to a $2.75 million salary. The Bucs will part ways with him after this season and this concussion, which is not his first, could very well end his NFL career, unfortunately.
• DON’T MISS A THING! Join the masses that have followed our @PewterReport Twitter account, which eclipsed 30,000 followers at the start of the Bucs’ regular season. We’re now over 30,800 followers and approaching 31,000. If you aren’t following PewterReport.com on Twitter please do so now so you don’t miss out Bucs press conference and interview footage as well as breaking news and injury updates. To follow @PewterReport on Twitter please click here, and to follow us on Facebook please click here.
PewterReport.com is also updating our @PewterReport Instagram account more regularly this season. Make sure you are following @PewterReport on Instagram and you can do so by clicking here.
DRAFT DIAMOND: WEST VIRGINIA QB WILL GRIER
PewterReport.com is the undisputed leader in Bucs draft coverage each year. During the 2018 draft, we accurately forecasted the selection of three Tampa Bay draft picks as defensive tackle Vita Vea, offensive lineman Alex Cappa and wide receiver Justin Watson were all Bucs’ Best Bets.
Draft season for the PewterReport.com staff starts in September as we do a great deal of scouting during college football season. Trevor Sikkema, who also provides content for TheDraftNetwork.com, will provide SR’s Fab 5 with a weekly segment called Draft Diamond where we focus on a different draft prospect each week. This week’s Draft Diamond is West Virginia QB Will Grier.
Depending on how the year plays out, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be on the market for a quarterback at draft time. They certainly aren’t going to want to plan on 35-year old Ryan Fitzpatrick being the guy for more than a year or two after this season, and if Jameis Winston isn’t their guy, they need to find a replacement quick.
If they do happen to go the draft route, a potential option is West Virginia senior quarterback Will Grier. Grier started his career at the University of Florida, where he led the Gators to a 6-0 record as a sophomore before being suspended the entire year for failing a drug test (PEDs). After electing to transfer instead of waiting it out at Florida under former head coach Jim McElwain, Grier chose WVU as his landing spot, which has been a good one for him. Nearing the end of his second season, he’s thrown for more than 6,500 yards with 59 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.
Grier is truly a gunslinger type who throws a great deep ball, and that’s why he may be the best fit in the draft for the Buccaneers. He definitely has some Winston in him – good and bad – but the Bucs don’t have any regrets about Winston’s style, just his decision-making when it comes to turnovers. The only regret Tampa Bay might have is that the current regime hasn’t been able to get through to him to improve. Grier could be their next chance at finding a franchise quarterback.
I recently mocked Grier to the Buccaneers in the first round of my latest mock draft, just to point out the potential fit. For that and all your other draft-related desires, head on over to thedraftnetwork.com
• Bucs free safety Justin Evans might benefit the most from Mike Smith’s departure. Under Smith, Evans had it drilled in to his head to play it safe and not get beat deep. That message is okay as long as there is some measure and balance to it. But some at One Buccaneer Place feel that Smith has made Evans play too conservative this year and that’s why he has been gun-shy about making plays this year.
A perfect example was last week against Cincinnati on A.J. Green’s catch to get the Bengals in field goal range. At first glance it looked like linebacker Lavonte David didn’t drop back far enough in coverage, but the reality is that Evans dropped back too far off the snap and created too much of an open space for Green to operate in. In hindsight Evans shouldn’t have dropped back at all, as the Bengals weren’t looking for a deep shot touchdown pass to win the game. They were looking for an intermediate 20-yard pass to get into field goal range.
With each passing week under new defensive coordinator Mark Duffner, Evans will get the message to be more aggressive and not as passive in coverage.
• Speaking of defensive backs, I’ve been beating the drum all year about rookie cornerback M.J. Stewart not having the speed or athleticism to cover quicker, more athletic wide receivers in the slot. Stewart has a foot injury and might not play this week, but at some point later this year, the Bucs need to move him to strong safety to compete with fellow rookie safety Jordan Whitehead.
Stewart has more size than Whitehead, and has the toughness and intelligence to play there. The Bucs tried to make Ryan Smith a safety a couple of years ago, but Stewart is a much more natural fit. He’s getting exposed on a weekly basis playing in the slot and would be better matched up against tight ends as a safety. It’s time for defensive coordinator Mark Duffner and secondary coaches Jon Hoke and Brett Maxie to realize that and make the switch to salvage Stewart’s NFL career.
• THINGS GET HEATED on the most recent edition of the Pewter Nation Podcast – Episode 100 Part 7. Pewter Report.com’s Mark Cook, Trevor Sikkema and yours have some sharp opinions about Jameis Winston, Ryan Fitzpatrick and the future of the QB position in Tampa Bay in the curiously titled Pewter Nation Podcast Ep100 Part 7: Ass, Gas Or Grass – Nobody Rides For Free. There are some humors moments and serious jabs in this week’s episode. Make sure you listen to it.
If you missed out on our last Pewter Nation Podcast, Episode 100 Part 6, which came out Monday after the offical switch to Fitzpatrick at QB, Sikkema, Cook and myself recap the Bucs – Bengals game and offer up our commentary on Tampa Bay’s QB controvery. You can hear Pewter Nation Podcast Ep100 Part 6: Time To Move On by clicking this link.
Listening to the Pewter Nation Podcasts on your drive home from work on Fridays or on Saturdays while doing some chores around the house or running errands this weekend is just smart. So do it. The next Pewter Nation Podcast will be taped after the Bucs – Panthers game, so stay tuned for the post-game thoughts from Sikkema, Cook and yours truly as Tampa Bay tries to get back to .500 and score its second NFC South victory of the year.
The popularity of the Pewter Nation Podcast continues to grow. 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. Make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode.
• PewterReport.com reported that the Bucs attempted to trade for New York Giants Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins, but were not willing to part with a second-round pick in 2019 and a late-round pick in 2020 to get the deal done. No team was.
The reason? The 24-year old Collins is in a contract year and wants a deal north of $12 million per season. That’s a huge price tag for a safety and that much money is usually reserved to pay for a cover corner. So far, the Giants have been unwilling to pay Collins that much, and he may test free agency as New York’s only recourse would be to place the franchise tag on him, which could pay him around $13 million for 2019.
Had general manager Jason Licht executed the trade, the Bucs would have had to meet Collins’ contract demands and signed him to an extension before next March or risk letting him walk next year in free agency. Or Tampa Bay would have been forced to use the franchise tag on Collins.
The risk of losing a second-round pick for essentially renting Collins for the rest of the season was too great for the Bucs – or any team – to take. If Licht is still in Tampa Bay in 2019 he might pursue Collins in free agency where his market may not be that rich. If Licht could sign Collins for $10 million per year in free agency it saves the Bucs $2 million in needed cap space and Tampa Bay gets to retain its second-round pick.
Even if the Bucs had traded for Collins it would take him at least two weeks of practice to get the system down and learn the defense. How much of an impact could he make in the last six or seven games of the season to risk losing a second-round pick and potentially losing him in free agency?
Veteran safety T.J. Ward didn’t assimilate well when he was acquired before the start of the season last September, and there is a risk that Collins wouldn’t have made an instant impact in 2018 in Tampa Bay. Expect the Bucs’ interest in Collins to heat up in the offseason if he hits free agency.
• There is a chance that defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and defensive end Vinny Curry could be back from their respective calf and ankle injuries this week against Carolina, but don’t count on linebacker Kendell Beckwith. Although he practiced for the first time all year since breaking his ankle in the offseason, Beckwith is at least one week away from being in football conditioning.
The Bucs are counting on Beckwith to return to action this season and play middle linebacker in place of the injured Kwon Alexander, but he had some setbacks in his rehab and the team wants to be cautious and sure that when he takes the field again it’s for good. Expect Beckwith back for the Redskins game next week at the earliest.