FAB 2. Violent Vea Coming On Right Now

Bucs defensive tackle Vita Vea hasn’t finished his rookie season, yet many have improperly used the “bust” label on him already. Simply put, those people are stupid.

On Sunday in Baltimore, when he was a game-wrecker, notching a career-high nine tackles, which was second only to Lavonte David’s 12 tackles, Vea was hardly a bust. Nor was he a bust when he recorded four tackles, three tackles for loss and a sack in a win against San Francisco a month ago.

Bucs DT Vita Vea and GM Jason Licht
Bucs DT Vita Vea and GM Jason Licht – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Vea isn’t a bust. He’s a young defensive tackle that missed virtually all of training camp, all of the preseason and the first three games of his rookie season with a torn calf muscle. Some suggested Vea was a bust in September before he even played his first down in the NFL. Vea wasn’t a bust. He was injured.

And Vea isn’t a Pro Bowl safety, either. Vea’s critics are merely unhappy that the Bucs drafted him instead of Florida State safety Derwin James.

The Big Takeaway
After an understandable slow start to his rookie career as he recovered from his calf injury, Vea has come on over the past month of the season. Vea has recorded 18 tackles and one sack in the last four games after posting just three tackles and one sack in the first seven games in Tampa Bay. Vea has started the last six games at either three-technique for Gerald McCoy when he was injured, or at nose tackle alongside McCoy most recently, supplanting Beau Allen in the starting lineup.

Before the 49ers game, Vea got a pep talk from the man that drafted him in the first round, general manager Jason Licht, who said he wanted to see him become more of a violent ass-kicker on the field. Vea took that message to heart and has earned Pro Football Focus grades of 85 (49ers), 67.1 (Panthers), 70.4 (Saints) and 91.2 (Ravens) over the last four games.

The Quotes That Matter
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter has really liked what he has seen from the big 6-foot-4, 347-pound rookie defensive tackle over the last month.

Bucs DT Vita Vea
Bucs DT Vita Vea – Photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

“Just the continuation of what he’s done here in the last three weeks or so is Vita is really starting to play exactly like we watched on his college tape,” Koetter said. “He’s playing violent, he’s running to the football, getting off blocks so much better and making plays laterally as well as just knocking the line of scrimmage back. It’s too bad that Vita had to start the year off like he did missing those eight weeks, but he’s really starting to come into his own.”

Vea, who was seen shoving Ravens offensive linemen after a few plays last week, agreed that his taken his game up a notch from a violence standpoint.

“I feel like as a D-lineman you have to be violent,” Vea said. “It’s just the position you play in. It’s what it demands of us, so you’ve got to be violent to get the job done. … [Licht] just came up to me at practice and just told me to be violent. “Same thing that Buck [defensive line coach Brentson Buckner] has been telling me. But hearing it from him and going into it, he sees the bigger picture, so going back into the meeting room and finally understanding it – finally everything is making sense.”

Outside of Licht, Vea’s strongest ally is fellow defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who has served as a mentor this year for the rookie. McCoy was thrilled with Vea’s dominate, nine-tackle game at Baltimore on Sunday.

“He’s just realized that you’re in the NFL now, and you just can’t play the game anymore with size and speed and ability, it’s not enough anymore,” McCoy said. “The NFL, it’s got to be something else, and he realized that he has everything necessary, and he’s just using it. I talked to him before the game and I told him ‘Hey V – hey man, this is old-school NFL football, man. This is the type of football you’re going to play today that you ain’t never experienced. You’re going to have to really bring it, man, because these guys, that’s the style they play. Whoever you go at, man, just attack them. Kill the person in front of you. I don’t care if you’re not at your gap – destroy the man in front of you.’ And he did that.

Bucs DT Vita Vea
Bucs DT Vita Vea – Photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

“You’re not going to see a lot of splash plays like in the run game and stuff, so with Vita in Baltimore, it’s just when the run was coming to him, he would just shed blocks. V was getting a lot of single blocks, and you get a guy like that who is getting confidence and is that powerful, and that’s what you’re going to get. Even in the doubles, he’ll just take one guy and just throw him. He’s just in place, and that’s what we’re called to do. I think with the style he plays, that he is going to do nothing but get better. I think he’s going to finish the year strong, and whatever happens after that happens. I’m happy for him, man, I’m glad he’s starting to get a feel. You can tell that he’s starting to have a lot more fun and just being more free. You take a guy like that – ironically, it’s crazy, he played like that in Baltimore where the other guy (Haloti Ngata) made a living – so I’m just happy for him, man. He played a great game.”

The Stats That Count
Speaking of Ngata, the Ravens’ first-round pick in 2006, he finished his rookie season in Baltimore with 31 tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack. Vea had nine tackles in Baltimore, which was nearly half of the production he’s had all season in just one game.

Vea’s 21 tackles this year trail Pierre-Paul’s 50, Carl Nassib’s 27 and McCoy’s 23 along the defensive line, but are ahead of Vinny Curry’s 19 as well as Beau Allen, who was the team’s starting nose tackle earlier in the season. Allen has 16 tackles this year.

Bucs DTs Gerald McCoy and Vita Vea
Bucs DTs Gerald McCoy and Vita Vea – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

I’m not comparing Vea to McCoy or the legendary Hall of Famer Warren Sapp in terms of skill set because Vea’s game is much different than that of Sapp or McCoy’s from an athletic and quickness standpoint. But it’s worth noting that with two games left in his rookie season that he compares favorably from a statistical standpoint to McCoy, who had 27 tackles and three sacks as a rookie that started and played in 13 games in 2010, and to Sapp, who had 27 tackles and three sacks in 16 games as a rookie with eight starts in 1995.

The FABulous Ending
It took Vea a while to find that sweet spot between attacking the guard and staying on his man to free up the Bucs linebackers – as this defense calls him to do – and shedding the guard at the right time to make plays in the run game. Vea is doing that now and finding success. Ngata went on to have five Pro Bowl seasons in Baltimore, and if he continues to ascend, Vea has the talent to do the same thing in Tampa Bay.

In this microwave, on-demand, impatient instant-gratification world we live in today, Vea is a bust because he only has 21 tackles and two sacks – and his name isn’t Derwin James. But let’s give Vea a chance to learn the game and develop for another year or two before idiotically throwing around the “bust” label. Great defensive tackles are hard to find, and that’s why best ones are typically drafted in the first round. Vea has first-round talent and through more violent play lately, he’s beginning to show some first-round production, too.

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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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DonkeyHunter

While I’d have to agree with it being too early to throw around the “bust” label; I wouldn’t be so quick to call others stupid.

After all, YOU were the author of an article praising Licht as a genius for the Aguayo pick.

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mjmoody

…and pounded the table for Johnny Football over Mike Evans.

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Brandonges

Tampa would be so dumb to move on from McCoy next year. After spending the last decade trying to get their defensive line in order, they finally have a legitimate starting four. Don’t blow that up immediately. Especially when they don’t need the cap space. McCoy is still playing at a high enough level.

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skyrider

It’s time to move on from McCoy, always other options in the draft and he’s injury prone. Can use the cap space for other needs.

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bucballer

McCoy is underperforming for the salary he makes! Look at our record with him. At 13 million next year the Bucs can get better value at that position for the money. How about this blockbuster trade… the Oakland Raiders and Jon Gruden trade a number 1 pick and a number 3 pick along with David Carr to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for Gerald McCoy and Jameis Winston…why not??? McCoy due 13 million, Jameis has a 21 million dollar charge next year and then will require a 100 million plus contract…crazier things have happened! What say you… Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb… Read more »

cgmaster27

you’re worried about ho much Jameis costs and want to trade for a QB who’s due about 30 million this year? Really?

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cgmaster27

On a side note, adorable dog in your profile pic.

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cgmaster27

only on this site can you get a down vote for saying someone has a cute dog. Savages. haha

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chefboho

That’s because these vultures breath negativity lol

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cobraboy

Gerald Willis reminds me of a large Warren Sapp.

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chefboho

Agreed. He was a wrecking ball at Miami this year! Would love to see him in pewter. Not sure what round he’s projected for, but him and Vea are building blocks on the line

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Pete Wood

I am really weary of the logic that we’re going to lose a game, because the other team needs the win more. Yeah, maybe the Bucs game is a de facto playoff game for Dallas, but you can’t tell me that the game last week wasn’t equally as important. And, the same team that tanked last week is still going to take the field on Sunday. Every game should be important– to Dallas and Tampa. Teams used to enjoy playing the role of spoiler and knocking someone out of the playoffs. If Dallas and Tampa players only try for “meaningful”… Read more »

Buc-Up

I would ask McCoy to be like Tom Brady and take less money in order to get better players for the team. Brady only made about half of what he could’ve gotten over his career. McCoy has been making over $10 million/yr since his initial rookie deal before the Rookie Pool was instituted.

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e

Any chance McCoy renegotiates and wants to finish his career in Tampa? As a ‘Canes fan, I can say that Gerald Willis is a difference maker. I’d look at their three starting LBs coming out as well, Shaquille Quarterman, Michael Pinkney & Zach McCloud. The Pro Bowi is and will always be a popularity contest. The Bucs will never be a Cowboys or Steelers, popularity-wise… So, don’t get too hyped about that rigged game.

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chefboho

I agreed with the poster above about the same thing. That Miami squad has a few great players that Tampa could use. Gerald Willis and even the CB Johnson would be a huge upgrade.

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Buc76

They moved on from Warren Sapp after 9 years. Maybe you could say they shouldn’t have but they did and 13 million for a DT in his 10th year might not be worth it. You have a rookie you can develop and that money needs to go elsewhere. Gerald McCoy has been a good Buc. He will go in the Ring of Honor one day but this defense needs a nastier edge to it and he just doesn’t have it. He’s too nice a guy. He apologized to Ben Roethlisberger when he put him on the ground. A nasty DT… Read more »

stlbucsfan

GMC needs to re-structure his contract but losing him for a some draft pick that could turn out to be the next Alex Cappa is what’s stupid. I for one am in no rush to release GMC so that we can tie up money in Kwon or Donovan Smith at elite LT money. Grimes will walk and clear up about 10, apparently we will let Desean go which clears up another 10 plus the room we have should be plenty. Hell I’m asking Jensen to take a paycut before GMC. Shift some of the top C in football money to… Read more »

FLBoy84

Unfortunately Jensen has zero reasons to agree to take a pay cut, since his $10M is 2019 is guaranteed. 2020 is a different story however, as the team can move on without any dead money cap hit.

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Brandonges

Vinny Curry and his $8M non-guaranteed salary can definitely go too

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FLBoy84

Considered adding him in as well, but he does offer versatility at both DE and DT and we still need bodies to fill the DL rotation. Jacksonville and Philly are going to have to make quite a few moves to correct their salary caps, so depending on who becomes available maybe a replacement for him can be signed for similar money that offers better production.

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cettrue

Gerald Willis will be the steal of the draft. Those UM linebackers are all good too. At least one will be available.

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drdneast

Once again I am ambivalent as to whether McCoy stays or goes. The biggest negatives about his are his salary, his lack of nastiness and really his lackluster leadership. At the same time he has been a good player but really never hit an apex during his career that made him standout. The defensive schemes may have held him back somewhat, but you can’t tell me when it is late in the fourth quarter and the other team is driving for a go ahead score or to pad their lead and the Bucs are in a four rush 7 back… Read more »

drdneast

Scott, sometimes you have to be blunt with people like you were with the idiots out here who were calling Vea a bust in September and October. I congratulate you for that. There is no other way to descibe their football acumen. It’s similar to trying to find a kind word to use for liar when Donnie Trump pronounces something. You can call it whatever nice word you want, but after a while when it is so common just call him a liar. That is what he has been and always will be as he has seen no inclination to… Read more »

Naplesfan

I believe it would be a mistake to cut Gerald McCoy. He is an extremely valuable contributor on defense and a totally known quantity. Who would we replace him with? Maybe we could sign an extremely expensive known quantity and pay him a lot more, only to discover that the new guy just wants to coast for a few years until he retires. We’ve seen that movie before. With just one unguaranteed year left on his current contract, I am sure that Gerald would be willing to renegotiate that year’s pay in return for a few more years with the… Read more »

Horse

Naplesfan, agree.

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plopes808

if GMC is willing to restructure I’d be on board with him staying on another year as a mentor to Vea, Big T, and whichever new DT we draft.

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FLBoy84

Being that 2019 is evidently a strong draft for DT’s, would be great to see McCoy restructure to say $10M and move on from Allen, Gholston and Unrein, which saves another $11M. Bring in another young DT to add in the rotation and let McCoy mentor him for a year and hopefully we’ll have a long-term partner for Vea as well.

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Pick6

it’s completely irrational to blame McCoy for all of the futility the franchise has experienced in his career, but it is fair to wonder if he has been an enabler of a culture that cares more about life off the field than on. he was brought into the heart of the raheem morris\josh freeman “clubbin’ buccaneers” and although he’s not that type of guy there was a pervasive message of just celebrating the fact that you made it into the league. it feels like a message that he’s carried the torch for, with him often talking about how football is… Read more »

cgmaster27

This draft is LOADED with d tackles. We’ve all been a little tough on Mccoy at times, myself included. However he’s been a part of a losing culture for 13 years and isn’t quite the leader some of us want. I love what hes done in the community and he’s a great guy, but his numbers have dipped and he’s not worth 13 million next year. He’s just not. And not with a draft coming that is this deep at d tackle. If you can trade him for maybe a 3rd, not sure you’d get that , make the move.… Read more »

FLBoy84

Was kind of concerned about next yr’s cap space being only about $13M, but just cutting Grimes, Dotson, Unrein, Spence, Allen, Gholston and Jackson saves another $27M, so things are quite as dire as it seemed. On a side note, would be interesting to see what an all-Samoan DT tandem of Vea and Tu’ikolovatu could do if both were healthy. That’s a lot of beef in the middle.

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GrayBalls

I was thinking the same thing about Vita and Stevie. Keep McCoy on to mentor those two along, keep him as the “starter” at 3-tech and move him around to the end positions with Vea and Tu’i out there to spell the DE’s. Gerald still gets his snaps, two newer guys get to learn a little more from a tenured player, we get a ton of meat clogging that center artery and the ends stay fresh. He has said in the past he doesn’t want to play end, but if you want that “C” on yoir chest you need to… Read more »

drdneast

Personally, and the players probably feel differently, I could care less if any of the Bucs go to the Pro Bowl to risk a permanent injury in a worthless throwaway game. We lost Lee Roy Selmon to a career ending back injury due to the Pro Bowl and the Patriots lost a No. 1 draft pick in an even more worthless touch football game in the sand due to the Pro Bowl. Thanks for refreshing my memory about when Sheldon Rankins was drafted. At the time, I wanted the Bucs to select him and could have done so instead of… Read more »

drdneast

FlBoy84, I don’t have a problem getting rid of any of those players you listed.
Unrein is gone for sure with concussion problems.
Gholston never earned his money here except in the year preceding FA. Big surprise.
We should have said goodbye to Grimes last year.
Bet here is that Spence stays until at least the end of 2019 training camp. I don’t think he even has a salary cap hit. I know none of the other players you listed do.

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FLBoy84

The team takes a $650k dead money hit for cutting Spence, but saves another $1.27M in cap space. Kind of indifferent if he stays or goes, though seems a fresh start for him and the team might be an idea. Would think they could salvage a draft pick in a trade considering his status as a 2nd rounder with possible untapped potential. Just doesn’t seem like he’ll reach it here for whatever reason.

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surferdudes

If they move on from McCoy I hope they don’t use the money to extend Kwon, and Smith. Kwon is coming off an ACL, his game depends on speed, not power, or size which he lacks. I’ll catch hell for saying this, but to me he isn’t that good of a MLB. He’s no Ray Lewis, or Keuchly, paying him like he is would be a mistake. The fact that Licht over paid for Jensen, and extended Marpet means we’re going to have to draft a L.T. for salary reasons alone. If we over pay Smith, we’ll have to much… Read more »

chefboho

Your definitely not on the wrong side with Kwon. I love his passion but I don’t think he’s top linebacker money. What would the cost of a tag be for him I wonder? Plus if Beckwith comes back, wouldn’t he be better suited for middle linebackers? Interesting off season because the Bucs could still have a bunch of cap once they cut the ton of dead weight from this dream in Desean, Unrein, Gholston, fitz, Grimes, conte, etc.

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Horse

Well Scott there really wasn’t much new information in your Fab 5 this week.
In 10 day season ends for us. I’m waiting with the guessing until then. Heck we’re all usually more wrong than right, but some talk about only their right ones and seem to forget about all their wrong ones.

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bucballer

Do we rebuild around Jameis Winston? Is Jameis a $23-25 million a year for 4-5 years=$100 million+ QB?

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plopes808

right now he’s playing like one, I just hope his performance continues without any more setbacks

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Darin

We know how the pro bowl works. So the team has a losing record, not sure why it’s a big deal to us who makes the team. I dont watch it. Might matter to the players if they get a bonus. And I dont think we can start talking about DT’s in the draft not knowing what defense we are gona be running. Only thing I wana know right now is the draft order and who the coaches are gona be. If you’re not in the playoffs let’s plan for the next year. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No… Read more »

SelmonRules1000

Jason Licht, it’s time to bounce.

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SelmonRules1000

Donovan Smith, you got to go with the GM that brought you.

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SelmonRules1000

Gerald McCoy, it depends on new regime.

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SelmonRules1000

Kwon Alexander, it all depends on that knee baby.

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SelmonRules1000

Carl Nassib, they would be fools to not try you out for one more year.

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SelmonRules1000

Vita Vea, you have a hell of alot to prove to replace Gerald McCoy or anyone at this point and time in your career.

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SelmonRules1000

Gerald McCoy would probably tell you straight up that his biggest disappointment is not every going to the playoffs. Whether he got ten sacks or not, can not compare to always missing the playoffs. Not just this sport but most professional sports are based on getting to the playoffs, starting the second season, and going for the big prize at the end.

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plopes808

While it would definitely be sad to see McCoy go, that extra $13 million would definitely come in handy. Our D-Line looks pretty solid now with JPP, Vea, and Nassib so adding another DT shouldn’t hurt us that bad. That $13million could go toward Jameis and Kwon’s contracts…and dare I say even D Smith’s (I hate to say it but he may be our best options at the moment.) The pro-bowl is a useless popularity contest and therefore I am not concerned with who got snubbed. The reality is that when you play for a losing team, it often doesn’t… Read more »

scubog

Like all of our other safeties, Derwin James might have gotten hurt and folks quickly would be calling him a bust and saying Licht should have drafted Vea. It wouldn’t surprise me if GMC is traded if there is a buyer willing to give up something in return. I always think that most of the time it’s best to retain your own players when their contracts expire. I get that Donovan Smith isn’t Paul Gruber, but he’s not Kenyatta Walker either. If he is allowed to seek employment elsewhere, the LT position would become the # 1 priority in the… Read more »

plopes808

I was a fan when it was held here, as it was the only chance we ever got to see or meet the players in person. Now that it’s gone, I couldn’t care less

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mjmoody

I have enjoyed watching James play in LA’s fluid D. He’s played 6 different positions, including Nickle LB. I have thought many times that Mike Smith would have suffocated a great talent. James would have had a hard time shining; though his leadership would have been a huge benefit.

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BUC-ASS-BOB

Gerald is asset he draws a double team and teams run away from him, They run right at JPP and Veta because even when they make the tackles it is for big gains
and chains keep moving, I watch Ravens run at veta 3 times in a row last week and got 15 yards.
Gerald is bored no one runs at him

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cgmaster27

board no one runs at him? Did you not watch the game last week. Or any other week for that matter? You know who’s right next to Vea? Gerald!

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owlykat

Jason Licht, if you read this and are retained by the Bucs, watch the Army vs. Houston Bowl Game. Make notes on the best Defensive Linemen on the Army team. They were awesome beating Navy. They will have a military obligation and when they are eligible to draft the scouts will have forgotten them. Sign the best of them as undrafted free agents and you will have some great players for the future who normally would be high draft picks. Just a tip.

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owlykat

I would keep McCoy as long as he takes a pay cut. Move D. Smith to Guard and pay him a one year show me contract. Take Alabama’s LT in the first round. Second round take a DE, and trade Spence to a Three Four team for a third round pick. Get a DT in the third round. Sign a free agent CB. Cut Grimes. Trade Beau Allen, keep Jackson as a deep threat. Restructure Vinny’s contract to backup money. Cut Unrein, train Vea to play FB in goalline Offense. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please… Read more »

plopes808

“Vita up the gut”?

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GrayBalls

I, too, have wondered if Vita could learn some blocking techniques. That big ‘ol body with that much power and athleticism pancaking the daylights out of a LB would be funny if nothing else

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tbb345

Its really funny that this article, and a lot of the people commenting, are quick to call for McCoy to be cut because this draft is loaded with Defensive Tackles…..yet are also heaping tons of love on Vita Vea and refuse to acknowledge that it was a stupid pick FOR THE EXACT SAME REASON THAT YOU WANT TO CUT MCCOY. This is not about Vea being a “bust”, it’s clearly way too early to call him that and honestly that whole conversation is a straw man constructed by SR (because he’s the one who loves to call others “stupid” while… Read more »