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FAB 1. Bucs Need To Trade For Peterson
On October 14, 2018 – nearly one year ago – I called for Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht to make a bold move and trade for Arizona Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson in a post-game 2-Point Conversion column following a 34-29 loss at Atlanta following Julio Jones’ 10-catch, 143-yard performance.
Today I renew that request to Licht – it’s time to trade for Peterson.
The Bucs need an upper echelon shutdown cornerback – like right now.
Tampa Bay’s secondary is surrendering an average of 323.6 yards per game and is on pace to become the worst pass defense in NFL history, allowing over 5,000 passing yards this year.
Licht was right to flood the cornerback position in the last two drafts, using premium picks on young, cheap talent. But what is missing is a proven, veteran shutdown cornerback that can match up against upper echelon receivers like New Orleans’ Pro Bowler Michael Thomas, who torched the Bucs secondary for 11 catches for 182 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s 31-24 win over Tampa Bay.
That player is Peterson, a player that Licht, head coach Bruce Arians and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles know from their days together in Arizona. The eight-time Pro Bowler is a perfect fit for this scheme, has experience in this defense and has loads of production with 385 tackles, 76 passes defensed, 23 interceptions, three sacks, one forced fumble and one defensive touchdown in his career.
“Pat is the best corner I’ve ever played with, seen work,” said former Cardinals and Bucs linebacker Deone Bucannon just before being released this week by Tampa Bay. “He’s everything from top down. He does man-to-man, zone, his study habits and work habits were second-to-none for the time that I was there. In the five years that I was there watching him I got the pleasure of sitting by him in every meeting so I understood how diligent he was in his work and how serious he takes it and that translates to the field, as you can see. As a player, in my opinion, I feel like he’s the best corner in the league.”
Peterson, 29, still has a handful of good years left in him, and has never missed a game due to injury in his eight years in the league. In fact, the only time he’s missed has been a six-game suspension this year for PED (performance-enhancing drug) usage. Peterson is eligible to return to a Cardinals team that is going nowhere fast as it rebuilds under new head coach Kliff Kingsbury.
Arizona should listen to trade offers for Peterson, and the Bucs shouldn’t hesitate to offer up their first-round pick in 2020 to entice the Cardinals to do the deal. Peterson is a Pro Bowler in his prime, and that’s what Licht would want to get with his first-round pick anyways – a Pro Bowl-caliber player. Only this time it’s an automatic hit.
Peterson alone could be worth one or two wins for the Bucs this year just by blanketing a team’s top receiver. The former fifth overall pick out of LSU could take a Tampa Bay team that could be destined to finish 7-9 or 8-8 and maybe push it to 9-7 or higher.
“I’ve never really seen anyone like him,” Bucannon said. “From the weight room to the film study to even the littlest, minute little notes that he takes. In my opinion, he’s the best and that’s why he performs the best when he’s on the field. As far as trades and stuff, I don’t really know how that goes, but any team would be blessed to have him.”
Peterson earned a Pro Football Focus grade of 82.3 last season while recording 54 tackles, five passes defensed, two interceptions and one sack. Over the past four years, PFF has ranked Peterson as the eighth-best cornerback in the NFL, and a defensive back that has seen a decrease in targets coming his way every year from 2014 when he had 99 to last year when he had a career-low 52.
Over the past four seasons, Pro Football Focus, who has Peterson ranked as the eighth-best corner in the league, shows a decrease in his targets every year starting from 99 in 2014 to a career-low 52 in 2018 for the 28-year-old LSU product.
The 6-foot-1, 203-pound cover corner came out of LSU with 4.31 speed, and even though he’s close to being 30 Peterson doesn’t look like he’s slowing down at all.
“He’s consistently been the best cornerbacks in the league for about six or seven years now, and one of the best teammates I’ve ever had,” said Bucs inside linebacker Kevin Minter, who played with Peterson in Arizona. “He’s a good dude, a student of the game, a film junkie, a leader, and a mentor. He’s helped me out so much throughout my career. To be honest with you, I’m a bit biased. I might be the wrong person to ask because he was in my wedding a few months ago, so I love him to death. He’d be a great asset for any team.”
From what I’m hearing from the Bucs’ brass, Licht is not inclined to make a trade for Peterson. He wants cornerbacks coach Kevin Ross to keep developing the young talent he’s acquired. I understand that line of thinking. The Bucs have to play these young cornerbacks to see what they’ve got.
But Arians is 67 and isn’t getting any younger. Licht is possibly another double-digit losing season away from being unemployed.
Peterson can help.
He can help more than Hargreaves, especially as a mentor to the team’s young cornerbacks because Peterson has real experience and credentials that come from playoff berths and Pro Bowls. He can also cover better than Hargreaves, who is still developing after missing the last year and half due to injuries.
Licht and director of football administration Mike Greenberg have to come to grips with the fact that as much as Hargreaves may have improved he’s not a true No. 1 shutdown cornerback, and he’s worth $9 million in 2020 – at least not yet. Peterson has two years left on his contract, including $12.05 million due next year. That number could be reduced next year if necessary for the Bucs with a contract extension.
Who would you rather invest $9 million in next year – Hargreaves or Peterson?
It just so happens that the Bucs currently have $7,464,980 in salary cap space in 2019, and Peterson is only due $7,117,647 for the rest of the season as he was suspended the first six games without pay.
“They’d be fools in Arizona if they decided not to keep him, to be honest,” Bucannon said. “He’s the best. That’s just how it is. I don’t know anything about trades and all that stuff, but he’s going to do what he always does, as far as when he goes out there on the field.
“I don’t think it will even be making up for lost time this season. He’s just going to go out and ball like he always does. He doesn’t listen to any outside noise. He does his own thing and he stays in his own lane. He balls out and the results show on the field. That’s why he’s been in the league so long and that’s why he’s been to so many Pro Bowls.”
Peterson is eligible to return from his suspension next week when the Bucs have their bye week. The timing is right with Russell Wilson and a trip to Seattle on the horizon, Drew Brees returning to New Orleans soon, and a pair of games coming up against Atlanta’s Matt Ryan.
Licht has traded for Pro Bowl veterans before in guard Logan Mankins in 2014 and edge rusher Jason Pierre-Paul last year. Both moves worked out and paid immediate dividends.
The same thing can happen with Peterson. Licht and Arians need to convince Cardinals general manager Steve Keim make it happen.