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Here are five things that caught my interest this week:
FAB 1. Each year, the annual NFL ritual known as training camp serves three purposes. First, it gives each NFL team ample time to practice its plays and get in peak physical condition. Second, it presents the opportunity for starting assignments to be claimed. And third, it is a time when roster spots are earned.
Due to Tampa Bay’s rigorous offseason program and demanding on-field and in-classroom work, the Bucs are in peak physical condition and have the offensive and defensive playbooks down for the most part. And while competition will ultimately sort out which players will start and which ones will be backups, the amazing aspect of this training camp is how few roster spots are actually up from grabs.
It should really come as no surprise that roster spots would be scarce with the Bucs returning 21 of 22 starters from last year’s 11-5 NFC South champion squad, but would you believe that only nine roster spots are up for grabs according to my calculations? Nine?!
Here’s my list of players who I feel are virtual locks to make the Bucs’ 2006 roster, and I even included a couple of fringe players, such as running back Earnest Graham, wide receiver David Boston and defensive tackle Jon Bradley. Graham and Bradley are counted because of their importance on special teams.
QUARTERBACKS QB Chris Simms QB Bruce Gradkowski Who else? Will Tim Rattay or Jay Fiedler be in the mix? The Bucs will definitely keep three quarterbacks, so that means there are only eight roster spots left.
RUNNING BACKS RB Cadillac Williams RB Michael Pittman RB Earnest Graham FB Mike Alstott
Who else? Will the Bucs keep an extra running back like Derek Watson? More than likely, the team will keep an extra fullback, but will that be Jerald Sowell, Rick Razzano or Carey Davis? Factor in one more back and now Tampa Bay only has seven roster spots left.
TIGHT ENDS TE Alex Smith TE Anthony Becht TE-LS Dave Moore
Who else? Jon Gruden likes to use two tight end sets, but is it worth keeping an extra tight end on the team if it is Mark Anelli or Tim Massaquoi (it won’t be Matt Kranchick)? Probably, so the Bucs now only have six roster spots left to fill.
WIDE RECEIVERS WR Joey Galloway WR Michael Clayton WR Ike Hilliard WR Maurice Stovall WR David Boston
Who else? Even if the Bucs keep four tight ends, they’ll likely keep six receivers. Is that extra receiver Edell Shepherd, Mark Jones or Chas Gessner? Now the Bucs are down to five open roster spots.
OFFENSIVE LINE OT Anthony Davis OT Kenyatta Walker OT Jeremy Trueblood G Dan Buenning G Jeb Terry G Davin Joseph C Sean Mahan C John Wade
Who else? The Bucs likely go with a ninth offensive lineman, but will it be Toniu Fonoti, Scott Jackson or Torrin Tucker? With an extra lineman, Tampa Bay is down to four roster spots left.
DEFENSIVE LINE DE Simeon Rice DE Greg Spires DE Dewayne White DT Chris Hovan DT Anthony McFarland DT Ellis Wyms DT Jon Bradley
Who else? Tampa Bay could keep eight or nine defensive linemen, but they definitely won’t keep just seven. Andrew Williams and/or Julian Jenkins seem to have the early lead. Now the Bucs are down to three roster spots.
LINEBACKERS LB Derrick Brooks LB Shelton Quarles LB Ryan Nece LB Jamie Winborn LB Barrett Ruud LB Marquis Cooper
Who else? It’s hard to envision Tampa Bay keeping more than six linebackers, but if they do, Antoine Cash will likely be the one due to his play on special teams.
CB Ronde Barber CB Brian Kelly CB Juran Bolden CB Alan Zemaitis
Who else? The Bucs will keep a fifth cornerback, but will that player be Torrie Cox or James Patrick? Now Tampa Bay is down to two roster spots.
SS Jermaine Phillips FS Will Allen SS Kalvin Pearson
Who else? Expect the Bucs to keep four safeties. Will the additional safety be Blue Adams or Donte Nicholson? Only one roster spot remains, which can be a special teams wild card player from any ranks – likely linebacker or running back.
KICKING GAME K Matt Bryant P Josh Bidwell
As you can see, the fact that the Bucs have so many returning starters and quality depth through three real solid drafts has taken the guessing game out of figuring out Tampa Bay’s 2006 roster. The preseason games will put those nine lucky Bucs into focus. Stay tuned.
FAB 2. PewterReport.com has obtained the contract figures for the Bucs’ number one draft pick, guard Davin Joseph, which hasn’t been reported in detail by any other media outlet. Tampa Bay used the 23rd overall pick in the draft to select Joseph out of the University of Oklahoma, where he anchored the offensive line that has opened holes for Heisman Trophy candidate running back Adrian Peterson.
Joseph signed his multi-year contract on the eve of training camp on July 27 and reported to camp on time. Joseph’s deal is a five-year contract worth $8.25 million in base salary with $6.1 million in guaranteed money. There is also a $2.475 million escalator in the fifth year of the contract.
Joseph’s agent is Ben Dogra, who also represents running back Carnell “Cadillac” Williams. Williams was the Bucs’ first-round draft pick a year ago and also got signed and reported to camp on time.
If you have followed the developments on ProFootballTalk.com regarding the alliance of Dogra and fellow super-agent Tom Condon under the Creative Artists Agency representation umbrella, you might be interested to know that a lot of high-profile players are represented by Condon and Dogra, including: Williams (Dogra), Joseph (Dogra), fullback Mike Alstott (Dogra), middle linebacker Shelton Quarles (Dogra), guard/center Jonathan Clinkscale (Dogra), quarterback Chris Simms (Condon), nose tackle Chris Hovan (Condon), running back Michael Pittman (Condon), defensive end Simeon Rice (Condon), wide receiver Michael Clayton (Condon) and offensive tackles Kenyatta Walker and Jeremy Trueblood (Condon).
Getting Joseph and Trueblood done together on July 27 was quite easy for general manager Bruce Allen and senior assistant Kevin Demoff in the days leading up to camp because when they traveled to St. Louis and met with both Dogra and Condon on the same trip.
FAB 3. For those of you who are heading out to training camp next week (or have already been to camp) and wondered why head coach Jon Gruden or assistant head coach/running backs coach Art Valero yell out words like “Regular” or “U” or “Zebra” let me fill you in.
The Buccaneers have specific names for their basic personnel groupings and before a play can be called, quarterback Chris Simms needs to have the right personnel on the field. So when Gruden knows what play he wants to call he’ll relay the personnel grouping to Valero, who will echo Gruden’s call for specific players. Here’s a breakdown of Tampa Bay’s basic personnel groupings:
“Regular” – “Regular” is a basic set consisting of two backs, two wide receivers and one tight end.
“Patriot” – “Patriot” is the same personnel “Regular” grouping, but the special call on this play is that the fullback will not be in the backfield at the snap of the ball. In essence, the fullback will go in motion or be flexed out or split out wide on the play.
“U” – “U” personnel means two tight ends, two running backs and one wide receiver. You might hear Gruden say “U Galloway” or “U 19.” That means that Joey Galloway or Ike Hilliard will be the receiver in the formation, depending on which wideout Gruden wants in the play.
“Tiger” – “Tiger” is a two-tight end, two-receiver set with one back. Gruden will also accompany this with the name of a back, such as “Tiger Pittman,” which is a call for Michael Pittman to be on the field with that formation.
“Zebra” – “Zebra” means three wide receivers and the grouping consists of one back and one tight end.
“Eagle” – “Eagle” is a personnel grouping that features four wide receivers and a running back. Because Gruden likes to use the tight end position and two backs quite a bit, you’ll see more “Regular,” “Tiger” and “U” personnel calls rather than “Eagle.” Gruden rarely uses four wide receivers unless the Bucs offense is in a two-minute hurry-up offense at the end of the half.
So whether you are attending a Bucs training camp practice or are watching a behind-the-scenes sidelines or practice NFL Films clip, now you’ll know what some of Gruden’s terminology means.
FAB 4. Earlier in the spring, PewterReport.com did a story on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ dead salary cap room for the 2006 season. Here’s an update on the Bucs’ dead salary cap situation heading into the start of the regular season.
Presently, Tampa Bay has approximately $11.8 million worth of dead cap space. Why has that number gone upward from the $10.4 million figure that had been previously reported? Because of the dead money created by fullback Mike Alstott and right tackle Kenyatta Walker when they had the original 2006 years of their contracts voided.
Alstott had a very easily attainable playing time clause in his contract that voided out any future years past 2005. Per the clause, if Alstott basically played in any game in the 2005 season, the 2006 season on his contract would void, which is what happened. However, the result of that voiding left $504,000 worth of prorated money from his signing bonus.
Walker also had a playing time clause that voided out the final year of his rookie deal, which would have been the 2006 season. So Walker became an unrestricted free agent, but the left over proration from his 2001 signing bonus still hit the Bucs’ books for $903,335.
Both Alstott and Walker re-signed with the Buccaneers this past spring, but the dead cap money from former deals still remains. That’s how the NFL salary cap rules work.
Here’s a list of the Bucs’ top 10 dead cap money culprits:
OT Todd Steussie $2,666,668 QB Brian Griese $2,533,334 RB Charlie Garner $2,466,668 OT Derrick Deese $1,650,000 OT Kenyatta Walker $903,335 FB Mike Alstott $504,000 G Matt Stinchcomb $487,500 LB Jeff Gooch $200,000 WR Larry Brackins $164,000 DE Lamar King $151,000 (settlement)
Considering the fact that the salary cap took a significant jump this year with the Collective Bargaining Agreement extension and the fact that the Bucs now have approximately $5.6 million worth of salary cap space after signing cornerback Ronde Barber to a contract extension and signing all of the team’s draft picks, having close to $12 million worth of dead cap room, which is about average with the league, is not hindering the team’s plans for 2006 in any way.
FAB 5. Here are a few things to hold you over until next week:
• The Buccaneers feel so good about their cornerback position with the re-signing of Juran Bolden and the drafting of Alan Zemaitis that they essentially forced Blue Adams to play safety at the start of training camp to help him stand a chance of winning a roster spot. Adams is tough in run support and has great quickness and change of direction ability. The team needs help at the safety position and Adams knows the defense, so the move makes sense, although it came as a bit of a surprise to most.
• The reason why rookie wide receiver Maurice Stovall is being trained to experiment at tight end is because if an injury strikes Alex Smith, who has the best hands at the position, the Bucs will lack a receiving threat at tight end. Anthony Becht is a much better run blocker than he a receiver, and the early returns on Mark Anelli, Tim Massaquoi and Matt Kranchick have been inconclusive and unimpressive. Veteran Dave Moore has good hands, but at age 36, he simply can’t do much with the ball after the catch. With his 6-foot-5, 220-pound frame, Stovall can be a situational “flex” tight end in the Bucs offense because of his catching ability. While he is a good, physical blocker, Stovall simply doesn’t have enough bulk to match up well against defensive ends as an in-line blocker.
• I don’t know if he’ll make the team or not this year, but running back Derek Watson has one wicked spin move in the hole. I haven’t seen a Bucs running back execute a spin move in traffic with great regularity since Warrick Dunn was in Tampa Bay. Watson displays great balance and quick feet in the hole and keeps his pads down and squared. Most running backs have a signature move or feature. The spin move in the hole is Watson’s.
• According to sources close to Chris Simms, there has been no movement on a contract for the young quarterback, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in 2007. With cornerback Ronde Barber’s contract extension done, the Bucs might attempt to re-sign punter Josh Bidwell and/or defensive end Dewayne White to a new deal before beginning serious discussions with Simms. Bidwell and White have much more playing time than Simms has, so that’s probably a wise move on general manager Bruce Allen’s part.
• Why hasn’t rookie tight end T.J. Williams signed with the Bucs yet? It’s a no-brainer that Williams is going on injured reserve after tearing his Achilles’ tendon during the mandatory mini-camp, but there is a good reason why the Bucs haven’t inked their wounded sixth-round pick yet. In order to sign Williams to a contract he has to be on the active roster, and that would mean that Tampa Bay would have to cut a player to clear the roster spot – even though Williams would immediately be signed to the injured reserve list. The Bucs simply don’t want to have to make a transaction right now, so look for Williams to be signed and placed on IR after the first or second roster cutdown.
• Remember that NFL Europe players don’t count against the Bucs’ training camp roster and get a roster exemption until the final roster cutdown. That’s why you won’t see much of players like linebacker Jermaine Taylor or running back Jacque Lewis in the first two preseason games, but you will see them in the last two, especially the final preseason contests.
• And finally, Pewter Report wants to say thank you to all of our subscribers who have signed up for our training camp coverage and for all the great feedback we have received about our Pewter Insider articles. We would like to recognize the efforts of the Bucs’ public relations staff, which is the absolute best in the NFL, in our opinion. Director Jeff Kamis has an outstanding crew, consisting of Jason Wahlers, Derek Cuculich, Jacqueline Farruggio and Tony Morreale, who is a “stat god.” Without their hard work behind the scenes in terms of transcribing quotes, digging up statistics and lining up interviews, Pewter Report’s coverage wouldn’t be as good as it is.
This story is intended to be read by Pewter Insider subscribers only. Sharing of the PI content with non-subscribers of this service can result in cancellation of your subscription to the service and/or further actions by the publishers.
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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@example.com
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