Copyright 2007

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Here are some things that caught my attention this week:

FAB 1. My true confessions as an NFL draftnik. Trying to forecast the Bucs’ draft picks and properly evaluate them afterwards looks much easier than it really is.

If I’ve learned one thing covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers professionally over the past 12 years, it is that I have to balance objectivity and my initial pre-draft impressions before stamping a lasting grade on the team’s first-round draft pick. I’m still going to come out with my initial reaction to what occurs on draft day, but after that day I’m going to try to bury my attitude towards the pick regardless of whether I personally champion the selection of a certain player or question it.

The reason I say this is because of what has transpired with the Bucs’ last four first-round picks, which, because of the Jon Gruden trade, dates back to 2001. In 2001, yours truly and almost everyone else in the local media sung the praises of former general manager Rich McKay for making an aggressive move by trading up with Buffalo to land Florida’s junior offensive tackle, Kenyatta Walker, trading away the team’s second-round pick to do so.

I applauded the pick because at the time McKay and director of player personnel Tim Ruskell could do little wrong on draft day as the failure of drafting wide receivers Reidel Anthony and Jacquez Green with the team’s first picks in 1997 and ’98, respectively, wasn’t fully recognized yet. Of course, hindsight is always 20-20, right?

The Bucs had Chris Foerester as its offensive line coach. If you think Bill Muir is bad, Foerester was much worse. Put Muir and Foerester in the same film room or team meeting room and it is easy to see who is the master and who is the pupil.

So not only did the Bucs burn a second-round pick and dump an immature, 21-year old with a big mouth, an attitude and the self-proclaimed nickname of “the Golden Child,” into Foerester’s lap, then make him switch positions from right tackle to left tackle and start him as a rookie. If that wasn’t a recipe for disaster, I don’t know what is.

Of course, I should have seen the signs because teams like Arizona, New England and Cincinnati, who desperately needed an offensive tackle, passed on Walker for a good reason.

But no one in the media, myself included, really saw that train wreck coming. We were too busy applauding McKay and the Bucs for a bold move to address the biggest need on the team – finding a left tackle who could finally replace Paul Gruber, who retired after suffering a broken leg at the end of the 1999 season. We in the media gave the Bucs a passing grade for Walker until years later when his numerous false starts, benchings and beatdowns by Julius Peppers became too obvious to ignore.

Walker deserves all the credit in the world for finally living up to his potential and playing extremely well in 2002 during the Bucs’ Super Bowl run. But he took on an attitude that he had “arrived” in the NFL just because he got a ring and his played slipped in 2003. A knee injury has since hampered his NFL career and he was released from the Bucs this past offseason after 2006 second-round pick Jeremy Trueblood proved he could be a competent starter at right tackle after an above average rookie season.

With Tampa Bay not possessing a first-round pick in 2002 or ’03 due to the Gruden trade, its next first-round pick came in 2004 with the selection of LSU wide receiver Michael Clayton. What you are going to hear from me next might sound like the biggest case of Monday morning quarterbacking you’ve ever heard: I didn’t like the Clayton pick at the time.

I knew the Bucs were going to take a wide receiver in the first round that year. Absolutely knew it. The local papers were speculating that the Bucs were going to take Miami middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma (he went ahead of the Bucs’ pick to the New York Jets) or Oregon State running back Steven Jackson (who went later to St. Louis) and downplaying the need for a wide receiver due to the presence of Keenan McCardell (who would hold out of the team’s mini-camps and training camp), Joey Galloway (who had a history of injuries) and Joe Jurevicius (who would hurt his back while rehabbing his knee and miss training camp).

Pewter Report knew better and labled wide receiver as the Bucs’ top need that year. Little did we know that Clayton would emerge alongside Tim Brown as a starting wide receiver when the Bucs had planned for him to be the fourth receiver as a rookie behind Galloway, McCardell and Jurevicius.

So I stuck my neck out and forecasted the Bucs drafting a wide receiver in the first round in 2004, although I pegged the wrong guy; similar to last year when Pewter Report knew that the team was going to take a guard in the first round but picked USC’s Deuce Lutui instead of Oklahoma’s Davin Joseph. In 2004, Pewter Report tabbed Washington receiver Reggie Williams as its Bucs’ Best Bet. Williams was taken earlier by Jacksonville and has yet to establish himself as a star in the NFL.

So draft day rolls around in 2004, Clayton is picked and I remember going on WDAE 620 AM with Steve Duemig right after the pick and say that I didn’t like selection because of Clayton’s pedestrian speed and inability to separate.

I will admit that the team’s front office quickly swayed my opinion on Clayton. Multiple team sources stressed his character, work ethic, leadership ability, physical presence and his hands. They convinced me he was the real deal.

But what I saw on film from his college days was a receiver who lined up next to fellow first-round receiver Devery Henderson and Skylar Green, another speedy LSU wideout that was drafted, and never had a target on his back. Clayton was never a marked man the way a player like Georgia Tech’s Calvin Johnson was in college. Clayton benefited from getting matched up against opponents’ second corner because Henderson, with his 4.4 speed, usually drew the best cover man, which, in college, is usually the faster cornerback.

Thank goodness I was influenced by the team’s front office about Clayton and bought into that pick immediately, right? I mean, the guy didn’t drop a single pass at the rookie mini-camp and broke team rookie receiving records with 80 catches for 1,193 yards and seven touchdowns during the regular season. He was easily the team’s offensive MVP as a rookie and had “future star” written all over him. I would have been a doofus for knocking this guy right away just prior to his stellar rookie campaign.

In 2004, all I could think about was how wrong I was about Clayton at the time, especially after he showed more speed than I thought he had in racing 75 yards for a touchdown in the season finale at Arizona. The kid finished second behind Pittsburgh rookie phenom quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for NFL Rookie of the Year honors crying out loud.

Three years later, I (and others) had learned a value lesson when it comes to draft pick analysis. One year does not make a career and draft picks should be evaluated over the course of about three years. While it was nice that the Clayton pick gave the team some immediate dividends, three years later, the Bucs are contemplating drafting another wide receiver in the first round and Clayton could be on his way out of Tampa Bay if he doesn’t rebound from injuries and limited production over the last two seasons (65 catches for 728 yards and one touchdown).

So was I right or wrong about my initial evaluation of Clayton? I still don’t know.

In 2005, I let my pride as a draftnik get in the way. All of the signs pointed to the Buccaneers drafting Auburn running back Cadillac Williams and I refused to see them. Gruden loved him and coached him at the Senior Bowl, and the Bucs definitely needed a running back. The problem was I thought Auburn running back Ronnie Brown would have been a much better fit in Tampa Bay than Williams (I still do).

I didn’t like the idea of making an NFL feature back out of somebody like Williams, who wasn’t one in college. Williams obviously didn’t do enough to avoid splitting carries with Brown at Auburn. That bothered me during my film sessions in the months leading up to the 2005 draft.

I just didn’t think Williams was the fifth-best player in the draft that year. I said last year that if Williams was in the 2006 draft class, which featured a lot more overall talent at the top of the draft, he might have been the third-best running back behind Reggie Bush and Laurence Maroney. Put Brown and Cedric Benson in that draft class, too, and Williams might have been the fifth running back taken – which means he could have fallen into the second round.

So what happened? A doofus alert.

The guy I wasn’t real hot on from my pre-draft study – Williams – comes out and breaks an NFL rookie rushing record for the first three games of his NFL career, rushes for over 1,000 yards to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors and becomes the driving force behind Tampa Bay’s NFC South championship title and playoff run. Needless to say, I was scratching my head over Williams’ 2005 performance. I just didn’t see it coming. I was baffled by how good Williams looked as a rookie.

I thought Williams had questionable receiving skills heading into the draft that one good week of catching the ball at the Senior Bowl could not erase. The fact that Williams has not shown the ability to catch the ball consistently over the last two years does back up that assertion.

Williams didn’t run nearly as hard as I expected him to run in 2006 after a great rookie season. He looked tentative and out of rhythm since training camp and had a sophomore slump that rivaled Clayton’s. Williams’ touchdown production went from six touchdowns as a rookie to just one score last year and he failed to rush for 800 yards in 2006.

Part of Williams’ lack of production could be attributed to a poor showing by the offensive line and his lead blocker, in addition to the fact that defenses spent most of the season crowding the line of scrimmage to stop the run because rookie Bruce Gradkowski was starting at quarterback. But Williams also didn’t run as hard or as confidently as he did as a rookie. That’s a fact.

Perhaps it was due to back spasms that seemed to bother him at the start of the season. Or maybe Williams is only a good running back in the vein of Reggie Cobb and Errict Rhett, who is capable of rushing for 1,200 yards, but will never develop into a complete, elite running back capable of making the Pro Bowl. I really don’t know. The fact that Gruden is seeking a back to split carries with Williams lends some credence to my initial evaluation.

I just remember the 2005 draft being very deep at running back and would have preferred the Bucs to draft another player (in hindsight, NOT Mike Williams, which was the player I was – gulp – high on at the time) in the first round and then picked a running back like Ryan Moats or Frank Gore later on the first day.

How about Joseph, last year’s first-round pick? After the trials of evaluating Walker, Clayton and Williams and their erratic play over their first couple of seasons, it’s very difficult to draw any conclusions at this point. Joseph played good – but not great – as a rookie and is expected to make strides in his second year as a starter. Of course, the Bucs expected to see Clayton and Williams take second-year strides themselves and we all know what happened.

Joseph has the tools to develop into a very good or possibly great offensive guard. But usually every first-rounder has the tools. That’s why they are first-round picks. It all boils down to how well they use those tools and are coached to use those tools.

The moral of this story is it does in fact take years to evaluate draft picks, and if it is one thing I’ve learned is that I’ll stick to my initial impressions a little more while being as objective as I can during my evaluation. Unfortunately, Clayton and Williams are becoming a little more like the players I thought they might become in the NFL. At this stage of the game, I have more confidence in Williams rebounding than I do Clayton, but Tampa Bay’s feature back needs to become a pass-catching force to thrive in Gruden’s offense.

Don’t think that I am rooting for any Buccaneer to fail just to say, “I told you so.” That’s not the case at all and it’s not my style. I understand that every one of you reading this is a Buccaneers fan and – for your sake – I would love nothing more than to be proven wrong.

FAB 2. Tampa Bay’s recent draft history shows that the team has drafted some good players, but not elite, Pro Bowl-caliber players in quite some time. While Williams, Clayton and Joseph show some promise and potential, none of them has yet to establish themselves as a Pro Bowler on a consistent basis. Joseph, of course, only has one year in the NFL under his belt.

But the last Pro Bowler to be drafted was kicker Martin Gramatica, who was the team’s third-round pick in the 1999 draft. Gramatica made the Pro Bowl after the 2001 season. That’s quite a drought. As the years roll by, the Bucs’ drafts from 2000 to present day appear to be getting worse and worse. Here’s my review of the first five drafts of the new millenium.

1. Traded away both No. 1 picks for WR Keyshawn Johnson
2. G Cosey Coleman – nothing more than an average NFL guard
3. LB Nate Webster – good hitter lacked intelligence to start
4. Traded to Carolina to move up to get Coleman
5. TE James Whalen – never played a down as he was too small and too hurt
6. S David Gibson – a special teamer with no starting potential
7. QB Joe Hamilton – was nothing more than an Arena League QB
Grade and Comment: Add Johnson to the draft and it was a “B-” because Keyshawn helped the Bucs win a Super Bowl. But just evaluating the players that were drafted and the grade is a “D+.”

1. OT Kenyatta Walker – a decent starter who never lived up to his potential
2. Traded to Buffalo to move up to get Walker
3. CB Dwight Smith – the best, impact player out of this draft class
4. SS John Howell – was nothing more than a special teamer
5. G Russ Hochstein – was always hurt and was eventually cut
6. FB Jameel Cook – a great special teamer and a good fullback
6. DL Ellis Wyms – the only remaining player from this draft, and a good one
7. TE Dauntae Finger – they drafted a blocking TE who couldn’t block
7. SS Than Merrill – c’mon … seriously!
7. DE Joe Tafoya – journeyman still bouncing around the NFL
Grade and Comment: Walker wasn’t a bust, just a disappointment. The Bucs made a mistake by trading away a second-rounder to get him. Smith and Wyms played well for the Bucs as starters, but what about the other six? The Bucs had 10 picks and whiffed with a “C-.”

1. Traded to Oakland for Jon Gruden
2. Traded to Oakland for Jon Gruden
3. WR Marquise Walker – too slow and arrogant, recommended by Stan Parrish
4. RB Travis Stephens – draft a RB who can’t catch for Gruden’s offense – nice job, Rich
5. SS Jermaine Phillips – is only a marginal starter despite the potential to be more
6. DE Josh Stamper – a stiff … McKay and Tim Ruskell should be ashamed
7. CB Tim Wansley – fell asleep in team meetings and got burned repeatedly
7. TE Tracy Wistrom – college star was not big enough to play in the NFL
7. PR Aaron Lockett – too small to play in the NFL
7. C Zach Quaccia – who?!
Grade and Comment: Gruden’s presence allowed the Bucs to win a Super Bowl, so that alone made this draft worthwhile. But hardly any of these players contributed to the championship. Phillips is the best player to come from this miserable lot. McKay’s reputation as a draft wizard takes a huge hit with this big, fat “F.”

1. Traded to Oakland for Jon Gruden
2. DE Dewayne White – valuable reserve couldn’t win a starting job for four years
3. QB Chris Simms – has yet to emerge as a consistent starter despite lots of chances
4. OT Lance Nimmo – huh … what in the hell was Bill Muir thinking?!
4. C Austin King – nothing more than a backup NFL journeyman
5. G Sean Mahan – a good late-round pick with starter potential at center
6. CB Torrie Cox – a very good special teamer that can stick as a dime corner
Grade and Comment: This wasn’t a bad draft, considering the previous three. White, Simms and Mahan have the talent to be NFL starters. Drafting Nimmo was embarrassing. This draft gets a “C+,” but loses its luster because White and Mahan will be playing elsewhere in 2007.

1. WR Michael Clayton – is he anything more than a one-year wonder?
2. Traded to Oakland for Jon Gruden
3. LB Marquis Cooper – memo to the Bucs … don’t draft anyone named Marquis(e)
4. FS Will Allen – really regressed in his first full year as a starter
5. G Jeb Terry – backup who has never been able to emerge as a starter
6. TE Nate Lawrie – c’mon … no more players from Yale, please
7. WR Mark Jones – should have drafted Wes Welker instead of this one-trick pony
7. FB Casey Cramer – how about no more Ivy League players in general?
7. CB Lenny Williams – never had a chance of making an NFL roster
Grade and Comment: The regression of Clayton and Allen and the fact that Cooper was a bust really lowers the grade of this draft. The Bucs just threw away their sixth- and seventh-round picks, too. What looked like a “B” grade a couple of years ago has become a “C-.”

It’s too early to tell what the final grades will be for the 2005 and the 2006 draft classes, but those two drafts show more initial promise than the previous five. However, it is safe to say that some members of each draft class are busts.

The Bucs wasted a 2005 third-round draft pick on Chris Colmer, who had Parsonage Turner Syndrome in his shoulder in college that caused excruciating pain. Colmer was medically cleared by the Bucs doctors prior to the draft, but it appears as if he’s having shoulder problems again and his NFL career is essentially over before it began. Fifth-round pick safety Donte Nicholson is back on the team after being cut initially, but hasn’t shown much promise.

Fellow fifth round pick Larry Brackins, who was a JUCO wide receiver, was a wasted ego pick by Gruden and wide receivers coach Richard Mann. Defensive tackle Anthony Bryant, fullback Rick Razzano, safety Hamza Abduallh and wide receiver J.R. Russell are either out of the league or are on their way out. Wide receiver Paris Warren, a seventh-round pick, remains buried on the Bucs’ depth chart.

Cornerback Alan Zemaitis, the team’s fourth-round pick in 2006, has yet to play a down. Julian Jenkins, the team’s fifth-round draft pick from a year ago, looks to be nothing more than an average player. The same could be said for seventh-rounder Charles Bennett. They might stick this year due to poor depth along the defensive line. Tight end T.J. Williams tore an Achilles tendon in mini-camp and fellow tight end Tim Massaquoi was a bust. Ditto for cornerback Justin Phinisee, a seventh-rounder.

If there was ever a time when Tampa Bay needed to come through with a 1995 draft (DT Warren Sapp and LB Derrick Brooks), a 1996 draft (FB Mike Alstott and CB Donnie Abraham) or a 1997 draft (RB Warrick Dunn and CB Ronde Barber), that time is now. After a decade of mediocre to poor drafting, the Bucs could use a Pro Bowler or two from an impact draft class.

FAB 3. I had the chance to spend some time with Tampa Bay’s new defensive line coach Larry Coyer recently at the team’s OTAs (organized team activities). He made a much better impression on me than former D-line coach Jethro Franklin made. I thought Franklin was an ass from the first time I met him. It turns out so did some of his players.

Coyer is a polite, respectful, feisty old guy that reminds me a lot of Monte Kiffin. He’s sharp as a tack and acts about 20 years younger than his age. I love the makeup of this year’s defensive coaching staff. Tampa Bay has some grizzled old vets in Kiffin and Coyer, and a trio of young up-and-comers in linebackers coach Gus Bradley, defensive backs coach Raheem Morris and assistant defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake.

Bradley has some Joe Barry-type qualities about him and is full of energy. Morris has grown into a Mike Tomlin clone while Lake resembles Morris from a couple of years ago.

While Bradley, Morris and Lake have all spent at least one year on Kiffin’s staff before, Coyer, who spent the last couple of years as Denver’s linebackers coach and defensive coordinator, is the true newcomer.

“This is a great organization,” Coyer said. “Our players have pride. Some of these players won a world championship, so don’t forget about that. It’s been a real easy transition for me.”

Thus far, he’s gotten rave reviews from the defensive linemen I have spoken with off the record that were dying for a change after Franklin’s motivation and coaching tactics proved to be unsuccessful.

“I couldn’t comment on what happened last year, I wasn’t here,” Coyer said. “I’m just fortunate enough to be here now. I just want to earn their respect. The way you do that is that you work hard, you ask them to work hard and then you work hard right along with them. You have to help them have success. These are great guys. Kiffin is great. The guys are great and they are really busting their ass and getting after it. It’s been easy for me.”

In last week’s SR’s Fab Five, Coyer provided some comments about the lineman he knows the best – defensive end Patrick Chukwurah, whom he coached in Denver. I probably know more about the returning defensive men than he does at this stage, so I asked him about new under tackle Kevin Carter, who was one of the bigger names in Tampa Bay’s 2007 free agency class.

“He can play end or tackle for us,” Coyer said of Carter. “He is a kid that really takes care of himself and he’s got some [Bill] Romanowski in him in that he wants to play well and takes care of his body all the time. He’s a hard worker and he’s a little different kind of guy. I’ve known him since he was in high school. I coached his brother, Bernard. He’s a high-class kid and a good athlete. After all these years, he still uses “Yes, sir” and “No, sir” and I think that speaks volumes about him. He and Spires and Hovan are all veteran guys who have been successful. I’m going to count on his leadership. Carter’s a hard-working guy who has had great success. I think he’ll come in and fit right in with what we’re doing. He knows what it takes to win.”

In addition to the title of defensive line coach, Coyer also carries the distinction of being an assistant head coach – a title he shares with running backs coach Art Valero. Part of the reason why Coyer was given the dual title is that Jon Gruden wanted to send a clear message to the team’s defensive linemen that they needed to respect him from the get-go.

Coyer said his responsibilities aren’t nearly as impressive as the sound of his title.

“[Being assistant head coach means] I could be going for sandwiches,” Coyer laughed. “No, it’s a nebulous thing, really. It’s really doing projects for Coach Gruden or Coach Kiffin. That’s my job. Anything they need me to do I’ll jump in and do it.

“It’s really been fun. The Tampa organization is great. I’ve studied them in-depth the last seven years. We modeled our defense [in Denver] after theirs very closely. This is going to be great.”

With a veteran like Coyer on board, that’s exactly what the Bucs are thinking.
FAB 4. If Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson and Wisconsin left tackle Joe Thomas are off the board by the time Tampa Bay picks at number four, why not draft Nebraska defensive lineman Adam Carriker? I know, Mel Kiper would be jumping up and down screaming “That’s a bad value pick!” just as he did last year when Buffalo picked Ohio State safety Donte Whitner with the eighth overall pick – about 10 picks ahead of where Whitner was projected to go. Kiper blew a gasket a couple of years ago over Cincinnati drafting Arizona State left tackle Levi Jones several picks earlier than he was slated to go, too.

Carriker has 134 tackles, 43 quarterback hurries, 41 tackles for loss, 20.5 career sacks, six pass breakups, one fumble recovery and one blocked field goal in his Cornhuskers career. He hasn’t missed a start over the last two years in which he has been an All-Big 12 performer. In 2005, Carriker burst onto the scene in college football with 43 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks and 21 QB hurries. Last year, he had more attention paid to him by opposing teams, but still managed to record 52 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, seven sacks and 12 QB hurries.

Tampa Bay coached Carriker at the Senior Bowl and came away very impressed with the 6-foot-6, 291-pounder who showed he could play left defensive end, right defensive end or under tackle in practice. Carriker was the most dominant player at the Senior Bowl – even more so than Louisville defensive tackle Amobi Okoye. Both players saw their stock skyrocket, with Carriker going from an early second-round pick to a mid-first-rounder with a stellar week in Mobile.

An outstanding NFL Combine sent Carriker’s stock even higher. His 33 reps of 225 pounds were tied for third among defensive linemen in Indianapolis. He ran a 4.90 in the 40-yard dash with a 10-yard time of 1.70 seconds and a 20-yard time of 2.83 seconds. Those numbers are on par with Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams, who ran a 4.66 at 258 pounds at the Combine, and are better than the times cranked out by Louisville defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, who ran a 5.06 in his first and only 40-yard dash with a 10-second time of 1.81 and a 20-yard time of 2.96.

After the Combine, Adams did the bench press and turned in 21 reps of 225 pounds, which was 12 reps behind Carriker. Okoye ran another 40-yard dash and produced a time of 4.88. But Carriker’s 40-times of 4.72 and 4.73 were simply amazing for a player who outweighs Adams by 30 pounds, and now Carriker is considered to be a player who will get drafted between 10-20 on draft day.

Would the Buccaneers be wrong to draft Carriker with the fourth overall pick? Not if they couldn’t find a trading partner. Ideally, the Bucs would only want to slide down a few spots, pick up an extra pick or two and grab Carriker at the bottom of the top 10. But that is much easier said than done.

When a team trades down on draft day, it has to trade down because of a pool of players – not just one. A team has to be prepared to watch another team pick its top targeted player before it has the chance to pick after the trade down. That’s why teams will be willing to trade down when a group of players they like are still available. But when teams like Buffalo and Cincinnati lock on certain players and don’t want to risk trading down, staying put and making the pick is the right thing to do – even if it is early.

Having said that. I believe Carriker would be an even better fit in Tampa Bay than Okoye or Adams. He brings tremendous size and a never-ending high motor, two things that Adams does not possess. Carriker also has more production when it comes to sacks, quarterback hurries and tackles for loss than Okoye has. Neither Adams nor Okoye can play left defensive end, right defensive and under tackle.

Carriker brings a great deal of versatility to the table and would be addressing Tampa Bay’s biggest need – defensive line. He’s also a serious, high character player who has never tried drugs. Adams and Okoye both admitted to past marijuana use in their NFL interviews at the Combine.

I’m not saying this will happen, but if Johnson and Thomas are off the board when Tampa Bay’s selection rolls around I’m targeting Carriker if I’m Bruce Allen and Jon Gruden and I’m not afraid to take him at number four if I have to. He could wind up being better than Adams and Okoye.

FAB 5. Here are some things to hold you over until next time:

• It was sad to see the Buccaneers let middle linebacker Shelton Quarles go. WDAE 620 AM afternoon host Steve Duemig was out in front of this story and he has a very valid point when he says that Tampa Bay general manager Bruce Allen and head coach Jon Gruden don’t do a great job of communicating with their players, or with the fans in a direct manner that explains the motives for making tough decisions, such as letting Quarles go. The reality is that the Bucs were ready to move on and start third-year pro Barrett Ruud at linebacker. Quarles’ bone-on-bone knee condition is no worse in 2007 than it was in 2005 or 2006, but that’s the reason the Bucs flunked him medically. However cold and harsh it was, though, I think the Bucs did the right thing. Tampa Bay wanted to move Ruud into the starting lineup with Derrick Brooks in the huddle him beside for experience rather than have the possibility of Brooks and Quarles retiring together after the 2007 season. I wish the organization would have told Quarles and the fans – right or wrong – that they were ready to move on at middle linebacker. That’s the truth. This is about a numbers game. Tampa Bay wants to draft a middle linebacker this year and can’t with Quarles on the roster. The Bucs will have Brooks, Ruud, Cato June, Ryan Nece and Jamie Winborn on the roster as virtual locks. That leaves one more spot for a rookie or Antoine Cash – not an injured player like Quarles, who will be 36 in September. I was a big fan of Quarles’ play and the way he handled himself on and off the field, but I think the timing is right to get Ruud on the field. It’s just a tough situation for Quarles. As Duemig said, the NFL is a nasty ass business sometimes. He’s right.

• Why do I have a funny feeling that the decision to not sign free agent quarterback David Carr may come back to haunt Bucs? I could see a change of scenery helping Carr erase his bad memories of Houston and the Panthers could make a seamless transition to Jake Delhomme to Carr when the time is right and have stability at the quarterback position. Thirty-seven year old Jeff Garcia signed a two-year deal and won’t be here in 2009. The guess here is that Chris Simms may not be either unless he fulfills his potential. Will Jake Plummer be the quarterback for the Bucs in a year or two? The Bucs hope that is the case, but I’ll believe it when I see it. I’m thinking that Carr would have been a better addition to Tampa Bay’s roster than Plummer. Both Carr and Simms could have learned under Garcia for a year or two and then the Bucs could pick one player to be his heir apparent when the time comes. Carr and Simms both have two years left on their current deals.

• On draft day, if Oakland selects LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell or Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn with the first overall pick, the cheers in Tampa Bay may actually be louder than the cheers in Oakland. That would mean the Bucs have at least a chance to draft Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson. If this guy ends up in Atlanta because the Falcons traded up with Detroit to grab him at number two, expect the Bucs’ front office to be vilified in the press and by the fans for not trading up to get him and having to face him twice each year in the NFC South division. However, if the Bucs do trade up and land Johnson at number two, Tampa Bay will be crucified by those same fans and media members for “wasting precious first-day draft picks.” Hopefully any deal with the Lions could include players – not picks.
• Tampa Bay will cut a few more players around the draft, and don’t be surprised if one of them is Ellis Wyms. Wyms has shown that he can’t stay healthy, but when he is healthy he produces. He tied Dewayne White for the sack lead with five last year despite missing several games with a high ankle sprain. Wyms’ problem is that he’s slated to have a $4.3 million salary cap value in 2007 and that he’s currently running third-string at under tackle behind Kevin Carter and Jovan Haye. If it happens and Wyms gets released, I won’t support this decision. I think Wyms’ versatility is too valuable to the team. This would be a mistake, regardless of the fact that he would be an overpaid backup unwilling to take a pay cut.

• If Tampa Bay does not come out of the 2007 NFL Draft with a return man, fear not. The Bucs are high on free agent signee Chad Owens. I’ll have more on him in the next SR’s Fab Five.

• Just a couple of quick business matters for you to benefit from:
1. Take advantage of the Pewter Report Draft Weekend Special and extend your combo (PI and PR) subscription for three years at magazine-only prices. You’ll save almost $20 by doing so and lock in today’s subscription rates for three more years. We don’t do this promotion very often at all. Take advantage of it and call our subscriptions department on Friday or Monday at 1-800-881-BUCS(2827). You can also e-mail us at [email protected]

2. When the Bucs make their first-round selection, you can be the first Bucs fan to get the top pick’s jersey by pre-ordering the jersey from Sports Fan-Attic, the official sports merchandiser of Pewter Report. Call 1-866-246-8118 or order from

3. Sports Fan-Attic is now selling Pewter Report subscriptions in their Tampa Bay area locations. You can renew or extend your subscription and save 10 percent on all of your purchases that day. If you renew or extend your subscription on Thursdays you will save a total of 20 percent off your purchases that day. All of their locations are listed in each issue of Pewter Report. Sports Fan-Attic will also be providing Pewter Report with monthly downloadable coupons for Pewter Report-Pewter Insider subscribers starting in early May. Now your PI subscription just became even more valuable.

4. If you haven’t done so, visit and check out their Bucs away games packages for this fall. Pewter Report will be making a trip or two as we did in 2005. Going to away games with other Bucs fans is a blast. These trips do book fast, so make your reservation today.

5. Jim Flynn and I hope to see you at Champps for the Pewter Report Draft Day Party. For those of you who are coming, please be sure to arrive no later than 10:30 a.m. ET as Champps is expected to fill up rather quickly. See you there!

Want the inside scoop on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2007 offseason plans? Want to find out who the Bucs are targeting in free agency and the NFL Draft? Subscribe to's Pewter Insider by clicking here.

Looking for the best selection of Tampa Bay Buccaneers merchandise? Pewter Report endorses Sports Fan-Attic, with 9 Tampa Bay area locations in most major malls. To shop for Bucs merchandise on the Internet, as well as the largest selection of NFL, NCAA, NBA, NHL, MLB and NASCAR, visit


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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for 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]