Welcome to The Hook, my weekly column that hooks you into a different Tampa Bay Buccaneers topic each Thursday, as well as some of my thoughts on the Bucs and the NFL at the end in a section called Cannon Blast.
I invite you to offer me some feedback on The Hook below in the article comments section.
On our most recent Pewter Nation Podcast, which was released on Monday, my boss, Scott Reynolds, pointed out something that needs to be reiterated. When members of the PewterReport.com staff, including yours truly, write or talk about alternatives to Jameis Winston at quarterback for the Buccaneers that isn’t us necessarily saying that’s what we think Tampa Bay should do. We aren’t necessarily advocating for the Bucs to change quarterbacks.
It is simply us doing what the Bucs themselves are doing – looking at other options if Tampa Bay decides to move on from their former first-round pick. And from all we have gathered, it is a 50-50 chance Winston returns a this point.
I have gone on record multiple times stating that I believe the team should find a way to keep Winston for at least one ore season, whether it be the transition tag, the franchise tag, or even a team-friendly deal loaded with incentives. However the Bucs can keep him, I think they should do it. Let him have one more year in Bruce Arians’ offense to see if those turnovers decrease.
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Mary Holt/PR
But with that said, the team – and fans – need to be prepared for life after Winston. Tom Brady and Philip Rivers are long shots to come to Tampa Bay it appears. Then there are second-tier options like Ryan Tannehill, who appears destined to stay in Tennessee, Andy Dalton, who won’t get anyone excited, and Teddy Bridgewater, who reports say may command more money than Winston, and who has averaged just 173.9 passing yards per game over his career.
After those players, the next group is led by possibly Cam Newton coming off a surgically repaired foot, and former 2015 No. 2 overall pick Marcus Mariota. Neither of whom seems like a good fit in an Arians offense.
However there is a wild card out there. And depending how the dominoes falls in free agency, he could become available to the Buccaneers.
I’m talking about Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who checks all the boxes for what the Bucs need and what Arians covets in a quarterback.
In his book The Quarterback Whisperer: How to Build an Elite NFL Quarterback, Arians mentioned a number of things a successful quarterback has to have, such as smarts, heart, grit, accuracy, leadership and athleticism.
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians – Photo by: Getty Images
Carr checks all of those boxes.
I spoke to a former teammate of Carr’s in Oakland on Wednesday, who first qualified things by saying he doesn’t think Carr is going anywhere, but did say, Carr “is the best” and “he can do it all.” He also stated to me that “Carr is the best quarterback he has ever played with.”
I’ve seen the stats. Carr’s passes don’t travel far, his yards per catch are among the lowest in the NFL.
You know what else is among the lowest in the NFL?
Eight, 10, 13, six, 13 and 12.
Those are the number of interceptions Carr has thrown each year during his six seasons in the NFL.
Here are some more number – 4,054 and 4,409.
Those are the number of yards he’s thrown for in each of the past two seasons.
Worried about him getting the ball down the field? In six seasons, Carr has 280 passes that were completed for more than 20 yards and 51 that went for more than 40 yards.
Derek Carr – Photo by: Getty Images
And keep in mind that Carr has played his last two seasons in Jon Gruden’s offense – not exactly a scheme that oozes big plays.
In five seasons in Tampa Bay, Winston has 241 completions of 20 yards or more and 37 of 40 yards are more.
Prior to Gruden coming to the Raiders, how many Bucs fans can forget Carr completing 40-of-59 passes for 513 yards and four touchdown passes, plus another TD on the ground in a 30-24 overtime win at Raymond James Stadium in 2016.
A lot would have to happen for Carr to get to Tampa Bay. First the Bucs would have to make the decision to move on from Winston, which is not something I am suggesting they should do.
But it isn’t up to me.
Ultimately it is up to Arians and general manager Jason Licht, who might be thinking that Winston’s penchant for turnovers just can’t be fixed after throwing 30 interceptions last year. To suggest that Arians and Licht wouldn’t want a 4,000-yard passer that completes 64 percent of his passes with only a 1.9 interception percentage would be ludicrous. Of course the Bucs would take that.
But in order for the Raiders to give up on Carr and be willing to trade him they would first have to also find someone they think is better, that of course, would be Brady. Reports recently suggested the Raiders were prepared to offer Brady $30 million a year for two seasons. That doesn’t mean Brady even decides to leave the Patriots, but if he does, Las Vegas seems as likely a destination as any.
And finally, the Raiders would want compensation, and that means draft picks – probably at least a second-rounder and maybe an assortment of other draft picks.
It’s a steep price to pay, but Arians isn’t here for the long haul. The boat on Lake Oconee, Ga. is gassed up, the Yeti cooler is always full of ice, and the bar is stocked with Crown Royal. Arians isn’t going to beat his head up against a wall trying to break in a rookie quarterback over the next two or three years. He’s either going to coach Winston or another veteran quarterback.
Bucs DE Noah Spence – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
If it’s not Winston it should be Carr, who checks all the boxes.
What makes Carr even more attractive is the fact he has three more years left on his current deal – none which is more than $22.1 million per season. That’s a bargain for a top quality starter in the NFL these days. A steal, really.
It’s hard to fathom that the Bucs could turn their back on a 5,000 yard passer, who if his turnovers were half of what they were would have been in the MVP conversation last season. Tampa Bay would have likely made the playoffs if Winston had thrown just 15 interceptions, too.
It is a huge gamble to let Winston walk. I would keep him, but if Tampa Bay doesn’t, Carr is the guy to replace Winston and there might not be much of a drop-off anywhere other than the interception totals, which would be welcomed.
Cook’s musings and ramblings about the Buccaneers and the NFL. Good stuff. Check it out.
• If Bucs guard Alex Cappa wasn’t an NFL player, he could have a career as a roadie for a rock band like Lynyrd Skynyrd. For the record, I don’t even know what kind of music Cappa listens to, but it is safe to say Justin Bieber or Shakira haven’t ever popped up on his playlist.
Bucs OL Alex Cappa – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Metallica, Ozzy Osborne, maybe even the Foo Fighters, but you can’t tell me you can’t picture Cappa hauling amps and speakers out of a semi trailer into an arena, then standing with his arms folded outside the dressing room while the Jack Daniels is flowing behind the closed doors. Maybe even more than a roadie, Cappa could be security. He’s a tough guy and not just on the surface. This dude played two and half quarters after he broke his arm in a game this year against the Saints.
What song is it you want to hear? FREEBIRD!
• Speaking of music, with no more tunes being played at practices, and no ping pong table or basketball hoop in the locker room, we heard a lot of music blaring from the locker room during our daily 45 minutes we got with players during the week last season. Sometimes at levels so loud the Bucs PR staff had to ask the players to lower the volume so interviews could be conducted.
Rookie Devin White, some of the defensive linemen and a handful of other guys would usually have music playing during our daily sessions, but out of everyone, I want tackle Donovan Smith to DJ my 50th birthday next October. Despite being a fairly young guy, you never knew who Smith would be playing from locker on a daily basis. Sometimes his best friend, Ali Marpet, would give him recommendations to play, but Smith definitely has an eclectic musical taste. From modern hip-hop (do the young kids even call it hip-hop anymore?) to old soul from Motown to even a little country, Smith is my DJ of choice.
And he sold me when midway through the season he even blasted some Hank Williams, Jr. with A Country Boy Can Survive. I may have even left him off the Most Disappointing List a few times after hearing some Hank this year. My Pinecrest roots run deep.
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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