The San Francisco 49ers reportedly have former defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, the third overall pick in 2017, on the trading block. Thomas, who has two years remaining on his rookie deal, in addition to an option year in 2021, is set to earn $3 million in 2019 and $4.33 million next year. He’s not a good pass rusher and the 49ers still have two other better first-round defensive linemen in Arik Armstead (2015) and DeForest Buckner (2016).
The Bucs likely won’t bite on a trade unless it was a player-for-player swap that included defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who is a better pass rusher, because Tampa Bay does not want to give up any draft capital. The Bucs have tried to move the 31-year old McCoy this offseason, needing to free up salary cap space to sign the rookie class and make some more moves in free agency. McCoy, who is entering his 10th year in the league, is set to earn $13 million this year.
The other former first-rounder whose name is on the trading block is Houston edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney. The Texans placed the franchise tag on the 2014 first overall pick, who has recorded 29 sacks in his five year career, including 18.5 over the last two seasons. Houston and Clowney, a three-time Pro Bowler, are far apart in contract talks. The Bucs are already paying outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul $14.25 million this year, and can’t afford Clowney.
The problem for Tampa Bay in engaging in any potential player trades is the lack of salary cap space until more cap space is freed up.
Also the Bucs don’t have any interest at this time in trading for New York Jets linebacker Darron Lee, a former Todd Bowles first-round pick. The Jets are expected to release him if they can’t trade him and Tampa Bay may have some interest in him at that time.
UPDATED: April 25 – 9:30 a.m.
White Over Allen?
Nothing concrete to report as I certainly haven’t seen the Bucs’ draft board, but there is a distinct chance that Tampa Bay could have a chance at drafting either LSU inside linebacker Devin White or Kentucky outside linebacker Josh Allen. Would Bucs general manager Jason Licht select White over Allen?
It could happen. Be prepared.
That would cause some Bucs fans to lose their mind, as there are those that would love to see Tampa Bay draft an edge rusher like Allen, and don’t see the value of taking an off-the-ball linebacker like White with the fifth overall pick. And with Jason Pierre-Paul turning 30 this past January 1, Noah Spence still an unproven player, and Carl Nassib and Shaq Barrett in contract years, there is a need for another outside linebacker. So drafting Allen makes all the sense in the world.
LSU ILB Devin White – Photo by: Getty Images
But the Bucs are enamored with White’s speed and playmaking ability, and with running backs like New Orleans’ Alvin Kamara and Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey in the division, having a blazing fast linebacker like White that can cover and blitz also makes a ton of sense. White is viewed as an elite prospect, and his leadership ability is off the charts. Tampa Bay views him as a culture-changer, and that type of mentality is desperately needed on defense, especially with the departure of Kwon Alexander, who was the defense’s heart and soul, to San Francisco via free agency.
With Oakland hosting White for two days last week, there is an outside chance the Bucs may not even have a shot at White if the Raiders pull the trigger and take him at No. 4. If that’s the case, Tampa Bay would still be very happy to land Allen at No. 5, as the New York Jets will likely select Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver at No. 3 if the pre-draft smoke is valid.
While there have been some inquiries from Washington about trading up to the No. 5 spot in the first round with Tampa Bay, the Bucs won’t be trading down with the Redskins, who have the 15th overall pick in the NFL Draft and need a quarterback. There has been talk within the last 24 hours that the Redskins want to move ahead of the New York Giants to select Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins, but PewterReport.com has also heard that’s a smokescreen and the quarterback they prefer is Duke’s Daniel Jones.
Trading down 15 spots is too far for the Bucs’ liking. The Bucs have a line in the sand in terms of wanting to slide down, and it’s believed that line is No. 10, but it depends on how many of their Tier 1 prospects are still on the board and are available. Any trade general manager Jason Licht would make would only happen on the clock as the Bucs would want to see how many of the players they covet have been selected and how many remaining Tier 1 players are left when the No. 5 pick rolls around between 30 and 60 minutes after the 2019 NFL Draft begins.
After piecing together some intel and making some suppositions, here are the Bucs’ Tier 1 and Tier 2 players for the first round if I had to make an educated guess.
Alabama DT Quinnen Williams
Ohio State DE Nick Bosa
LSU ILB Devin White
Kentucky OLB Josh Allen
Houston DT Ed Oliver
Mississippi State OLB Montez Sweat
Florida RT Jamar Taylor
Florida State OLB Brian Burns
Clemson DT Christian Wilkins
Clemson DT Dexter Lawrence
Michigan ILB Devin Bush
Alabama RT Jonah Williams
Michigan DL Rashan Gary
Oklahoma RT Cody Ford
Washington CB Byron Murphy
LSU CB Greedy Williams
Mississippi State S Johnathan Abram
Oklahoma WR Marquise Brown
So if the draft went like this with no quarterback taken in the first four picks …
1. Arizona: Alabama DT Quinnen Williams 2. San Francisco: Ohio State DE Nick Bosa 3. NY Jets: Houston DT Ed Oliver 4. Oakland: LSU LB Devin White 5. Tampa Bay: Kentucky OLB Josh Allen
… then the Bucs would still not trade down because they would have the chance to draft an elite player – whether it’s Allen, White or Oliver – at No. 5. The only trade scenario Licht might entertain would be a swap from No. 5 to No. 6 with the New York Giants if the Giants really want a quarterback and are afraid the Bucs might deal down with the Redskins.
New York does not want to see NFC East rival Washington leap-frog them to take the first quarterback. Trading down one spot with the Giants would allow Licht the chance to pick up another draft pick and still be able to take Allen, White or Oliver one spot later.
Bucs’ Best-Case Scenario At No. 5
So what’s the best-case scenario for a trade down situation for Tampa Bay? This one might be the only situation where the Bucs would feel comfortable trading back a few spots because three elite prospects they covet are still on the board, but it’s highly unlikely to occur.
1. Arizona: Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray 2. San Francisco: Ohio State DE Nick Bosa 3. NY Jets: Houston DT Ed Oliver 4. Washington: (trade w/Oakland) OSU QB Dwayne Haskins/Duke QB Daniel Jones 5. Tampa Bay: Alabama DT Quinnen Williams
In this situation, Licht’s wildest dream comes true as he has the chance to select Williams, who is believed to be the number one player on the Bucs’ draft board, at No. 5. But Tampa Bay also has the chance to select White and Allen. With three of their top players available at No. 5, it would be tempting to move back a few spots, but the problem is that while the Giants need a quarterback at No. 6, the Jaguars, Lions and Bills, which pick seventh – ninth, respectively, don’t need a QB and won’t want to trade up. The would love to stay where they are and gobble up some of those defensive studs (Jacksonville will likely take an offensive tackle at No. 7).
Denver picks at No. 10 and needs help at quarterback and inside linebacker, but if the Broncos traded up with the Bucs it could very well be for White instead of a QB. And if the quarterback the Giants wanted is already gone, they may opt to draft Allen or Williams instead. So Tampa Bay would be shooting itself in the foot by trading down with Denver, as the Lions or Bills would make sure that both Allen and Williams would be gone by No. 10 when the Bucs were on the clock swapping picks with the Broncos.
If the above scenario happened, Licht would demand that a card with Williams’ name be rushed to the podium in Nashville. Trading down one spot with the Giants seems like the only reasonable trade down scenario the Licht might entertain.
Vea To Replace McCoy?
With the growing possibility that defensive tackle Gerald McCoy could be traded during the 2019 draft (or released afterwards to free up $13 million in cap room), the Bucs would need to draft a replacement at the three-technique spot, right? Not necessarily. Tampa Bay used the 12th overall draft pick on Vita Vea last year and he has the versatility to not only play nose tackle in Todd Bowles’ 3-4 scheme, but also the three-technique defensive tackle position. In fact, Vea lined up at both spots during the team’s three-day mini-camp, which McCoy did not attend.
Bucs DT Vita Vea – Photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I asked Vea if he had slimmed down this offseason (because it looks like he has) and he admitted he has lost some weight this offseason. Vea arrived at One Buccaneer Place last year at 347 pounds and played around 340 after losing weight while rehabbing his calf injury. If I had to guess, I would say that Vea weighs close to 330 pounds right now, and the added quickness he gained at his lighter weight will help him playing the three-technique defensive tackle spot if he indeed replaces McCoy.
Keep an eye on Clemson defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, a 6-foot-4, 350-pound mountain of a man, who is built similarly to Vea. We already know that Licht likes big defensive tackles, evidenced by the selection of Vea and the signing of 320-plus-pound defensive tackles like Chris Baker and Beau Allen over the last two years.
If Lawrence slides down into the latter picks of the first round or somehow falls to Day 2, the Bucs could pounce and trade up. Bowles was at the Clemson pro day and came away impressed with both defensive tackles Lawrence and Christian Wilkins, a three-technique defensive tackle, who will likely be drafted ahead of Lawrence.
Lawrence would be an ideal fit at nose tackle in Bowles’ 3-4 scheme and that would prompt the move of Vea to the three-technique spot to ultimately replace McCoy.
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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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