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Tampa Bay Buccaneers Division:
NFC South 2017 Record:
5-11 (4th in the NFC South) Subreddit: Buccaneers
Intro: in which TheFencingCoach Finds That his Expectations Did Not Meet Reality at All
In previous seasons, I tended to have a relatively
accurate pulse on the strength (or lack thereof) of the Bucs. In now my fourth season of doing these offseason writeups, I was only off by one win each year in my predictions. Along came the 2017 season.
This year, I was hoodwinked, bamboozled, and so wildly optimistic to the point I couldn’t recognize that my own ugly baby was in fact, very ugly. Besides the fact I predicted a 10-6 record and a division win, here are just a few of the many highlights of my Mr. Magoo levels of shortsightedness: Expectation: Mike Smith re-signing in Tampa was a good thing:
“Smitty re-signing in Tampa allows for the Bucs to continue building a foundation on both sides of the ball that hopefully will restore the team to prominence.” Reality: It wasn’t a good thing at all.
The Buccaneers finished 32nd overall in DVOA Defense Rankings, and 32nd overall in Total Defense. There was no restoration of the defense to prominence. In fact—an already mediocre defense regressed to a porous nightmare that couldn’t stop the run, couldn’t tackle, and allowed an average of 2.8 touchdowns per game. Against Arizona, we managed to make a 32 year-old Adrian Peterson look like prime Adrian Peterson (134 yards rushing). And if Alvin Kamara wants to send a thank-you card for helping him win a (well-deserved) OROY, he can send it to 1 Buccaneer Place—Four of his touchdowns came against us this year, including his magnificent 106 Kickoff return. Expectation: Chris Baker was a critical signing:
“For a starter who's pretty much in his prime, the Bucs got Baker at a bargain price and should be the run stuffing complement to McCoy we've needed for a long time.” Reality: Chris Baker did a wonderful Albert Haynesworth impersonation this year:
Against the Panthers in perhaps the most devastating loss of the 2017 season, an undisciplined Chris Baker cost us the game by jumping offsides on a 4th and 3 situation that could have won us the game. Baker had been warned of the hard count
by both Kwon Alexander and Gerald McCoy, but got the penalty anyway, which put the Panthers in position to win. Following the game, Baker was smiling and nonchalant about his critical error, which caused a subsequent fight in the locker room thereafter. Beginning with Baker’s lazy attitude displayed on Hard Knocks,
red flags should have gone off for us. He’s looking like Jason Licht’s latest free agent blunder in a laundry list. Expectation: Signing Ryan Fitzpatrick was cursed. But he’d be good to go if Jameis went down:
“He’s a good insurance policy at the right price if Winston goes down.” Reality: Signing Ryan Fitzpatrick was cursed. But he was good to go when Jameis went down:
After Jameis sustained a sprained AC Joint in his shoulder, Fitzpatrick was forced to start three games (he played in a total of six). He completed 58.9% of his passes for 1,103 yards, 7 TD’s, and 3 INT’s. Some people on Buccaneers
even suggested that Fitzpatrick was our future, and not Jameis. Some people on Buccaneers
were wrong. Expectation: Jeremy McNichols was a waste of a draft pick
“I’ll be honest—but McNichols was probably the pick I’ve been least excited about… his strength is primarily as a receiver (so is Charles Sims’). He’s got extremely slow burst out of the backfield, his vision is suspect, and I noticed a tendency to make multiple cuts before turning upfield.” Reality: McNichols didn’t even make the final roster.
McNichols’ struggles were well documented on Hard Knocks.
He was slow to pick up the playbook, he couldn’t block if his life depended on it, and he seemed to have a lackadaisical attitude about correcting his errors. McNichols was offered a practice squad spot, but he spurned the Bucs to go to the San Francisco 49ers instead. The plus side of drafting McNichols, is that we got to watch him FaceTime with Snoop Dogg on Hard Knocks. Expectation: Aguayo will win the starting job.
“I think Aguayo will win the job after a solid preseason and subsequently regress to rookie form.” Reality:
Aguayo did not win the starting job at all. In fact, he was cut after an abysmal preseason, only to be replaced by an abysmal Kicker in Nick Folk. Patrick Murray played serviceably to close out the season. What did we learn from this whole debacle, Jason Licht? We learned that we don’t use premium draft picks on Kickers.
2017: Key Statistics
|Category ||2016 Ranking ||2017 Ranking ||Δ |
|DVOA Offense ||19th ||11th ||+8 |
|Total Offense ||5,542 Yards ||5,816 Yards ||+274 |
|Total Passing Yards ||3,926 Yards ||4,366 Yards ||+440 |
|Total Rushing Yards ||1,616 Yards ||1,450 Yards ||-166 |
|DVOA Defense ||13th ||32nd ||-19 |
|Total Defense Allowed ||5,887 Yards ||6,049 Yards ||-174 |
|Total Passing Yards Allowed ||4,012 Yards ||4,169 Yards ||-157 |
|Total Rushing Yards Allowed ||1,875 Yards ||1,880 Yards ||-5 |
|Total Sacks ||38.0 ||22.0 ||-16.0 |
|TurnoveTakeaway Differential ||+2 ||-1 ||-3 |
|Penalty Flags ||102 ||104 ||+2 |
|Player Arrests ||1 ||1 ||0 |
|Player Fines ||$1.6M ||$110K ||-$1.49M |
The Top Stories of the 2017 Season The Muscle Hamster Finishes His Four Game Suspension. Proceeds to Play Poorly. Is Suspended by Team for Violating Team Rules:
When Doug Martin’s career ends, he’ll be another tale of “what could have been.” One of the most commonly recited facts only next to “did you know Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham played basketball in college?” and “Mike Glennon is the greatest QB to ever play professional football” is the fact that in two seasons of play, Doug Martin ran for 1,400+ yards, then didn’t hit 500 yards in any other season. And that’s the frustration with Martin. When he’s on, he’s one of the most electric backs in the NFL. But time and time again, Martin’s proven he lacks motivation. Once he got his payday after a 1st Team All-Pro performance in 2015, he regressed to 500 yard Doug, was suspended for PED’s, and then shockingly, was suspended in-house for violating team rules. With Martin’s PED suspension, he forfeit his signing bonus, making him expendable in the coming offseason. It simply isn’t worth paying the man $7.1M/year when he can’t perform on the field and can’t stay out of trouble off of it. I’m afraid his jersey will join my Buccaneer Paraphernalia Pit of Misery that includes Josh Freeman, Gaines Adams, and Darrelle Revis. So long, farewell, Muscle Hamster. I have a feeling you’ll do well elsewhere, at least for one season. Mike Evans Fails to Control his Emotions:
Mike Evans had a series of temper tantrums this last year that reflected poorly on him. There was first his sideline meltdown where he won the ice bucket challenge and cured ALS
. Then, there was his bush league blindside hit of Marshon Lattimore after Jameis acted like a toddler
that resulted in a well-deserved one-game suspension. After reaching All-Pro status in 2016, Evans regressed this year, and his temperamental antics didn’t help. He’s got to be smarter and more in control. Period. Jameis Becomes a Bad Meme. Jameis’s Turnover Problem Gets Worse. Jameis is Accused of Sexual Asssault…Again:
2017 was Jameis’s roughest year in the NFL, both on and off the field. Let’s start off with that whole “eating W’s” thing. In case you couldn’t tell from Desean Jackson’s face, he didn’t buy into the motivational,
went to town making fun of it. It just didn’t work. The turnover issues that existed at FSU and continued into Jameis’s rookie and sophomore NFL seasons was exacerbated this year, particularly when it came to fumbles. In 13 games, Jameis turned the ball over an average of 1.7 times per game, and his fumbles against the Panthers that caused an emotional sideline outburst
were just bad.
Worse than any memes or on field performances was the surfacing of a new sexual assault allegation against Winston. BuzzFeed News
published an explosive report that Winston was accused of grabbing a female Uber driver’s crotch in March of 2016. The driver immediately filed a report, resulting in Winston’s subsequent ban from the ridesharing service. Many details on the allegations remain murky, including who was in the vehicle, where each passenger sat, and who got dropped off and when. I’m withholding judgment until more is known, and hope the NFL will conduct an investigation. Nevertheless, it’s another sign that trouble seems to find Jameis. Mike Smith Forgets How to Coach:
After rumors of Mike Smith’s courtship for a head coaching position last year, he re-signed with the Bucs following a promising 2016 season. Everything went to hell in 2017. The blame doesn’t fall solely on Mike Smith. He was handed a very
incomplete defensive unit that was then plagued by a bevy of injuries. Our pass rush generated an NFL worst 22.0 sacks—16.0 less than last year, leading to the firing of DL Coach Jay Hayes. The Bucs finished last in the league in defending third down conversions, with 48% of our opponents converting. The problem with Smith’s scheme is that it felt like chaos and disorder, and it failed to form an identity. The defensive play calls were too conservative. Four man rushes were the norm, and Smith rarely sent in a LB (like the speedy Lavonte David or the punishing Kwon) to pressure the QB when his line failed to deliver. Corners were rarely playing press coverage and allowed devastating gains off slant routes and short reads. We even made Mohamed Sanu look like one of the best QB’s in the NFC South (he’s a WR). The impatient fan in me believed he should be fired. The objectivist in me is saying “give him one more chance.” The excuses are running out, but the problems with this team are deeper than Smith and Koetter (more on that later).
Free Agency – Analysis of Who’s on the Docket and how to Handle Them
|Player ||Status ||Analysis |
|Brent Grimes (CB) ||UFA ||Brent Grimes exceeded expectations in the two years he spent in Tampa. Originally a pickup after he was cut from Miami, Grimes signed a reasonably cheap 2 year, $13.5M deal. In a secondary that had been chockfull of incompetence and knuckleheads, Grimes came in, outplayed his contract, and quickly became one of the most reliable cogs on our defense. As much praise as one can heap on Grimes, the fact remains that he will be 35 years old when the 2017-2018 season begins. Grimes reportedly mulled the concept of retirement last offseason. The question is—how much physical ability does a 35 year old have left in the tank? How much motivation? And if he did continue his NFL career, wouldn’t he want it to be with a playoff contender? *Verdict: It’s time to let Grimes walk. I look forward to seeing Miko’s tweets after he leaves. Just kidding, no I don’t. |
|T.J. Ward (SS) ||UFA ||If Chris Baker was the Tweedle Dee of our 2017 Free Agent signings, T.J. Ward was Tweedle Dumbass. After being waived by Denver, the Bucs picked up T.J. Ward late in training camp for a 1 year, $5M deal. What we got on the field from Ward on the field was mostly forgettable. He broke up some screen plays with ease, but that’s about it. What we got off the field? A felony drug charge and publicly calling out our coaches for his lack of playing time. Verdict: No-brainer. Let him walk. |
|Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB) ||UFA ||Having a reliable backup QB is not a luxury. It’s a necessity (see Case Keenum and Big Dick Nick). Fitzpatrick is another illustration of a good backup’s importance, and he’s a more proven commodity than the unknown Ryan Griffin. You know who I really want to be our backup QB? Better yet, I would prefer him as our starter for life. You know damn well who I’m talking about, and if you don’t, drop down and kneel until you do. Verdict: Re-sign Fitzpatrick. Consider drafting a developmental QB with a late round pick to compete with Griffin’s roster spot. |
|Robert McClain (CB) ||UFA ||Robert McClain was intended to be a depth guy, but after multiple injuries to our secondary, he was thrust into the starting lineup for 9 games. For the most part, he played serviceably. McClain has been a journeyman thus far in his career and shouldn’t command much on the open market. Verdict: A one year deal for cheap value would be a good depth signing. If he signs elsewhere, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. |
|Evan Smith (C) ||UFA ||Evan Smith is the sole survivor of “The Great Licht Spending Binge of 2014” which included winners like Anthony Collins and Michael Johnson. When we initially relied on Smith as a starter, the results weren’t pretty, and I have memories of Josh McCown getting blasted through the A-Gap many-a-time. But when we leaned on Smith as a reservist, his ability to bounce between Center and Guard was of great value. When the Bucs signed Smith to a $14.25M deal, we paid him like an intended starter, but Smith hasn’t been a full time starter since 2014 (had 13 total starts between 2015 and 2017). In the unlikely event the Bucs can find a way to pay Smith like a reservist and not a starter, he’d be worth keeping. At this point in his career, he’s more likely to find a bigger payday and/or go to a playoff contender. Verdict: Let him walk. |
|Charles Sims (RB) ||UFA ||Charles Sims became a symbol of the predictability of a Dirk Koetter offense, by no fault of his own. Brought onto the field only on obvious passing downs, Sims wound up averaging about one carry per game, but was targeted on passes out of the backfield 48 times this year. In other words, when the man stepped on the field, there was a 70% chance he would be thrown the ball—just one of many elements that made our third down offense both predictable and lacking innovation. Sims’ career in Tampa has been a mixed bag. After spending the beginning of his career battling various injuries, he quietly gained 1,000+ yards from scrimmage in 2015, but has only gained 683 yards from scrimmage in the two seasons since. Sims has the potential to excel in an offense that utilizes its RB’s in a balance of rushing and pass plays. That offense is unlikely to be the Bucs’. Verdict: Let him walk. I have an odd feeling he’ll wind up in Baltimore. |
|Kevin Pamphile (G) ||UFA ||In his second year starting for the Bucs at LG, the results weren’t always pretty. His two starts against New Orleans this year came to mind as facepalmers, and even on a line that included the slothful and concrete footed Donovan Smith, Pamphile stood out as the weakest link on a terribly weak unit. There’s an old Russian proverb that reads: “don’t kill the Tsar until you know who his replacement is.” And as bad as our OG’s have been between Pamphile and Sweezy, there may not yet be a viable Plan B. Bucs should take a look at Andrew Norwell and Justin Pugh’s price tags. If either could be signed, both would do a better job of keeping Jameis from getting murdered. Verdict: Make a strong attempt to sign an upgrade. If the Bucs can’t find one, keep Pamphile in house as a frugal deal. |
|Keith Tandy (FS) ||UFA ||I don’t really know what to make of Keith Tandy. He’s one of the few remnants of the atrocious Mark Dominik era, who rarely got used as a starter but showed he was capable of making clutch, flash plays in the few moments he saw the field. His last second heroics in 2016 were the main reason the Bucs finished with an unexpected winning record, yet he found himself limited to just over 200 snaps in 2017. Re-signing Tandy would be a low-risk move that would provide us with reliable Safety depth with familiarity in our defense. Verdict: Re-sign the guy, and for the love of God, if you’re deciding to start Tandy or Conte, pick the former. |
|Cameron Brate (TE) ||RFA ||Cameron Brate attended Harvard. Now that we’ve established that, I want to discuss my hottest take in this entire post: Cameron Brate is one of the best players on our offense, and we should do everything in our power to trade him. What do I mean by this? In 2017, the Bucs selected O.J. Howard in Round 1, who played with great promise as a rookie (more on that in the next section). The needs of the Buccaneers run deep, and as a skill position player, Brate is expendable for the right price. We have three options with Brate: let him play one final season in Tampa before he hits the open market, trade him while he’s hot, or spend what will be a lot of money re-signing him. Verdict: Put a 2nd round tender on him and see if anyone will bite. |
|Nick Folk (K) ||UFA ||Nope. Niet. Hell naw. Verdict: Nope. |
2017 Rookie Review
I always subscribe to the philosophy that you don’t truly know who a player is until three years (or even more) into his NFL career. A rookie can enter the league and take it by storm (see RGIII), or he may need time to adjust to the nuances of the pros (see Eric Fisher). I’m still holding out hope that Vernon Hargreaves III will become the player we thought he could be… So take this rookie review with a grain of salt. It’s intended to talk about the trajectory, where these players can improve, and who to watch in the coming season.
|Round/Pick ||Player ||Analysis |
|Round 1, #19 Overall ||O.J. Howard (TE – Alabama) ||O.J. Howard had a very promising rookie season in which he caught 26 passes for 432 yards with 6 TD’s. He proved to be as valuable as advertised while being used as an extra blocker in the run game. Unfortunately, the KoetteMonken offense failed to call many 2-TE sets, which would have caused some mismatch nightmares and perhaps bolstered Howard’s statistical production even more. Howard has one large Achilles heel to his game that must be addressed. As a 6’6 target, Howard was often seen running upright after catching the ball. Exposing him to big hits (including the one that put him on IR) and making him easy to bring down. Howard can improve heading into year two by getting his pad level down and better protecting himself from potentially devastating hits. Outlook: Positive |
|Round 2, #50 Overall ||Justin Evans (S – Texas A&M) ||Justin Evans may not be the best player on our defense. Not by a longshot. But after watching his rookie season, he’s certainly the player I’d flag to have the most potential on defense. In many ways, Evans reminds me of a young Troy Polamalu in his ability to seemingly teleport all over the field, come into the box as an eighth man, deliver big hits, and provide safety help over the top when needed. In his final two seasons at Texas A&M, Evans had an alarming 38 missed tackles. That didn’t seem to be a problem during his rookie season, and hopefully that will continue. Evans has a long way to go, but he’s a guy to keep your eye out for coming into next year. Outlook: Positive |
|Round 3, #84 Overall ||Chris Godwin (WR – Penn State) ||I made a bet with a friend that Chris Godwin wouldn’t have more than 15 catches as a rookie. He doubled that and then some, while also adding 534 yards through the air. Godwin’s highlight of the season was his brilliant 39 yard TD to beat the Saints as time expired in week 17. He also pooped his pants against the Vikings. Initially undermined by packages that put Desean Jackson out on the field in favor of him, Godwin began to establish himself as a viable WR who Jameis began to favor as the season progressed. Godwin is a player to watch during training camp. He could surprise and overtake Desean Jackson as the starting WR2. Outlook: Positive |
|Round 3, #107 Overall ||Kendell Beckwith (LB - LSU) ||Beckwith was a huge gamble. When drafted out of LSU as a Mike, Beckwith was coming off a torn ACL and tasked with bouncing outside to SAM, learning an entirely new position. Not only did he recover from the ACL for sooner than expected, but he started day one, even bouncing back inside during Kwon Alexander’s hamstring injury. Beckwith looks to continue a trend of LSU defender success in the NFL. Outlook: Positive |
|Round 5, #162 Overall ||Jeremy McNichols (RB – Boise State) ||He ded. Outlook: Dead. |
|Round 7, #223 Overall ||Stevie Tu’ikolovatu (NT – USC) ||Tu’ikolovatu was placed on IR before the season began. Already a longshot to make the final roster, Tu’ikolavatu will have even more of a challenge in year two. Outlook: Negative |
Top Needs Entering Free Agency and the Draft (in no Particular Order Because We’re Kind of Screwed in Each Category) LT:
There is no player I played closer attention to in the 2016 than Donovan Smith, especially in my All-22 reviews following games. You can read one of those right here, if you’re interested
. My conclusion at the end of this season, is that Donovan Smith is one of the worst LT’s in the NFL and one of the principal roadblocks to Jameis’s progression. Andrew Luck is a sign from Jameis’s future that shows when you fail to protect your franchise QB, you may never know his true potential. Donovan Smith allowed 7 sacks this season, 9 hits, and 26 hurries. In the run game, he had the mean streak of a tranquilized pygmy shrew. Potential Solutions: Connor Williams (OT – Texas) LG:
Neither Kevin Pamphile nor J.R. Sweezy proved adequate playing on the interior line. Does Jameis deserve blame for his 7 INT’s and 7 lost fumbles during the 2017 season? Absolutely. Would he have made such erratic decisions if he had more time to throw the ball? I’m actually not entirely sure…?
Point remains that the entire left side of our line is in dire need of an upgrade. Potential Solutions: Justin Pugh (UFA – Giants), Andrew Norwell (UFA – Panthers), Question Nelson (OG – Notre Dame) DL:
The Bucs had a league-worst 22.0 sacks, and that number barely paints the full picture. Watch our pass rush on game tape, and you might as well photoshop a pina colada or a strawberry daquiri into an opposing QB’s hands, because most of them had enough time in the pocket to leisurely sip on one. The problem remains that the Buccaneers have not had a 10+ sack rusher since Simeon Rice, and that problem is further compounded over Jason Licht’s aversion to investing picks on DL. Gerald McCoy has spent his entire career since 2010 as the sole source of our team’s run defense and pass rush. This is a problem that has now extended through three coaching regimes and two front office changes that hasn’t been addressed. Potential Solutions: Ziggy Ansah (UFA – Lions), Demarcus Lawrence (UFA – Cowboys), Bradley Chubb (DE – NC State), Dontari Poe (UFA – Falcons), Da’Quan “Not Bowers” Jones (UFA – Titans), Justin Ellis (UFA – Raiders), Throwing Chris Baker into a Wood Cutter Feet First (The Right Thing to Do). CB:
Another unknown with razor thin depth. With a 34 year old Brent Grimes scheduled to become a UFA and Vernon Hargreaves III still getting his sea legs, CB remains a huge area of need. The NFC South has arguably the deepest QB group in Brees/Newton/Ryan, and WR’s like Julio Jones who continue to make our secondary look like a JV squad (307 yards against the Bucs in 2017). The current secondary is simply unequipped to stop the aerial assaults in the division, and if not addressed in the draft and/or free agency, the Buccaneers stand to remain stagnant in the coming season. Potential Solutions: Trumaine Johnson (UFA – Rams), Kyle Fuller (UFA – Bears), E.J. Gaines (UFA – Bills), Josh Jackson (CB – Iowa), Denzel Ward (CB – OSU)
Free Agency: The 2018 Wish List
- Andrew Norwell (G – Panthers): In the history of the Bucs, we have time and time failed to ever build an offensive line (Carl Nicks still gives me nightmares to this day. Thanks MRSA). For the first time since Josh Freeman, the Bucs look like they have someone who maybe possibly but I’m not really sure what to think of him could be a franchise QB in Jameis Winston. And just as the Colts failed to protect Andrew Luck, we’re walking down a similar road with Jameis now, and protecting him must be a top priority. Norwell is a player worth opening the checkbook for. He allowed 0 sacks in the previous season, 0 QB hits, and only 13 total pressures. At 26, he’s exactly the kind of building block we could use and would be a significant upgrade over Pamphile or Sweezy. He’s my top target.
- Justin Pugh (OG/OT – Giants): Pugh is at the top of this list for the same reason as Norwell: he’s an established veteran who also has the versatility to bounce outside to Tackle. That kind of flexibility makes for an upgrade over UFA Evan Smith, who played neither Guard nor Center particularly well. I wouldn’t mind signing both Pugh and Norwell to upgrade our interior line, but that’s an unrealistic pipe dream
- Ezekiel Ansah (DE – Lions) I have loved following Ansah’s career thus far, and he had a fan in me the moment he got drafted and came on stage to shake Roger Goodell’s hand in 2013 wearing 3D glasses. He’s got a cool story behind him. Coming out of college, he was a case study in your so-called “boom or bust” prospects. In college, he had only 4.5 sacks, but he didn’t play any high school football whatsoever, walked onto the BYU team, and only saw action four games into his senior season. Five years into his NFL career, he’s shown he can be a top 4-3 DE when healthy. He’s only played 16 games in 2/5 seasons, but he’s made the most of it when he’s on the field (44.0 sacks). This is a player in his prime with good football ahead of him. He’s worth pursuing.
- Trumaine Johnson (CB – Rams) I’ve touched upon our severe issues in the secondary already, but it’s a need that can’t be addressed in free agency or the draft alone. Grimes is in need of a replacement, and VH3 just isn’t ready to shadow the WR1’s of the league yet. After Janoris Jenkins’ departure for the Giants, the Rams placed faith in Johnson to be an integral cog of an already impressive defense. He’s proven himself as a solid CB, and should be on Jason Licht’s speed dial when the non-tampering period opens up.
- Eric Reid (S – 49ers) Though he’s struggled with injuries recently, Reid is the kind of tone-setter and ballhawk that would be a better option than T.J. Ward or Chris Conte (then again, so would my Bob Ross Chia Pet). Reid’s the kind of free agent who teams will pay a premium price for despite the recent injuries, but it’s worth the gamble. He’s been a solid player when healthy. I’d hope he plays better than our last 49er Safety signing Dashon Goldson.
- Dontari Poe (DT – Falcons) One of the funniest combine clips I’ve seen to this day is when Mike Mayock was absolutely obsessing over the size of Dontari Poe’s butt. I mean, Mayock really loved his butt to the point he was drooling over it on live television like Sir Mix-A-Lot playing at a Bar Mitzvah. Poe’s best suited as a 0-Tech, but with our continued failures on DL, I’d try him out as a 1-Tech. You know how people sometimes shitpost on NFL and say “should the Browns draft a QB with every single pick in the draft?” Part of me feels that way, but with DL…but also signing every single one of them in free agency.
- Teddy Bridgewater (QB – Vikings) Adding Bridgewater to this list with the assumption the Bucs move on from Fitzpatrick or fail to bring back the Ginger Adonai. Bridgewater was poised for a breakout season in 2016 before being inflicted with a gruesome knee injury that nearly ended his career. At this point, he’s cleared for contact, and miraculously recovered. The Vikings are likely to let Bridgewater walk, and yet I can’t imagine a team will open up the wallet for starter money for Bridgewater with the unknowns around his health. Bridgewater was my top draft target in 2014 for the Bucs. Bring him in as a backup now and see what he’s got.
- Demarcus Lawrence (DE – Cowboys) Lawrence would be higher on my list if I felt like he could hit the open market. I suspect the Cowboys will franchise him or sign him to a long-term deal. This last season was his breakout year, where he racked up 14.5 sacks and was a constant QB terrorizer. I’d peg the Bucs chances of landing Lawrence close to 0, but one can dream, right?
- Malcolm Butler (CB – Patriots) After we handed the Patriots Darrelle Revis and Aqib Talib on a silver platter, I suppose it’s our turn to get one of their CB’s. Butler’s low on my list for a few reasons: his price tag will be high, Patriots players have typically fared poorly outside of New England, and there’s something weird about Belichick benching him before Super Bowl LII for reasons still unknown. All these concerns mean Jason Licht will likely sign him to a massive deal. Perhaps Butler will become the player Asante Samuel was able to be for a brief time in Philadelphia. Perhaps not.
- Sheldon Richardson (DT – Seahawks) Richardson is an undeniable talent, and playing with the “Sons of Anarchy” with the Jets was a beautiful sight to behold. There’s also that unresolved feeling I have in knowing the pick we traded to the Jets for Revis wound up being Sheldon Richardson. Richardson is the kind of guy you sign to an incentive-laden deal. To give him guaranteed money would mean putting your faith in a player who turns on the “elite switch” as he chooses.
Closing Thoughts: Jason Licht a Horrible General Manager and I Can’t be Convinced Otherwise at this Point. Brace Yourselves for the Coming Offseason
After 2015, many called for Lovie Smith’s head and got what they wanted. After 2017, many echoed the same sentiments for Dirk Koetter. But the recurring issues with the Bucs start with our front office. I've been a long-time critic of Jason Licht. The crux of my criticism of Licht boils down to my opinion that he is good at finding individual talent, but not very good at building a complete roster. It's easiest to explain this year by year. 2014, Licht went all-in on offense. Given how abysmal our offense was in 2013, this may have seemed like a logical approach, but the lack of balance in that draft continues to plague us until this day given how narrow our depth is there. From that draft, we're left with only two players: Mike Evans and Kevin Pamphile. This was the infamous year of Michael Johnson and Anthony Collins as well, two of the most disastrous free agent signings in franchise history. Alteraun Verner, viewed as a cheaper and more scheme-friendly version of Revis was also brought in at a high price tag and never properly utilized.
We move onto 2015, and once again, continue to focus on offense, offense, offense. Picking Jameis #1 overall is a decision Licht deserves credit for, and trading up to take a D3 guard in Marpet is another slamdunk move he made here. Taking Kwon in the 4th round was another Licht steal, and this draft probably represented his high point. When Kwon was taken in the 4th round, it was the first time the Bucs had selected a defender in the Licht era. It took us 11 picks
into his tenure to select a defender, and as the 2014-2015 classes begin to hit their stride, we’re left with a huge void on defense. While we needed a franchise LT, Donovan Smith has been hot garbage, and if the last season didn't suck out whatever faith people still had in him, I don't know what will. Oh, and in terms of Licht’s 2nd round picks, has anyone seen Austin Sefarian-Jenkins around?
We move onto 2016, and he finally says let's invest in our terrible defense. VH3 gets picked #11 overall after we trade down from #7, and no matter what people say, this was the right move. Licht takes a gamble on Noah Spence in Round 2, and he's been good when healthy. Then, there was the Roberto frickin’ Aguayo pick. Here we have a still incomplete roster that hasn't made a playoff since three head coaches ago, and what does he do? He trades up to take a kicker when we had an 82.1% accurate kicker in Barth.
The Licht era has emphasized heavy selection of offensive picks, and that investment has not translated into on field performance. Our late round picks (rounds 5-7) rarely make the opening day roster and are essentially wasted picks. Is this a scouting problem? I don't know, but I'd expect more roster retention than what we've had.
The Buccaneers will pick #7 overall in the upcoming draft. Licht’s past behavior suggests a RB like Saquon Barkley will be on the table—perhaps to even trade up for. He shouldn’t be (despite him being my #1 player in this draft). We can keep going offense-heavy every year, and that will mean averaging 20.0 sacks a season and a porous secondary. This is Jason Licht’s modus operandi. This is why this last season, we weren’t who we thought we were, and we Licht us off the hook. I’ll show myself out now. Brace yourselves for an infuriating offseason led by an emperor in the front office with no clothes.
Shoutouts to Buccaneers
. It has been a pleasure being a mod over there for the last year. Our sub continues to have one of the more special
identities with our dank memes and weirdness that we let fly. Thank you to TheHoodTheBadTheUgly
who will be posting a game-by-game review later this morning. Lastly, I highly recommend following LansdowneStreet
who is a local Tampa Journalist for Sports Talk Florida. Long-form journalism is both an art and a dying breed, and he is a phenomenal writer who's keeping legitimate sports writing alive. Shoutout to fellow Buccaneers
, who are the real glue that keeps the sub going (everyone knows if I touch the CSS the sub will die). Shoutout to NapoleonBonerparts
for the beautiful new 32 Teams website, and to Skepticismissurvival
who is always great to work with on these series. Finally, shoutout to the NFL
mods. Your job ain't easy and it's thankless but you're damn good at it. Link to Hub Post
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