Sunday, March 22, 2015

Are the Bucs Getting a New Center?

With the Bucs sniffing around Stefen Wisniewski, it raised the question of whether or not they were making a change at center.  Wisniewski can play guard too, so it can be reasoned that the Bucs wanted him to play alongside EDS rather than in place of him.    

However, I’ve read that the Bucs have taken a strong interest in Boston College center, Andy Gallik.  I love it.  Gallik has been a stud in the middle of their offensive line.  I could definitely him as the Bucs R4 pick.  Here’s an excerpt from BC’s head coach, Steve Addazio:

“He’s not strictly a center. He can play guard but he’s uniquely a good center,” Addazio said. “But he sure could play guard but he’s just got that knack. To watch him snap. To watch him shotgun snap a ball for example, or under center snap it and pull to the perimeter, I think he’s gifted. He’s one of the better guys I’ve seen do that. It’s just natural for him. He’s got great balance and he can run. I don’t know what the 40-times are but when you watch him on film, he runs well when he pulls and I think that’s a unique ability he has. And he’s bright. He calls every protection.”

Pursuing Wisniewski is one thing, but a strong interest in a guy like Gallik who should remain at center tells me the Bucs are eyeing a change in the middle.  Do they slide EDS over to RG, or do they save his $3.75m and find someone else to play next to the new center?

Monday, March 16, 2015

2015 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offseason Plan - Take Two

The first wave of free agency has ended, and it’s time to reassess the offseason plan.  In are Bruce Carter, Henry Melton, and Chris Conte.  New jersey sales aren’t exactly booming, but Lovie Smith has brought in players who he believe will make a difference.  Both Melton and Conte played for Smith in Chicago, and Carter played for Lovie’s buddy Rod Marinelli in Dallas.

The plan is for Carter to fill the MLB vacancy, Melton to provide pass rush depth at tackle, and Conte to take the starting FS job from an eventually released Dashon Goldson.  Carter played the SLB position in Marninelli’s defense, but he believes he can make the transition to the middle in Tampa.  It’s a bit of a gamble for the Bucs personnel-wise, but his contract isn’t guaranteed past this year.  Melton and Conte are short-term investments as well, both signing one year deals. 

I don’t love the Carter acquisition, but I see the thought behind it, and given the contract, I’m on board.  I like Melton as depth in pass rushing situations, but I’m not a fan of the Conte acquisition.  I would have liked to see the Bucs be more involved for Devin McCourty, Jabaal Sheard, Walter Thurmond, and Eddie Royal.  Two other targets of mine, RT Joseph Barksdale and CB Patrick Robinson, are still available as I write this. 

McCourty ended up signing a 5yr $47.5m contract with the Patriots that pays him nearly $30m in the first 3 years.  The Bucs could not have topped that.  They could have, however, topped the 2yr $11m contract ($5.5m guaranteed) that the Patriots gave Sheard.  The Bucs entered the offseason needing to add a pass rusher and so far have released Michael Johnson.  Thurmond got $3.25m from the Eagles for one year; nothing obscene about that.  Royal signed a very affordable 3yr $15m contract with only the first two years guaranteed. 

Taking into account Goldson’s inevitable release, the Bucs have about $33m in cap space.  Sheard and Royal would have fit in their nicely and given the Bucs two less positions to worry about in the draft.  But the Bucs had other plans. 

If I can assume Demar Dotson is going to play LT, then it appears the Bucs are going to enter the draft, a draft in which they’re expected to spend the first pick on a QB, with noticeable holes at RG and RT.  If they had picked up a pass rusher or slot receiver in free agency, then they could have more comfortably allocated more draft picks to the offensive line.  But the Bucs had other plans. 

Now they’ll be forced to, again, focus more of their draft on addressing needs rather than grabbing the best available talent.  Given this organization’s history with the amateur lottery, relying on them to hit with more consistency with draft picks isn’t a wise proposition. 

So here we are.  The Bucs currently have eight draft picks; one in each round and two in the fifth.  Their remaining trade bait includes Mike Glennon and Doug Martin.  Odds are decent that at least one of those guys is dealt, giving the Bucs at least one more opportunity for success.  I have their top needs, in order, as QB, DE, RT, RG, NCB, SWR, and FS. 

Here’s my revised look at how R1 will play out –

1) TB – Jameis Winston (QB, FSU)
No change here.  The Bucs need a franchise QB and get the best this class has to offer.  I expect Jameis to take the first snap week 1. 

2) TEN – Leonard Williams (DL, USC)
I don’t know if Zach Mettenberger is going to save Ken Whisenhunt’s job in Tennessee, but it would be very un-Whisenhunt for him to put all of his eggs in Mariota’s basket.  I think Tennessee plays it safe and takes the consensus best defensive player in the draft.

3) JAX – Dante Fowler (DE/OLB, Florida)
Jared Odrick was a nice addition to the defensive line, but they still need a pass rusher.  As I mentioned last time, Fowler may end up being the best defensive player from this class. 

4) OAK – Kevin White (WR, West Virginia)
Oakland supposedly got in on Randall Cobb and Julius Thomas and obviously failed.  I expect them to focus on giving David Carr a true #1 receiver with this pick, and I’m sticking with White over Cooper.

5) CLE – Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon)
I’m having a really hard time projecting where Mariota is going to go, and I still think this might be a little high.  You can’t count Philly out, despite what Chip Kelly himself said, but who else would trade up for Mariota?  Cleveland is starving for success at the position, and they’ve shown interest in and have at least one tie (QB coach Kevin O’Connell) to Mariota.  I think the deal gets done for the #12 pick, and Cleveland’s R2 and R7 picks. 

6) NYJ – Vic Beasley (OLB, Clemson)
After striking gold in free agency at the cornerback position, new HC Todd Bowles get a much needed pass rusher.  No, I don’t think they’d take Mariota if he was available. 

7) CHI – Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama)
I’ve got the Bears going with Cooper over Danny Shelton here.  Trading Brandon Marshall to the Jets opened up a spot opposite Alshon Jeffery, and I’m not sure the new regime is sold on Marquess Wilson as a starter. 

8) ATL – Randy Gregory (DE/OLB, Nebraska)
No change here.  Atlanta’s biggest addition thus far was to bring in Brooks Reed. 

9) NYG – Danny Shelton (DT, Washington)
The Giants have needs on both offensive and defensive lines, and tackle Marshall Newhouse is the only guy they’ve brought in.  They’ve got nothing inside next to Johnathan Hankins, so I’m going with Shelton over Shane Ray and Brandon Scherff.

10) STL – Brandon Scherff (OL, Iowa)
As of now Joseph Barksdale hasn’t resigned with the Rams, so they have openings at both guard and tackle.  Scherff projects to both positions. 

11) MIN – Trae Waynes (CB, Michigan State)
After acquiring Mike Wallace, a receiver doesn’t seem like a possibility here.  This should come down to a corner or offensive lineman.

12) WAS – La’el Collins (OL, LSU)
With the first pick gained in the trade with Cleveland the Redskins take Collins, who, with Trent Williams, gives them an impressive pair of starting tackles. 

13) NO – Shane Ray (DE/OLB, Missouri)
Pass rush is a huge need, and Parys Haralson has been their only addition so far.  Also, Sean Payton apparently wants to get rid of Junior Galette.

14) MIA – DeVante Parker (WR, Louisville)
They did just replace Wallace with Kenny Stills, but I believe adding Parker to go with Stills and Jarvis Landry will give Ryan Tannehill all the chance in the world to succeed.

15) SF – Bud Dupree (DE/OLB, Kentucky)
The Niners have really taken a hit since the start of free agency.  Patrick Willis retired, Justin Smith might not be too far behind him, they lost their two most productive cornerbacks, and the offense lost Frank Gore and Mike Iupati.  New head coach Jim Tomsula gets himself a pass rusher. 

16) HOU – Andrus Peat (T, Stanford)
Tackle isn’t an urgent need, but Peat’s skill set fits what they do in Houston and gives them versatility to play right or left tackle.

17) PHI – Dorial Green-Beckham (WR, Oklahoma)
Chip Kelly moves up, but it’s not for Mariota.  I think DGB fits what Kelly is looking for at receiver, and I could see him moving ahead of receiver-needy KC and Cleveland to secure his guy.  The cost may be nothing more than the 20th pick and their R4 selection. 

18) KC – Eric Kendricks (LB, UCLA)
Inside linebacker and offensive tackle are the Chiefs biggest needs, and if they stay in this spot, I don’t think it’s too early for Kendricks.  He’d look great next to Derrick Johnson.

19) CLE – Eddie Goldman (DT, FSU)
With the pick acquired from Buffalo, the Browns address a big need on the defensive line.  Goldman can occupy blockers, shut down run lanes, and get after the passer.

20) SD – Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia)
The Chargers spent some of their free agent dollars on offensive linemen and watched their best running back leave for Philly.  Gurley is a big boost to Philip Rivers’ career.

21) CIN – Malcom Brown (DL, Texas)
The Bengals have numbers on the defensive line, but I think they need to improve the quality at tackle. 

22) PIT – Landon Collins (S, Alabama)
I’ve got to think they go defense with this pick.  If not Collins then a CB or OLB.

23) DET – Arik Armstead (DT, Oregon)
They did replace Ndamukong Suh with Haloti Ngata, but they also lost Nick Fairley and may lose CJ Mosley.  Corner and offensive line are two other avenues they may pursue.

24) ARI – Marcus Peters (CB, Washington)
If the Cardinals don’t acquire Adrian Peterson from the Vikings, maybe RB is in play here, but they also need a starting corner since Cro went back to NY.

25) CAR – TJ Clemmings (T, Pittsburgh)
The Panthers have needs at both left and right tackle, and Clemmings is a prospect with that “upside” descriptor. 

26) BAL – Jaelen Strong (WR, Arizona State)
Torrey Smith bolted for San Fran, and Jacoby Jones left them for the Bolts.  Steve Smith can’t play forever, and Marlon Brown is currently listed as their other starter.  That won’t last long.

27) DAL – Eli Harold (DE/OLB, Virginia)
Of the additions Dallas has made, none have been along the defensive line.  They must get better at getting to the passer.

28) DEN – Cameron Erving (OL, FSU)
Perfect fit.  Erving gives Gary Kubiak a versatile chess piece in the interior of his zone-blocking offense.

29) IND – Stephone Anthony (LB, Clemson)
This may look a little high for Anthony, but the Colts are desperate for help in the middle of their defense and have reportedly been hot after Anthony.

30) GB – Kevin Johnson (CB, Wake Forest)
They’ve already lost Davon House and may lose Tramon Williams too.  I think this is either CB or LB.

31) NOR – Ereck Flowers (T, Miami)
The Saints use the Jimmy Graham pick to add some needed depth to the offensive line.

32) NE – Jalen Collins (CB, LSU)
The champs close out R1 by addressing their cornerback exodus with the press cover guy from LSU. 

Remaining Buccaneer Picks

This pick has to be an offensive lineman or edge rusher.  In the first round I had six offensive linemen and six edge rushers chosen, and with pick #34, I expect the Bucs to have more options on the offensive line.  As the draft played out above, I’ve got this pick down to two players head and shoulders above the rest. 

The pick – Jake Fisher (T, Oregon)
As I mentioned earlier, the first pick is going to be a QB, and there are zero quality starting candidates on the current roster at RG and RT.  They must protect their investment, and if (when) Jameis is the pick, he’s going to play early.  Fisher might be the most athletic tackle in this year’s class, and what I really like about him is that he’s not simply an athletic, zone-blocking stereotype guy, he plays with power.  I also think he has a bit of position flexibility with him, so Fisher could give the Bucs options at LT, RT and guard. 

My other choice at #34 is Preston Smith (DE, Mississippi State).  I think he’s the Bucs best remaining chance to upgrade the pass rusher.  He’s big and quick and doesn’t give ground on the line of scrimmage.  I have noticed that he stops his feet too often and gives up too early on plays, but that’s correctable. Smith played a lot of right end at MSU, but I like him better on the left side in the pros.  He’s big and strong enough to handle himself against right tackles and often gets the edge with his quickness off the line and hand usage. 

After addressing the offensive line and not seeing a pass rusher I like in this range, I’m looking at wide receiver and cornerback.  At receiver I want someone who could start right away in the slot and eventually be able to move out wide when Vincent Jackson moves on.  At corner I want someone who can contribute as the nickel right away and eventually project as a boundary starter. 

The pick – Tre McBride (WR, William & Mary)
He’s an ideal slot receiver for Jameis.  McBride has excellent hands and consistently makes contested catches in tight spaces.  He’s the perfect compliment to Evans and Jackson and has shown enough vertical playmaking ability to project as an eventual flanker.  McBride could also contribute as a return man. 

I’ve read that Ifo-Ekpre-Olomu (CB, Oregon) has a chance to be available in this range, and he would be my choice at cornerback. 

So far the Bucs have taken:
Jameis Winston (QB, FSU)
Jake Fisher (T, Oregon)
Tre McBride (WR, William & Mary)

I’ve got three positions in mind here – OL, CB, and edge rusher – with an emphasis on the latter two.  You’ve got a better chance of finding an offensive lineman or cornerback later in the draft than a quality pass rusher, so I’d really like to see the Bucs get one with or before this pick if they’re going to draft one. 

The pick – Lynden Trail (DE, Norfolk State)
Long and lean pass rusher who must get stronger and improve his hand usage at the point of contact.  He’s got a bigger wingspan than likely #2 overall pick Leonard Williams and the quickness to contribute in backside pursuit. 

At corner I like Senquez Golson (Ole Miss), and Donovan Smith (Penn State) and Rob Havenstein (Wisconsin) are two tackles I’d consider here.  If the Bucs end up trading Martin or Glennon, I’d want one of these guys to be the pick. 


Jeremiah Poutasi (OL, Utah)
Jarvis Harrison (G, Texas A&M)
With the two fifth round picks I’ve got the Bucs double dipping on the offensive line with holdovers from my first mock.  Poutasi played both right and left tackle in college but projects as either a right tackle or guard in the pros.  Harrison saw most of his time at left guard and would be an option at the right guard spot as well. 

With their first six picks, I have the Bucs taking three offensive linemen, a quarterback and a pass rusher.  Cornerback is the one position of obvious weakness I’d still like to address, and depending on what happens with Martin or one of the other rushers, running back might be an option. 


Bobby McCain (CB, Memphis)
John Crockett (RB, North Dakota State)
McCain is so quick to close on the ball.  He’s physical enough to play man in the slot and quick enough to play the short zone in front of him.  Technique and tenacity are there as a tackler, but he can’t help his size.  Only Shaq Thompson has more defensive TDs among players in this class than McCain.  I took Crockett with my last pick in the first draft, and I’ll stick with him here.  I still think the Bucs tinker with the backfield, and as I mentioned last time, Crockett reminds me of James Starks.  I think there’s value in taking a back capable of playing all three downs this late in the draft. 

In Summary –
R1) Jameis Winston (QB, FSU)
R2) Jake Fisher (T, Oregon)
R3) Tre McBride (WR, William & Mary)
R4) Lynden Trail (DE, Norfolk State)
R5) Jeremiah Poutasi (OL, Utah)
R5) Jarvis Harrison (G, Texas A&M)
R6) Bobby McCain (CB, Memphis)
R7) John Crockett (RB, North Dakota State)

Go Bucs!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Where Are We Headed?


How do you feel about the Bucs activity so far in the new league year?  The pewter pirates entered the offseason with needs at QB, DE, MLB, NCB, SWR, RT, RG, and FS.  They then released failed experiments in LT Anthony Collins and DE Michael Johnson, and FS Dashon Goldson is soon to be a ex-Buc as well. 

I believe roughly 200 transactions have taken place in the NFL in the month of March.  Of those 200, only 3 of them involve the 2-14 Bucs bringing in new talent.  Making an evaluation of a team’s entire offseason prior to the draft is not fair, but if I’m to go by what I’ve seen so far in response to a putrid performance and what I would expect to be a strong attempt at a rebound, I’m unimpressed.  I’m disappointed.  I’m frustrated. 

Who did they miss out on? 

The Bucs hosted DE Derrick Morgan and G/C Stefen Wisniewski, and both left without contracts.  Morgan re-upped with Tennessee for an obscene $27 million over 4 years.  The Bucs were correct to balk at that kind of compensation for Morgan, and news on the Wisniewski front has been quiet since he left Tampa for Seattle.  I don’t expect him to see Tampa again unless it’s as member of the opposition.

In my opinion, the Bucs biggest miss on a player that they were rumored to be associated with is DE Jabaal Sheard.  I believe Sheard would have been the ideal solution at the base end position, providing three down consistency the team hasn’t seen for quite some time.  Sheard signed with the Patriots and should flourish in that defense with Belichick calling the shots.

DT Henry Melton was added on a one year deal and is a fine addition to the interior defensive line rotation.  The Bucs are now set in the middle with the foursome of Gerald McCoy, Clinton McDonald, Akeem Spence, and Melton.  They’re solid here.  Sadly, this is the only place they’re solid.  Chris Conte, another former Lovie Bear, was brought in to replace Goldson as the starter at FS.  As bad as Goldson as been, I’m not sure they’re getting any better with Conte.  My positive takeaway is that he’s a cheaper poor player. 

I’m not privy to Jason Licht and Lovie Smith’s step-by-step offseason plan, but if I’m being honest, I can’t help but mention that the only players being brought in have a connection to Lovie Smith or someone on a nearby branch of his preverbal coaching tree.  Why aren’t they bringing in new/unconnected players?  Does the plan involve a hard cap on guaranteed money?  If so, why?  Are they being realistic about their ’15 chances and looking forward to being bigger players in ’16?  Or worst of all, are Licht and Lovie out of their league? 

I’m inclined to think it’s primarily about a plan involving limited guaranteed money being handed out in ’15 due to a rational approach to the upcoming season.  Regardless of who they draft, the Bucs aren’t going to be a factor in February.  They’ll be lucky to be playoff relevant in week 10.  Are the Bucs managing this offseason with that in mind, hoping that they draft well and then have a reason to be bigger spenders a year from now?

I fully expect Jameis Winston to be the first collegiate player to shake Roger Goodell’s hand April 30, so that fills the QB checkbox on the offseason checklist.  If I’m to believe that Bruce Carter is going to play a 4-3 MLB regularly for the first time and do it well, then I can go ahead and, hesitantly, check that position off as well.  Even if I assume the Bucs sign Sterling Moore (shocker another ex-Cowboy / Marinelli guy) they still need a starting caliber nickel.  They’ve also yet to address slot receiver, defensive end, or any position on the offensive line. 

The offseason plan clearly does not entail attempting to address every position of need.  Given an optimistic look at what I mentioned above, the Bucs needs after the 1st pick in the draft will be DE, NCB, SWR, RT, RG, and FS.  Unless they basically win Powerball and hit on every pick, the Bucs will again enter the season with a roster littered with holes.  At what point, in what year is enough enough?  Do we need to wait until the end of the ’16 season to form an opinion of this regime?  Does the play of their #1 pick excuse or prop them up going forward?  Why does my team look so different from most of the other 31 in the league?

I don’t need to see the Bucs sign Ndamukong Suh, Devin McCourty, and Randall Cobb in one offseason.  I simply want to see some activity that suggests this franchise is building a foundation for the future; one that doesn’t rely on striking it rich with retreads from previously failed regimes. 

RT is still a need, and Joseph Barkdale is still looking for work.  He’s 6’4 and over 320 pounds.  He can’t be that hard to find.  What about Justin Blalock?  No, I don’t think the 31 year old guard is the answer to the offensive line woes, but is his price on a one or two year deal that prohibitive for a team desperate for bodies on the offensive line?  The Bucs little more than a glance at a fairly plentiful pass rusher market tells me they don’t have any interest on spending big on an end.  Both Morgan and Trent Cole left town without deals, and Sheard (in whom the Bucs were apparently interested) didn’t even make a trip south.  Don’t hold your breath on a Greg Hardy hail mary.  The Bucs are now fairly forced to spend their R2 pick on either a pass rusher or pass blocker. 

Great teams don’t rely on free agency to win them a title.  One example notwithstanding, not a single player picked up last March from this past year’s final four teams (NE, IND, GB, SEA) got them to where they were.  Darrelle Revis may be the exception, but then again I would expect (arguably) the game’s best cover man to make a significant difference to any competitive (non-Buc) team he joins.  Rather than relying on free agency to make them winners, each of these teams has established a pattern of consistency in both free agency and the draft.  You want to get to a point as an organization where you’re drafting nearly entirely for best available talent with each selection.  If you’re constantly drafting for need, then you’re obviously doing a poor job of capitalizing upon your other opportunities. 

If the Bucs don’t sign another veteran or deal for more picks, they have eight opportunities to successfully address at least six needs.  Given those six obvious needs listed above, the Bucs will have to hit at an extremely high rate of success for the team to be competitive this year.  We may be less than a week into the 2015 season, but even the most optimistic Bucs fan has to be questioning where the regime is headed, not just this year but more importantly for the foreseeable future.  So what is the plan?  Are the Bucs intentionally inactive this offseason?  Is the idea to identify their building blocks at the end of the ’15 season and spend big next year?  The regime’s results have been unimpressive, the lack of activity is disappointing, and a strong sense of frustration is permeating through a dwindling fan base.  

The late Al Davis is famous for the phrase, “commitment to excellence”.  Every organization should have that as their mission.  Too often and for too long I’ve felt that a commitment to excellence has been missing from this organization.  Tell me I’m being unfair.  Tell me I’m not seeing it.  What is the plan?  When should we expect results?  Who’s to blame if this team remains significant strides from relevance a year from now?  When does it become natural to expect this team to be competitive on an annual basis rather than watching them ramp up for a two year run at mediocrity?