>\n\nWorst to First: 3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers \n\n\n\n

Worst to First: 3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Written by Ben Morgan on 02/14/2010

Seems like an age ago now that Brad Johnson and Jon Gruden were lifting that Vince Lombardi Trophy. Things have been iffy in Tampa Bay since then. 2009 didn't really provide too much in the way of promise for the future either. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers don't lack for youthful talent but an awful lot now rides on how second year QB Josh Freeman develops. Tony Dungy's Tampa 2 seems to have been consigned to history, at least in Tampa anyway, so things are in a major state of flux. With news from the UK not boding well for the Glazers it remains to be seen what effect that may have on a Tampa team facing an uncapped year and in dire need of finding at least a couple of decent free agents to compliment a youthful looking roster. Judging by some statements it may be Raheem Morris' last chance to pick early in the draft. Either Tampa improves this year or his time could be up. So a lot rides on this coming season. What sort of state are they in? What are they going to be looking at come April and how much more young talent can they add? They struck well last year finding a possible franchise QB, a promising space filler in DT Roy Miller, a couple of projects in Kyle Moore (DE) and Xavier Fulton (OT who should fit their zone blocking scheme pretty well if he can overcome injuries) and look like they hit 7th round gold with a very useful WR/KR in Sammie Stroughter. That looks better than a lot of teams manage, it's particularly good when you consider the Bucs didn't have a pick in the second round last year. They're going to need to better that haul from last year but with 5 picks in the Top 100 (before Compensatory picks are announced anyway) they have a golden opportunity to do just that.

2010 Free Agent Losses
2010 Free Agent additions
To be updated
To be updated
2010 Unsigned Free Agents
2011 Potential Free Agents
Mark Bradley WR (RFA-CBA), Brian Clark WR (RFA-CBA), Matt McCoy LB (RFA-CBA), Donald Penn T (RFA-CBA), Barrett Ruud LB (RFA-CBA), Maurice Stovall WR (RFA-CBA), Jeremy Trueblood T (RFA-CBA), Carnell Williams RB (RFA-CBA), Rod Wilson LB (RFA-CBA), Will Allen S (UFA), Antonio Bryant WR (UFA), Angelo Crowell OLB (UFA), Jermaine Phillips S (UFA), Byron Storer FB (RFA), Jimmy Wilkerson DE (UFA), Elbert Mack S (XRFA), Clifton Smith RB (XRFA),
Chris Hovan DT (UFA), Ronde Barber CB (UFA), Quincy Black OLB (RFA), Torrie Cox CB (UFA), John Gilmore TE (UFA), Adam Hayward OLB (RFA), Tanard Jackson S (RFA), Davin Joseph OG (RFA), Byron Leftwich QB (UFA), Dre Moore DE (RFA), Sabby Piscatelli S (RFA), Ryan Purvis TE (XRFA), Arron Sears OG (RFA), Jerramy Stevens TE (UFA), Greg White DE (UFA),

Roster Breakdown
Quarterbacks Minimal Need
The Bucs picked up the guy they view as their franchise QB last year. Josh Freeman. He struggled as a rookie but, well, so did everyone in a Buccaneers uniform last year. Nevertheless they're going to stick with Freeman, the jury is very much still out on him but you don't use a first round pick on a kid and then move on after only a year. The rest of the roster includes another young pro in Josh Johnson (who's very mobile but hasn't shown much with the arm yet), and Byron Leftwich, a veteran with a slow release and a $3.5m roster bonus due in March. In addition they did pick up a project type in Rudy Carpenter at the end of the year. All this would suggest to me they're happy with the 2 Joshes as starter and backup. It also says to me that Lord Byron is probably going to be leaving Florida again. Carpenter should get a chance to stick at the #3 if he can stave off competition from the usual camp arm UDFAs that most teams bring in. There are huge question marks about the QB position in Tampa, not least the likely lack of a veteran presence. One rumour earlier this offseason had Josh Johnson available as trade bait. If that were true it might suggest the Bucs will suck up that $3.5m bonus due to Leftwich and keep him around but that seems like an odd decision, at least financially speaking. Whatever way they go with their backups it's just not very likely a QB is going to be on their radar come draft day. It certainly wouldn't be an early pick. You can never rule out a value pick later on though. A guy like Tim Tebow if he were to fall far enough would without doubt be a very attractive prospect, not least because of the fan base he could attract, and he'd make for a pretty useful #3 and Wildcat QB too.

Runningbacks Minimal Need
Bucs fans (and many neutrals) will have been very happy to see the return of Cadillac Williams on a regular basis after a catalogue of nasty injuries that threatened to end his career. He was decent on his return, but no world beater. Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham round out the rushing threats in what is, if you add in FBs B.J. Askew and 2009 rookie Chris Pressley, a pretty crowded backfield. Williams is a restricted free agent and will, I would expect, be tendered to return for another year. He and Ward will be expected to improve in 2010. Neither rushed for 4.0ypc. Earnest Graham won a lot of people Fantasy Football titles a few years back but his versatility has seen him primarily return to a blocking role in the Bucs offense. He has a $1m roster bonus due and a $2m salary this year. That may be a little rich for a guy who they may not fully utilise anyway. I don't look at the Bucs backfield as particularly special, I'd expect Williams to get better again in 2010 as he continues to come back to 100% and I'd hope a year in the offense will have Derrick Ward earning his paycheck a little more. It's doubtful they'd be looking strongly for a RB in this draft but this is still a position which could stand an upgrade. Still it would make more sense to drive the Cadillac in 2010 and maybe look for a big time back in 2011's draft?

Wide Receivers
Major Need
Having used the franchise tag to make Antonio Bryant a multi millionaire Bucs fans had the ignomy of watching him spending more time in the treatment room than on the field. They've already said they won't use the franchise tag on him again and will let him test the market. There's bound to be some team out there in an uncapped year willing to pay over the odds for a malcontent WR. Bryant will face stiff competition from the likes of T.O., Braylon Edwards and Brandon Marshall in the malcontent WR stakes. Presumably the Cowboys and Bengals will be calling Bryant's agent as we speak. Sadly for the Buccaneers Bryant still managed to be their top WR. By some distance. Maurice Stovall finally showed something other than size down the stretch but Michael Clayton just yet again proved what a bust he's been (if you ignore his rookie season). I would expect them, with no cap implications, to undo the $24m mistake they made last season and cut Clayton. Wide Receiver is without doubt a major need, they still need a guy to be a #1 assuming Bryant doesn't return. Stovall could perhaps be a #2 is he can move on from what he showed this year and 7th round rookie Sammie Stroughter did a good job in the slot. He's small and looks a returner type but he reeled in 30 passes and should go on nicely from there. They pulled off a smart move by adding Mark Bradley late in the year too. He looked pretty handy as a route runner in Kansas City a while back and as he's a restricted free agent he should be available to them for another year at least. He's a guy who could become a favourite target of a young QB if he gets the chance. Mario Urruttia was also added late in the season. Like Stovall he's another guy who looks more like a TE. He may have a shot at sticking on the roster and at the very least, this is a good situation for him to find himself in coming to camp in 2010. It's just not a good situation for Josh Freeman or Bucs fans. There's not really a WR who fits with the Buccaneers first pick in the draft but it has to be a serious consideration with their second rounder. I'm not sure a guy like Golden Tate or Damian Williams might fall that far but you can hope. If they don't there should still be a fair bit of talent around early on Day 2. You have to think a young QB would love a guy like Jordan Shipley.

Tight Ends
No Need
What the Bucs TE's lack in temperament they sure do make up for in talent. Kellen Winslow Jr is without doubt an elite talent at the Tight End position. He's signed long term and he's good enough to be the Bucs #1 receiver. He's frequently lined up off the line as well as he's a better WR than any of the other Bucs WRs when Bryant isn't healthy. Jerramy Stevens is a talented guy to have as a backup and he could start for a lot of teams. In fact, when I look at the Bucs I've got to say they'd do better to get both these guys on the field more often. Stevens is a free agent in 2011 but will be back this year. John Gilmore is decent depth but nothing more. A late rounder is always a possibility, particularly if they're a blocking specialist but while there are plenty of positions to worry about for Bucs fans, this is not one of them.

Offensive Line
Minor Need
The Bucs switched to the increasingly popular zone blocking scheme on the OL last year so for most of the guys on the line it meant a period of adjustment. This makes their performance in 2009 difficult to judge when looking forward to 2010. The one thing I can say with certainty is that they missed Jeff Faine while he was injured last season. Faine is a quality NFL Center and if he is healthy for a full year it'll help to improve the line a lot. At LT I had thought Donald Penn, a former undrafted guy, did a pretty good job but according to the Tampa Tribune apparently Tampa are unhappy with his weight and may look for a LT in the first round. Which brings Russell Okung into the discussion. No doubt Okung could be an upgrade, he's a potential star LT. If they were so inclined and did draft Okung then Penn may net something in a trade. I can think of worse starting LTs in the league. On the right hand side you'll find the Bucs 1st and 2nd round picks from 2006, Davin Joseph and Jeremy Trueblood. There's not much escaping the fact that Trueblood struggled. I'm not sure he's best suited to the new scheme. Jeremy Zuttah rounded out the OL after Aaron Sears went AWOL prior to last year's training camp. Sears was apparently suffering from the lingering effects of a concussion received in 2008 but is back in Tampa and preparing for OTAs as I type. That's going to bring in some depth one way or another assuming Tampa want him back. Sears also has the problem of learning the zone blocking scheme. I'm not sure he fits it so well in it myself, he's more the mauling type. Having switched systems a couple of guys including Joseph have lost weight to better fit a scheme which demands less power but more finesse and footwork. Even so they may be looking for a different type of guy to play in that system. In the past you could pick up those under-sized nimble guys on Day 2. Like the 3-4 on Defense, it's now become popular enough that that may not be an option any more. It's not like you couldn't upgrade this line but at the same time it might just pay to see how these guys are in their second year zone blocking and use a couple of day 2 picks on projects who should suit the scheme with a view to 2011.

Defensive Tackle
Major Need
I thought Tampa made a real steal of a selection last year with Roy Miller out of Texas. The former Longhorn made an impact as a rookie, making it into the DT rotation almost from the word go and largely stealing Ryan Sims slot alongside Chris Hovan. That's not a bad threesome though I feel Sims has been a bit disappointing. In addition, Hovan is a free agent in 2011. So this is still a slot that could use a big upgrade. Common chat around the net has Tampa picking one of Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy. Some people even going so far as to suggest the Bucs trade up to #1 overall to get their man before Detroit. As the Bucs have 2 second round picks this year that's not as unlikely a scenario as you'd think. The issue with it being the Glazer's financial issues with Manchester United. The difference between the guaranteed money payable to the #1 overall versus the #3 overall is big enough to cause a question there. Again common chat has Gerald McCoy being the better fit given his similarities to Warren Sapp. But Tampa's defensive plan has changed somewhat since the glory days of the Tampa 2 and Warren Sapp. I can't help thinking that Suh is the better fit for Tampa now. A little bigger, a little stouter versus the run... Either would very likely be a success in Tampa and with Roy Miller could quickly establish a very tough center to a defense that has been a bit on the soft side in recent years. There are other options in round 2 as well, at least one of the Top 5 or 6 DTs will probably fall to Tampa's first pick in the second round. It'll be interesting to see where they go with their #1 but most draft experts seem to agree McCoy and Suh are the top 2 prospects. Tampa is well placed to come away with one of them should they choose.

Defensive End
Minor Need
Jimmy WIlkerson was in the middle of a superb year, and in a contract year to boot. Unfortunately for him (and perhaps fortunately for the Bucs) he tore his ACL. His value in free agency is virtually nil at this point, he may not be ready for the start of the season either so Tampa's chances of getting him back are pretty good. He may miss the start of the year, going on the injury and usual recovery times it's likely Wilkerson will be on the PUP list for the first 6 weeks of the season. That leaves an opening for Kyle Moore, a 4th rounder last year, to come in. Tim Crowder came over from Denver last year where he didn't fit their new 3-4 Defense. He did pretty well, as did Greg White. So this is a group with some useful abilities but there isn't that dominant pass rusher that you find on some of the top teams. If there's a guy there with one of the Bucs second rounders it could look tempting. Especially given main man "Stylez G" White is a free agent in 2011. Everson Griffen or Greg Hardy could be pretty good fits around there.


Linebackers Minor Need
Barrett Ruud is a bit of a star at MLB so there's no problems there. Geno Hayes really had a breakout year in 2009. I thought he was a little undersized but he makes his tackles and he makes plays. The weakside looks pretty good, especially if the Bucs can improve up front and keep blockers off this athletic pairing. On the strong side they brought in Angelo Crowell last year to round out what would have been a good looking unit but he didn't play a down due to a torn bicep. He hasn't played a down for 2 years now in fact, and he's a free agent. His career is probably over unless he can wow some team in a tryout. Quincy Black played on the strong side but the Bucs could look to upgrade their depth especially as Hayes ended last year hurt, he's had shoulder surgery and should be ready for training camp. But my feeling is that the Bucs are better off having Black or Hayes as quality depth and finding a guy with a bit more star potential on the strong side. Again a second round pick could be used there. There's a few players who fall into that sort of draft range. Sean Weatherspoon in round 2 perhaps? With Hayes coming off surgery I'm going to list this as a Minor need as worst comes to worst they can survive with Black/Ruud/Hayes in 2009.


Cornerback Major Need
For years Ronde Barber was one of the best CBs in the league. Those days are gone. Now he's not even the best CB on the Bucs, that honour falls to temperamental youngster Aqib Talib. Talib's a good cover corner and can shutdown one side for you. He'll make the INT as well if you force it to his side. You get the impression that if the Tampa front 7 could generate some more heat on opposing QBs Talib could be made to look elite. It looks as if Barber will be back for another season though this may be his last as a starter, he's fast approaching 35. The downside is underneath those 2 there is very little to get excited about. Wee man Elbert Mack is the nickel corner. Under him you get Torrie Cox who's not much more than a special teamer on most squads and Derek Roberson who isn't anything more than a special teamer on the Bucs. Finding a kid in this draft who can be the nickel corner as a rookie then move into the starting lineup in 2011 is a necessity. Depending on who falls where it could be as early as the second round as well. Brandon Ghee, Kyle Wilson, Patrick Robinson... may all be options in the second or 3rd round for Tampa. Looking to bring in a veteran via free agency to add some depth would help as well.

Safety Major Need
Tanard Jackson makes some good plays, he's a good starter and made a big difference when he was on the field. Returning 2 INTs for TDs means he has more TDs than all but 1 of the WRs. That's one position in the secondary the Bucs don't have to worry about though he was suspended for 4 games for violating the league substance abuse policy. As such he's a failed test away from a year long suspension. Which is probably something worth considering as well. Despite the 4 games missed Jackson still compiled his best pro season statistically. He could be special. Word is the Bucs will be on the lookout for replacing Sabby Piscatelli who would make for good depth but has struggled in coverage. So Safety becomes a Major need position as well. Enough of a need to consider Eric Berry at #3? Well maybe if Suh and McCoy are gone. He is that good a player so it's a consideration certainly. Myron Rolle later on might be a popular pick amongst the local fanbase. Outside of free agent Will Allen who went on IR anyway, there's not much depth to speak of here either.

Specialists Minimal Need

Prior to picking up Connor Barth the Bucs were in dire need of a kicker. Barth missed some kicks but he made some important ones too. None more so than the winning 47 yarder against the Saints. He also tied an NFL record with 3 FGs over 50 yards in one game v the Dolphins. He'll go into the season as the incumbent and will probably win the job but I'm sure Tampa will want to bring in some competition as well. Tampa had to put 2 punters on injured reserve. pro bowler Josh Bidwell before the season even started and his replacement Dirk Johnson. Sam Paulescu rounded out the season but his and Johnson's work will make the Bucs very grateful for the return of Bidwell.

Return Game
No Need
The Bucs had 2 kick returners who approached 30 yard return averages. That's pretty special. Stroughter and Clifton Smith will hope to stay clear of injuries. If they can the Bucs will be having good starting field position all year long. The pair of them posted very handy punt returns as well. Most teams in the league would be glad to have this pair.

Dream Day One

1.3 Ndamukong Suh DT Nebraska
2.35 Damian Williams WR USC
2.42 Kyle Wilson CB Boise State

Player Visits
 To be updated


Last Edited: 02/13/2010

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