by Brian Umbaugh, @NFLRosters
As Tampa Bay “won” the #1 overall pick, it’s not a stretch to say the Bucs didn’t have a good year. Of course, their 2-14 record wasn’t the worst in their history, thanks to the old ’70s teams. These days, it is easier to turn the ship around, provided the front office can provide personnel the coaches can develop. Let’s discuss some of the current players.
Mike Glennon, Seth Lobato
There hasn’t been an above average QB playing at Raymond James (for the home team, anyway) since Josh Freeman in 2010. One of the reasons for the Bucs’ terrible season was the terrible play from Josh McCown. He rode a miserable 5 game streak to the 34th best PFF QB rating, with a good Week 17 keeping him from finishing behind Geno Smith.
Mike Glennon was also a little below average, with stats comparable to Charlie Whitehurst. In comparison to McCown, though, he had better stats for 1/8 the salary. He’s inconsistent and may not have starter ability, but he has backup ability and at 25, has room for improvement. The Bucs seriously need a signal-caller around whom to build. Whether they draft Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston is a major offseason story.
Josh McCown cut 2/11; signed with CLE on 2/28.
Doug Martin, Charles Sims, Mike James, Bobby Rainey, FB Jorvorskie Lane
Tampa Bay’s snap counts indicate what every fantasy player knew this year — both that the coaching staff had no idea what they were doing and no one was good enough to stand out. Bobby Rainey led the team in snaps, but Doug Martin would’ve had more had he not been injured. Add in Charles Sims, who got the most snaps at the end of the season though the others were healthy enough. Confused, yet?
It’s hard to blame Lovie Smith. The only aspect of football any of the RB’s were average or better was Charles Sims’s pass catching. Martin was the best runner, but worst pass blocker. There is not much positivity looking forward to 2015. Since Martin only has one year left, the Bucs need some new blood here.
Jorvorskie Lane signed RFA tender 4/3; Bobby Rainey signed RFA tender on 4/24.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
WR: Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans, Louis Murphy, Russell Shepard, Robert Herron, Tavarres King, Solomon Patton, Chandler Jones
TE: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Brandon Myers, Cameron Brate, Luke Stocker, Evan Rodriguez, Taylor Sloat, Emmanuel Ogbuehi
Doesn’t Vincent Jackson seem 54 years old? He’s only 32 and can still play, registering a slightly above average rating. Rookie 1st round pick Mike Evans, though, is one of the lone Bucs bright spots. One of the NFL’s top 15 wideouts already, he surpassed 1,000 yards and had 12 TD’s. With proper QB play, he would have done even better. Both guys are signed for at least two years.
The depth is a little, well, shallow. Free agent signing Louis Murphy was not having a great year even before he finished on the IR. Russell Shepard and Tavarres King are castoffs that have not looked special. 2014 6th round pick Robert Herron played sparingly and also did not look amazing. The team made no moves in free agency here, but if there is a good slot WR in the draft, the Bucs should be paying attention.
The three-headed monster at TE (Brandon Myers, Luke Stocker, Austin Seferian-Jenkins) was a mix of over- and under-achievers. 2nd round pick ASJ was injured too much to make an impact and the others are limited by their athleticism. There is really no need to add to this group because the Bucs should make sure ASJ as every chance to succeed. If he can’t, 2016 might look a little different.
Taylor Sloat signed reserve contract on 1/5; Luke Stocker re-signed on 3/10; Emmanuel Ogbuehi signed on 4/3.
L to R: Demar Dotson, Logan Mankins, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Patrick Omameh, Kevin Pamphile
Top Backups: C Josh Allen, T Matt Patchan, G Garrett Gilkey
Only one lineman was on the team at the start of 2013 (T Demar Dotson.) As expected, the line is taking time to grow together. Since trade acquisition Logan Mankins is the only starter over 30, the front office is hoping they will. They have little choice – each player is under contract for 2015, and most are for longer than that.
Unfortunately for the present, they have shown they can only go up. Other than Dotson and Mankins, the line was consistently beaten for sacks, hits, and hurries. LT Anthony Collins and RG Patrick Omameh were in the bottom quartile for their respective positions. Center Evan Dietrich-Smith is a good run blocker, but was average at best overall. The worst offenders were the backups. T Oniel Cousins, who started 7 games from both sides, ranked 77 of 84 NFL tackles. Guard Garrett Gilkey was subpar.
What to do? The team hopes Dietrich-Smith will revert to their much better 2013 form. Dotson is better on the right side, but will probably be stuck on the left unless a startable LT is drafted. Currently, 2014 5th round pick Kevin Pamphile is slotted at RT. Mankins is still effective at LG. Omameh, who is still just 25, suffered from two terrible games mid-season, but was average for the remainder. He only makes $585K, so he has a place on the team. Perhaps he can be swapped out for a better RG, but it’s not essential. The starters have skills, they just need to step up. The backups are young and need developed. It just may take another year or two before the line comes together.
Anthony Collins cut on 3/11; C Ben Gottschalk signed on 4/10; Oniel Cousins not re-signed.
DE: Jacquies Smith, George Johnson, William Gholston, Larry English, T.J. Fatinikun
DT: Gerald McCoy, Clinton McDonald, Henry Melton, Akeem Spence, George Uko, Matthew Masifilo.
All-NFC DT Gerald McCoy and his more human partner Clinton McDonald are locked up long-term. Since backup Akeem Spence was 79th of 81 DT’s in 2014, they needed to either re-sign Da’Quan Bowers or another FA. The team chose to sign Henry Melton from Dallas, a good pass rush specialist. With him as a backup, no one need be drafted here.
Is it coincidence or poor scouting that results in 2014 FA signees playing like garbage? DE Michael Johnson had a great 2013, signed a good-sized deal, and promptly stunk. The next offseason, he’s gone. Adrian Clayborn may have injured himself out of a new contract with the Bucs, but was promptly signed by Atlanta after FA started. No harm, though; he hasn’t had a good game since 2011. In turn, the Bucs traded for George Johnson from Detroit, but Johnson has not proven to be much more than an average player. The rest of the DE’s are either young projects (Jacquies Smith, William Gholston) or role players (Larry English). A good 4-3 DE from the draft would be beneficial.
Larry English, Lawrence Sidbury re-signed 3/9; Michael Johnson cut on 3/12; Henry Melton signed on 3/12; George Johnson acquired via trade with DET on 4/15; Da’Quan Bowers not re-signed.
OLB: Danny Lansanah, Lavonte David, Orie Lemon, Jason Williams
MLB: Bruce Carter, Larry Dean
The second level of this defense is set up for success. Weak side LB Lavonte David and strong side LB Danny Lansanah had good seasons, both in the top quarter of the league. The incumbents in the middle, Mason Foster and Dane Fletcher couldn’t defend the run and, in Foster’s case, have moved on. Rather than have Lansanah move to MLB, the team decided to sign Bruce Carter away from Dallas to take that spot. Carter has not graded out well in the last two years, but the Bucs feel confident in his ability to anchor the middle. We’ll see whether or not he is one more FA bust for this team.
The backups Orie Lemon and Jason Williams are acceptable, so the key is whether or not Carter can make this unit cohesive.
Jason Williams re-signed on 3/7; Bruce Carter signed on 3/11; Mason Foster signed with CHI on 3/25; Brandon Magee cut on 3/25; Larry Dean signed on 4/9; Dane Fletcher not re-signed.
CB: Alterraun Verner, Johnthan Banks, Leonard Johnson, Mike Jenkins, Brandon Dixon, Isaiah Frey, C.J. Wilson
S: Major Wright, Chris Conte, Brad McDougald, Keith Tandy, M.D. Jennings, Shelton Johnson
The starting backfield had its ups and downs in 2014. The positives: CB Alterraun Verner and safeties Brad McDougald and Keith Tandy. The negatives: S Dashon Goldson. Since he also stunk in 2013, it was time for a reboot. However, Goldson was signed after an average 2012 to a 5 year, $41 million deal. Tampa really needs to be put on the National “No FA” list. He was $4 million of guaranteed junk for 2015, so they found a trade partner known for its similar FA luck — Washington. Instead, Chris Conte was signed from Chicago. Conte rebounded a bit in 2014 after a terrible year prior, and may provide some stability. Re-signing Major Wright, just entering the prime of a currently average career, means that safety is not a disaster.
The backups are more of the same, as they are young and have not been impressive. Johnathan Banks is now the starter opposite Verner, and he had a good enough November to provide a little hope. Dallas transfer Sterling Moore was somewhat effective and provides good insurance in case Banks doesn’t click. Leonard Johnson and Crezdon Butler were particular liabilities in pass coverage; Butler is now in Detroit. 30 year old UFA Mike Jenkins was one game and done in 2014 (and he didn’t have a good game), but the team brought him back. The other corners and safeties have been just slightly below average. Tampa Bay’s defense ranked 23rd in yards per pass attempt and needs to find a way to tighten up.
M.D. Jennings signed on 1/5; Brandon Dixon re-signed on 2/10; Brad McDougald, Mike Jenkins re-signed on 3/5; Major Wright, Leonard Johnson re-signed on 3/10; Chris Conte signed on 3/12; Sterling Moore signed on 3/19; Dashon Goldson traded to WAS on 4/3; Jocquel Skinner cut on 4/29.
Punter and KO specialist Michael Koenen has worked hard to go from excellent to average in the last year. Regardless, he is signed for two more years and will probably bounce back. Kicker Patrick Murray is unheralded yet successful at his only job of kicking field goals, probably because he doesn’t get a lot of opportunity with this crummy offense. He only had 23 tries in 2014. He’s also signed through 2016. Punter Andrew Wilder from Northern Arizona was signed to provide a little competition.
Solomon Patton and Bobby Rainey both return punts and kickoffs, and both are average. However, they were re-signed for 2015 and may keep those jobs.
Pre-draft cap space: $25.4 million, 21 roster spots available
Biggest Team Needs: QB, LT, WR, RB
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