While this appears to be the perfect chance to resign Kelly at a lower price, Kelly's squabbles with Bruce Allen. Last offseason Kelly skipped voluntary workouts because Allen refused to negotiate a new deal. Seeing as how this came right after Allen negotiated a new deal with Ronde Barber you can see how Kelly would be miffed.
For next season the Bucs should be in good shape with Phillip Buchanon starting in Kelly's place, which worked pretty well for the Bucs last season. Although the Bucs should consider drafting a corner to eventually replace Barber, and in that vein Buc'Em has a list of the corners in the draft.
With Alstott's retirement there is naturally talk about a) the A-Train's chances of getting into the Hall of Fame and, b) retiring #40. I don't believe there is any chance for the former to happen unless the sports writers/voters really have a hard-on for Alstott. And the latter is unlikely as it would set a precedent that would require the Bucs to retire Derrick Brooks', Warren Sapp's and Ronde Barber's numbers as well. Retiring four numbers from one team is a bit much and I can't think of any other teams which have won only one Super Bowl who have done so. If the Bucs are going to retire any numbers from that Super Bowl team they should limit the retired numbers to two: 99 and 55.
Alstott's retirement brings up a much more relevant question, why don't the Bucs have some way to honor their players of the past? This is the Ring of Honor idea which has been bandied about for the past few years. Conventional wisdom is that the Glazers have shied away from a "Ring of Honor" because they are ashamed of the past. A much more likely explanation is that with the exception of a few players there are not a lot of Buccaneers worth honoring, the players which come to mind would be James Wilder, Lee Roy Selmon, Ricky Bell, Hardy Nickerson, Doug Williams. But now with the retirements of Alstott and Warren Sapp, and with Derrick Brooks and John Lynch getting closer to that point the Bucs may finally have enough players to begin honoring them somehow.
In Defense of Jeff Garcia
Garcia's nomination to the Pro Bowl has come under fire in some quarters but ignoring total numbers Garcia put up some impressive stats. Garcia finished with the 3rd best QB rating in the NFC, and also had an impressive yards per completion average. Garcia had 11.6 yards per completion compared to 11.7 for Favre, 11.3 for Hasselbeck and 10.0 for Brees. Total yards and touchdowns can be somewhat misleading as teams which are behind more often (i.e. the Saints) will throw more often and have more passing yards. And as Warrick Dunn can attest to during his time in Tampa Bay touchdowns are not the best measurement of a player's value to a team.
That being written it is very likely we will not see Cadillac for the first part of next season. The knee injury Cadillac suffered (torn patellar tendon) is much more serious than an ACL tear. Before the 2006 season Browns center LeCharles Bentley suffered the same injury (although he also had to deal with serious staph infection) and Bentley has not played since.
It will be interesting to see if the Bucs consider drafting a runningback in this draft. While the Bucs look to be in good shape with Graham as the very-down guy and Michael Bennett potentially being the big-play guy, there is a good deal of back depth in this year's draft.
That being written, Gruden and Company certainly deserved to have their contracts extended past next season. Gruden inherited an aging team, won a Super Bowl in the team's last window of opportunity to do so, and has been forced to rebuild without four high draft picks. For all the criticism thrown at him Gruden has been remarkably successful for the amount of talent he has had.
If there is a fair complaint to be throw at Gruden it is that he is a very poor talent evaluator when it comes to draft picks. He is average at best. And since Allen's real skill is negotiating contracts and cap management it might be a good idea for the Bucs to pick up a better talent evaluator to put in the front office.
ALSTOTT TO RETIRE
This isn't really much of news either, if Alstott didn't retire this season there was a good chance his head would simply fall off. The long time fan favorite should have retired a long time, in 2003 he had a vertebrae removed from his neck, replaced with bone from a cadaver and had the entire thing fused with titanium. Alstott was the NFL version of Frankenstein.
This has always been one of the things I felt uncomfortable about with the NFL, players sacrificing their long-term health for short term gratitude. We like to talk about how tough these guys are but when you see 55 year old players walking around with canes you can understand why Tiki Barber and Barry Sanders wanted to get out early.
Finally Gruden announced he has a "mystery candidate" to fill an assistant coaching slot. Currently the Bucs are looking for runningbacks and quarterbacks coaches so unless they announce Mike Alstott is the new quarterbacks coach I'm not sure which hire would "shock" me.
As for the Giants, if anyone deserved to inherit the Dan Marino Mantle from Peyton Manning (best quarterback to not win the Super Bowl) it is Eli. Eli could have been the quarterback for San Diego yesterday, an incredibly talented team of players that if not for a gimpy quarterback and having their best player injured would have beat New England. The Chargers are going down as one of those great what if? teams. Considering how poorly Phillip Rivers plays what would have happened if the Chargers has drafted Eli instead? Or what would have happened if the Chargers had kept Drew Brees and drafted Larry Fitzgerald (who was drafted 3rd overall) with the #1 overall pick. If not for a few foolish mistakes by the Chargers management we could be talking about San Diego as the greatest team ever. Yet, I digress.
I never thought I would see the day where I would consider skipping the Super Bowl, but yet here we are. We saw this matchup 3 weeks ago, so we already have a rough idea of how the game will play out. And the best part about the Super Bowl, the commercials, will be replayed roughly 50 million times over the year.
BACK TO THE BUCS...
In some good news Monte Kiffin has apparently resigned w/ the Bucs for roughly $2 M. This after Rick Stroud of the St Pete Times "reported" both sides were no where close to a deal after the Bucs supposedly tried to low ball Kiffin. I will refrain from commenting further as BucStats has already done so, except to say all these rumors of Monte leaving town were just that...rumors.
Speaking of rumors the Bucs are being considered as one of four teams to potentially play a regular season game in London next year. I've not been a big fan of the NFL going overseas mostly because I don't believe there is the same potential market for the sport globally as there has been for basketball and baseball. If the NFL makes the mistake of tabbing the Bucs to play in London I will go into this in more detail but the NFL is not a sport you simply export especially when you are competing against futbol.
Scouts Inc and current ESPN Product Todd McShay (check your contract Todd, the WWL now owns your soul) has released his mock draft which has our Bucs drafting OT Sam Baker out of USC. While this isn't the only mock I've seen with the Bucs drafting Baker it does strike me as odd for the following reasons...
1) The Bucs already have two left tackles, Luke Petitgout and Donald Penn
2) The Bucs have bigger needs, notably receiver and undertackle
I'm not completely ruling out Gruden and Company drafting an offensive tackle with the first pick, based on the last two drafts it's obvious Gruden has a hard on for offensive lineman. But drafting an offensive tackle makes little sense after spending as much as the Bucs did on Petitgout unless Gruden has serious doubts about both Petitgout's ability to return next season and Penn's ability to start at left tackle. Even is the former is a likely possibility the latter is highly unlikely. While Penn is not about to make it to any Pro Bowls he was reliable at left tackle.
Which leads us right back to drafting a receiver. McShay has four receivers drafted around the Bucs pick, and most draft talk at this point has six possible receivers being drafted in the first round. The receiver crop this year appears to shake out much like it did in 2004. That was the year we saw 6 receivers drafted in the first round, including Michael Clayton. This year's potential 1st rounders include
DeSean Jackson - Cal
Malcolm Kelly - Okla
Limas Sweed - Texas
Mario Manningham - Mich
Early Doucet - LSU
James Hardy - Indiana
I've already stated my support for Manningham (the solid if somewhat overwhelming choice) but I'm starting to come around to Sweed. He was widely considered the top receiver before the season started and if not for a wrist injury could have gone in the top ten. He's one of those guys who you get the feeling that looking back in ten years could have been the steal of the draft.
Anyway, like I mentioned at the beginning, we're a long ways away from the Draft so I'm sure I will waste a few more words on the subject between now and April.
BucStats makes a compelling argument for a few of the receivers who will be hitting the free agent market. Larry Fitzgerald and Jerry Porter are both appealing options, Fitzgerald because he is one of the best young receivers and Porter because he is the type of value player I mentioned before, i.e. someone who's stock has fallen because of personal issues. And while Fitzgerald may be too expensive for the Bucs, Porter may be a good fit, just look at how much Randy Moss's value went through the roof once he left the Raiders. Porter is one of the better receivers in this league, but you would never know it with the Raiders motley crew of quarterbacks.
This looks to be a deep year at receiver for the NFL Draft, and while receivers are always dangerous picks (Exhibit A: Michael Clayton) it is worth the time to consider drafting a receiver in the first round. On to the picks.
Adarius Bowman (#25 Overall) - Oklahoma State
I'm going off the rankings found at Great Blue North Draft Report, which was updated just a day ago. I know little about Bowman other than he is tall which means Gruden is already considering drafting him.
Malcolm Kelly (#27) - Oklahoma
Another Big 12 receiver which I rarely watched.
DeSean Jackson (#31) - California
Jackson is one of the more intriguing prospects to me, he is raw as a receiver but has the speed and explosiveness to go in the first round based on potential. He could be the Ted Ginn Jr. pick of this draft, and could contribute immediately in the kick return game. Don't expect him to work his way into the starting lineup on opening day though.
Limas Sweed (#35) - Texas
Another tall Big 12 receiver Sweed was considered one of the best college receivers before the season started but injuries kept him out for much of the year. Another guy who will be drafted based on the mysterious "potential" aspect.
Mario Manningham (#37) - Michigan
Mario is one of the guys I'm leaning towards having the Bucs draft, he appears to be a complete receiver who does not excel in one area but is not lacking in anyone area either, i.e. this year's Anthony Gonzalez. While Manningham has not yet declared his new coach has mentioned that he expects Manningham to do so. Mario has missed one of the teams first meetings.
James Hardy (#39) - Indiana
Earl Bennett (#42) - Vanderbilt
Devin Thomas (#47) - Michigan State
Early Doucet (#51) - LSU
Early this late? Color me surprised.
1. FIRE GRUDEN!!!
This no talent hack has been stinking up Tampa ever since he arrived. What has he done besides winning a Super Bowl (with Saint Dungy’s players!) and three division titles? Nothing, that’s what! If the McKay’s had any brains the first thing they would do this week would be to fire Gruden and then get Bill Parcells to be the coach. The ’86 Giants were totally the BEST TEAM EVER plus the Big Tuna is a total badass.
2. Draft the Best Florida Player in the First Round!
This is a Flori-duh kind of move. Every year I argue we should draft the best college player in the state. Last year it was Jarvis Moss and the year before that Ernie Sims. Both years that dummy Gruden passed on the best player in the state. If he doesn’t draft Derrick Harvey this year Gruden TOTALLY deserves to get fired!
3. Trade for Randy Moss!
This is a no-brainer. What did the Pats trade for Moss, like a third round pick? The Bucs can just up the offer and trade a second round pick for Moss. If that doesn’t work just throw in Michael Clayton as well. I don’t know why Gruden hasn’t thought of this trade.
4. Make Jake Plummer the Starter!
You know why the Bucs lost to the Giants? Besides Gruden being such a bad coach, it was because of that nancy Jeff Garcia. T.O. was right, if it smells like a rat. What do you mean Garcia is married to a former Playboy Bunny? Jake the Snake, his porn-stache, and his backwards passes are still more manly than Garcia and his “play it safe” game.
5. Guarantee Derrick Brooks a Lifetime Starting Spot!
Gruden is a moron if he doesn’t guarantee Brooks as a lifetime starter at linebacker, competition for the position be damned. Brooks is TOTALLY going into the Hall of Fame, and any player going into the Hall of Fame has to be great, right? And it’s not like players get slower as they got older, at least not great players like Brooks. Plus Brooks is a great community guy and benching him would hurt the feelings of all the kids Brooks takes to Africa during the offseason.
The following list are the top three things I think the Bucs need to do in order to be considered Super Bowl contenders next season. I am assuming the Bucs keep most if not all their starters, and to be honest I have no idea which players will be free agents this offseason.
I have my doubts that Gruden and Company will make any dramatic changes seeing as how Gruden’s modus operandi has been to shy away from changing personnel unless he could potentially lose his job. Gruden stuck with Chris Simms after the Skins playoff loss even though the offense looked anemic during the game. I’m not suggesting the Bucs dump Jeff Garcia (although it wouldn’t kill the Bucs to finally get rid of Simms and Gradkowski) but there are some wholesale changes which should be made.
1. Get a Receiver
This is the one thing on the list I have the most faith in Gruden to accomplish considering how much he wanted to draft Calvin Johnson last year. The Bucs have no receiver depth behind Joey Galloway, and their two leading receivers are both over 30. If
On the other hand the Bucs two young receivers, Michael Clayton and Maurice Stovall, have shown little promise. It’s safe to label Clayton a bust at this point and write him off as a cautionary tale of drafting receivers early. I’m not advising against keeping Clayton, he serves a valuable role as a third receiver, but he has failed to produce when needed and finished sixth on the team in total receptions. Stovall could turn out to be a good second receiver but much like Clayton appears to be a better special teams player than a primary receiver.
There are two obvious ways to get a receiver, through the draft and free agency. If the Bucs draft a receiver I hope they go after somebody who is already developed as a receiver (Mario Manningham, Andre Caldwell) as opposed to an unpolished receiver with a lot of upside (DeSean Jackson, Limas Sweed). I have no idea who the free agent candidates are at receiver but you typically don’t find good, young receivers in free agency. My suggestion to the Bucs is to make a stab at trading for Chris Henry, who for reasons I will get to in the next section has a lot of value for the Bucs.
Trading For Chris Henry Couldn't Possibly Backfire, Right?
2. Find the Value Player(s)
The key for any championship team is to find players which other teams undervalue. BnB pointed this out a few days ago but the Spurs built a championship team by drafting foreign born players with good fundamentals at a time when foreign-born players were undervalued. The
The Bucs have done a pretty good job of this so far, both Jerremy Stevens (DUI) and Phillip Buchanon (poor coaching) had been undervalued until they were picked up by the Bucs. Gruden has never shied away from giving players a second chance, and for the most part the strategy has worked out well for him. Chris Henry, the receiver for the Bengals fits this bill as the Bucs would probably not have to give up much and roll the dice with the hope Henry doesn’t get convicted a fourth time. Actually on second thought I’m not so sure about trading for Chris Henry.
The other position which has been undervalued in the NFL is kick returner, although I feel that tide is starting to turn. Devin Hester is the Bears only offense and was a late second round pick. The Steelers were forced to kick away or punt the ball out of bounds against the Jaguars this weekend because they were concerned about Maurice Jones-Drew (who was also a late second round pick). So far the Bucs have given little thought to the kick return position as evidenced by handing the position to a player who was on the practice squad for half the season (Micheal Spurlock).
Spurlock: Suddenly Expendable
3. Obtain Another Pass Rusher
While the Bucs pass rush got better as the season progressed the d-line never resembled the Bucs d-line’s of old. Monte Kiffin should be congratulated for generating as much of pass rush with this rag-tag bunch of misfits as he did but the lack of talent on the d-line was exposed by the Giants. Gaines Adams looks like he will turn out to be a very good pass rusher the Bucs defense has worked best when they have had two pass rushers (a la Sapp and Rice).
Preferably the Bucs will pick up an undertackle, seeing as how Jovan Haye has not been impressive this season. This may be the most difficult position to fill since there are such a small number of players with the skill sets required to play the position. A pass rushing defensive is also a consideration although the Bucs have a few players who fit the bill (Greg White, Kevin Carter) already.
Got any suggestions for changes you would like to see? Leave ‘em in the comments.
As far as predictions go I've been seeing a lot of love for the Giants but most writers are predicting a win for the Bucs (and the last one is sure to get a rise out of all the Dr. Z haters in the house)...
Bill Simmons - BUCS
Peter King - BUCS
Ron Jaworski - BUCS
Clark Judge - BUCS
Paul Zimmerman - GIANTS
While I don't agree with Dr. Z's prediction I do agree with his assessment. The Giants d-line is just plain nasty and the Bucs o-line has a long way to be considered one of the best in the league. Jeff Garcia will get hit today and the Giants will be a tough out for the Bucs.
One last thing before I head over to my buddy's place (who is a Giants fan) to watch the game, for all the talk about the Bucs resting their starters they for the most part played all their defensive starters over the last two weeks. Sure, in the third and fourth quarter they did pull a lot of the defensive starters but the Bucs defense will be ready to play today.
NEW YORK 24, TAMPA BAY 14
To quote Rays Index that game stunk like a baby diaper full of Indian food. With the exception of the first quarter the Bucs were outplayed by the Giants and Tampa Bay had no right to even play in that game. Most people are going to break down everything that the Bucs should have done but here's the secret to what went wrong for the Bucs............................................THEY DIDN'T SCORE ENOUGH POINTS.
This Bucs offense is pathetic and Trueblood was dominated by Strahan all day, as a result Garica couldn't throw it deep without throwing an interception. The Bucs need a lot of help to truly be Super Bowl contenders but I have little to no faith in Gruden and company to make the changes that need to be made.
Look for my offseason wish list to be published tomorrow.
It's a testament to Sapp's dominance that he is a lock to get into Canton (only one other Buc, i.e. Derrick Brooks, can make the same claim). Let's look at Sapp's credentials:
'99 Defensive Player of the Year
7 Pro Bowls
96.5 sacks over 13 seasons (7.4 sacks a season)
'03 Super Bowl Champion
By comparison Lee Roy Selmon was elected to six Pro Bowls, won Defensive Player of the Year in 1979 and recorded 78.5 sacks over 9 seasons (8.7 sacks a season).
Sapp's critics will likely point to his "controversies" with Mike Sherman when he was the Packers head coach and skipping through the Steelers warmups, overlooking that in both instances Sapp was not the one who initiated the confrontations (Sherman approached Sapp over a block which Packers player Chad Clifton admitted was clean and the Steelers Lee Flowers had taunted the Bucs as Paper Champions before the game). Even replays of the 3 personal fouls against Sapp a few weeks ago show he never touched an official.
By the way, gotta love Sapp's announcement at his website, QBKilla.com.