The State of the Cap: Outlook & Trajectory (September 2017 Edition)

With our final roster cut down to 52, now's a good time to look at our cap situation, the road ahead, and potential moves that we can make-- particularly with Jameis and Evans. Here's the TL;DR of this post: 

Summary

  • The Bucs currently have nearly $17M in cap space. After this season, many of our expensive players will become UFA's, which will free up an additional ~$25M in cap space. 
  • The Bucs are well-balanced in both offensive and defensive spend. This is likely to blow up in favor of offensive spend shortly, which leads me to...
  • The Bucs are the only team in the NFL that are likely going to have to give top 5 salaries to both our QB and WR. This is going to create serious salary cap challenges down the road that are further complicated by the 2020 CBA re-negotiation.

Overall

Total Cap/Cap Space

Notes: 

  • For 2017, the Buccaneers have a salary cap of $172.5M.
  • Our active contracts injured reserve, and dead cap figures add up to $155.8M, leaving us with $16.72M in cap space available. 

By Defense/Offense/Special Teams

Notes: 

  • $73M of our cap space, or 48.83% is currently used on defense. 
  • $67M of our cap space, or 45.07% is currently used on offense. 
  • $8.4M of our cap space, or 6.1% is currently used on special teams. 

Top Cap Figures: Offense

  1. Desean Jackson ($12.5M)
  2. Jameis Winston ($6.9M)
  3. Doug Martin ($5.8M)
  4. J.R. Sweezy ($4.7M)
  5. Mike Evans ($4.7M)
  6. Evan Smith ($4.5M)
  7. Demar Dotson ($4.3M)
  8. Ryan Fitzpatrick ($3.7M)
  9. Joe Hawley ($2.9M)
  10. O.J. Howard ($2M)

Top Cap Figures: Defense

  1. Gerald McCoy ($13.75M)
  2. Brent Grimes ($8M)
  3. Willie Gholston ($7M)
  4. Robert Ayers ($6.25M)
  5. Chris Baker ($6M)
  6. Lavonte David ($6M)
  7. T.J. Ward ($3.9M)
  8. Vernon Hargreaves III ($3.2M)
  9. Josh Robinson ($3.1M)
  10. Chris Conte ($2.9M)

Cap Projections: 2017 and Beyond

Active Contracts: Projected Spending

Notes: 

  • At the conclusion of the 2017 season, the Buccaneers will have multiple top dollar players set to become UFA's, hence the large decline in projected cap spend. These players include Brent Grimes, Evan Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jacquies Smith, and Clinton McDonald. 

Key Considerations: Extending Mike Evans and Jameis Winston

In the next two years, the Buccaneers will likely have to sign QB Jameis Winston and WR Mike Evans to top dollar contracts. Both the WR and QB markets have exploded as of late, most recently with the extensions of Matthew Stafford and Derek Carr. 

With the Buccaneers opting into his 5th year option, Mike Evans will be under contract through the 2018 season, but it is likely the team will attempt to extend him to a long-term deal. 

It is assumed the Buccaneers will also pick up Jameis Winston's 5th year option this year, which would extend him through the 2019 season. To give you an idea of the current market for top WR and QB salaries, take a look at the below figures. You'll notice that the Buccaneers are currently facing a unique quandary, in that none of the teams below are currently having to pay top dollar to both QB and WR: 

Top 5 WR Contracts in NFL

  1. Antonio Brown ($17.5M/yr, $19M guaranteed)
  2. Deandre Hopkins ($16.3M/yr, $36.5M guaranteed)
  3. A.J. Green ($15M/yr, $26.8M guaranteed)
  4. Julio Jones ($14.25M/yr, $35.5M guaranteed)
  5. Dez Bryant ($14M/yr, $32M guaranteed)

Top 5 QB Contracts in NFL

  1. Matthew Stafford ($27M/yr, $60.5M guaranteed)
  2. Derek Carr ($25M/yr, $40M guaranteed)
  3. Andrew Luck ($24.5M/yr, $47M guaranteed)
  4. Drew Brees ($24M/yr, $24M guaranteed)
  5. Kirk Cousins ($24M/yr, 24M guaranteed)

So where does this leave the bucs? 

Let's play around with some realistic projections, because, there's no such thing as a "hometown discount" and Evans and Jameis would be foolish to take one. A few scenarios here: 

  • Scenario A: Mike Evans receives a 5 yr, $84M extension that pays him $35M in guarantees total (through 2019-2024). Jameis Winston, at the end of the 2018 season receives a 5 yr, $142M with $64M guarantees total (through 2020-2025). 
  • Scenario B: Mike Evans receives a 5 yr, $84M extension that pays him $35M in guarantees (through 2019-2024). Jameis Winston receives a franchise tag in 2020. The team waits for the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) to be renegotiated before signing Jameis to a long-term deal. This is also a possible scenario. 

In Scenario A, the Bucs have an opportunity to front load Evans' deal to take the majority of the cap hit before Jameis's inevitable extension. Keep in mind, there are a million other variables at play here, including where Evans' 2014 peers Odell Beckham and Sammy Watkins end up deal-wise, but it's going to carry a hefty price tag. 

Where things get more interesting is Scenario B. As aforementioned, Jameis's contract runs through the 2019 season (assuming 5th year option is picked up). At the conclusion of the 2020 season, the CBA will expire. So what if the Bucs franchise Jameis in 2020 (paying him an average of the top five QB salaries, fully guaranteed for one year), and then wait and see how CBA negotiations unfold? Agents are pressing for deals that will allow for their players to receive a percentage of the salary cap rather than a flat wage and signing bonus, and there's always the chance the salary cap will go away altogether, which would take an explosive QB market and make it even more lucrative. 

 


Measuring Buc Hype on a Scale of One to Owusu

Every year, there seems to be a new late round pick or undrafted free agent (UDFA) that the fanbase gets hyped about on astronomical levels. During the later Gruden years, for instance, there were a number of fans that were convinced 2008 5th Round Pick Josh Johnson was going to be the franchise QB savior we never had. The hype train on him was blazing, yet, when Johnson finally got the chance to start, the expectation caboose derailed and ignited our hopes in a ball of flames. 

And who could forget in 2011, when we landed "the steal of the draft" in Da'Quan Bowers. Even when that Hypetanic began to sink, fans still held on and continued to declare "he's gonna break out next year, I can feel it!" 

This year, the Hypedenburg is around Adarius Glanton and Riley Bullough, and who knows, maybe one or both winds up meeting the expectations we have. 

The concept of "hype," is of course subjective. Or is it? What if you could measure Buccaneer hype as a unit? 

What if you could measure hype on a scale of one to owusu? 

The Owusu Scale

The Owusu scale works in such a way, that each player on the scale is like a unit of measurement. So like, you know how four quarters equals one dollar? Three Dre Moores equals one Owusu on the Owusu scale, and so forth. More below: 


 

1

Tu'Ikolavatu

Stevie.png

 

Explanation: There's a small hype train around Stevie Tu'ikolavatu that I thought it made most sense to have him as the smallest level of hype measurement. He looks like a Tongan version of Thurman Murman. 


 

2

Moores

Picture1.png

Explanation: Moore was our 4th round pick in 2008, and after a promising career at Maryland, he didn't even make the final roster as a rookie. "Steal of the draft!" they bellowed. It was a brief hype train, a quiet hype train, but now, a dead hype train. He gets a two on the measurement scale. 


 

3

Bells

Kenny.png

 

Explanation: "When he gets back from his hamstring injury, he's going to be a great WR2 replacement for V-Jax!" Nah. 


 

4

Johnsons

Johnson.png

Explanation: Jon "The QB Whisperer" Gruden couldn't find a QB to whisper to after Brad Johnson retired. Bruce Gradkowski sucked, for instance. But Johnson was supposedly our savior, who enough fans bought into that to this day, you still see Josh Johnson jerseys floating around. But, he wasn't good at football. He gets a 4 on hype measurement scale. 


 

5

Da'Quans

Daquan.png

Explanation: "Curse you, Dominik!" we said as he passed on Bowers to take Clayborn in 2011. When it came time to pick in round 2, our guy was there. "You're a genius, Dominik!" And each year, we waited for Da'quan to break out to the #1 overall pick levels of skill we expected him to have. The closest he got to firing on all cylinders was when they caught him with a loaded gun at the airport. 


 

 

6

Owusus

Owusu.png

Explanation: No one really knows where the Owusu train started, but in terms of full on hype, he maximizes the scale. For a guy who didn't amass even 400 yards in his final years of college (with Andrew Frickin' Luck throwing to him), when he got to Bucs camp as a UDFA, the media was like "HERE COMES THE SECOND COMING OF JERRY RICE" and then we bit the bullet and said "YEAH I THINK HE'S GOING TO BE LIKE ALSTOTT, BROOKS, AND WILDER IN ONE PACKAGE." No seriously, does anyone know where the Owusu hype came from? He got waived. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2017 Season Preview

Intro

High expectations and hope were once relics of Buccaneer past, reserved for the days when we had a historic defense and a competent Josh Freeman at Quarterback. As we near the 2017 season, high expectations and hope have made their comeback in full swing. This is a team that fans feel is ready to compete and contend for a playoff spot—where we haven’t been in ten seasons.

The fan excitement is warranted. In Head Coach Dirk Koetter’s first season, the Bucs went 9-7, narrowly missing the playoffs, but getting our first winning record since 2010. Quarterback Jameis Winston is entering a critical third year, and the team invested significant cap space and draft picks to surround him with skill positions he desperately needed in his first two years.

Our defense’s young core is finally getting their sea legs, and if the momentum gained at the end of last season was any indication, the Bucs have a few defensive players poised for breakouts, which I’ll get into more below.

The optimism isn’t without some major caveats, and these caveats are the kinds of things that may not only stall the team’s progression to a playoff team, but are large enough to impede the team’s potential to regress from its 9-7 benchmark. Those caveats include, but are not limited to: Jameis’s decision-making and reduction of turnovers, the interior offensive line protecting him, a secondary that may not be poised to stop the powerhouse QB’s of the NFC South, a huge question mark around Doug Martin, and of course, the circus of our competition for the starting Kicker job (aka Dr. Roberto’s Wild Ride). 

These reservations aside, there’s more to be positive about, and as I’ll get into with my schedule predictions, I predict the Buccaneers wind up with a 10-6 record and win the NFC South.

This offseason preview post will review critical free agent signings, our 2017 draft class and my expectations of them, an analysis of our projected starters, random NFL thoughts, and a trip down memory lane with last year’s review post to see what I got right and what I got abysmally wrong.

Coaching Notes: On Re-Signing Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith

The Buccaneers were fairly active in free agency this year, but the biggest move of all was re-signing Defensive Coordinator (DC) Mike Smith, keeping him in-house. Smith had been the former Head Coach of the Falcons, and upon Dirk Koetter’s promotion to Head Coach in Tampa, Koetter brought Smith back to the NFL (incidentally, Koetter was Smith’s OC in Atlanta, so this was a bit of a role reversal).

It took a while for Smith to prove his worth—in fact, it was pretty ugly as he came back to the NFL and the players adjusted to his scheme. In the first three weeks alone, the Buccaneers allowed a league-high 101 points. The defense had a propensity to give up huge plays. For example, in a span of two weeks against Atlanta and Oakland, Smitty’s defense surrendered a staggering 1000+ yards and 9 touchdowns.

Things began to click. In weeks 10-12, the Buccaneers allowed only 32 combined points, a huge increase in takeaways, sacks, and a 26% increase in redzone efficiency. Our defense quickly went from one of the league’s worst to surprisingly competent. With the strong finish to end the season, whispers about Smitty’s prospects as a Head Coach re-emerged.

Smith was interviewed for multiple head coaching positions, but the Glazers and GM Jason Licht implored him to stay (by implored, I mean paid him a healthy contract extension), and Smitty withdrew his name from the Head Coaching search to stay in Tampa.

Among the many things that have killed the Buccaneers in the last few seasons is a sheer lack of continuity on our coaching staff. From 2010 onward, we’re on our fourth Head Coach, and our coordinators have been serially inept (sometimes I still get nightmares about Jeff Jagodzinski). 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.

2017 Season Preview Hub

2017 Draft Review

Projected Starting Lineup & Analysis: Defense

2017 Free Agency Review

Projected Starting Lineup & Analysis: Offense

2017 Schedule Predictions

Wrap-Up

If you’ve read my previous Buccaneer posts here, you’ll notice that they’re often full of self-deprecation, a reflection of the state our franchise has been in since our Super Bowl victory. The ineptitude of our past is no more. We have a capable and promising quarterback we’re prepared to lean on, an innovative coaching staff, and enough pieces on both sides of the ball that we will compete in 2017.

Despite the pieces in place, I still consider this a developmental year and am not expecting a well-oiled machine that takes us deep into the playoffs—at least, not yet. As David Mamet said, "Old age and treachery will always beat youth and exuberance." At the start of last season, the Buccaneers had one of the youngest rosters in football. The oldest? The Atlanta Falcons (who blew a 25-point lead in the Super Bowl, by the way). There’s something to be said about “old age and treachery” in this league, and the Buccaneers don’t have those grizzled veterans yet. In time, we will.

What we lack in experience, we make up for in a locker room with more passion for football than we’ve had in a decade, as well as high energy guys who have helped shake our losing culture in the same way the John Lynches, Derrick Brooks types, and Ronde Barbers of the past did.

Tune into Hard Knocks this year. You’re going to see the start of a very special couple of years for us. It’s about damn time.


2017 Buccaneers Schedule Predictions

Week Opponent Prediction Analysis
 1  @Dolphins 21-17 Dolphins (0-1)  I don’t know what to make of the Dolphins, but I do know they have a nasty defense, and I could see them wreaking serious havoc on the Buccaneers’ questionable interior offensive line. The Dolphins played particularly well at home in 2016 (6-2) and mark a tough road opponent to start the season. I’m expecting a defensive battle in which neither Winston or Cutler are able to find their rhythm.
 2  Bears  31-20 Bucs (1-1)  The prodigal son Mike Glennon returns home, and in my alternative universe he throws a billion touchdowns and throws a javelin into Jason Licht’s throat for daring to let him walk in free agency. He then burns the city of Tampa to the ground. But in my not alternative universe, being reality, I think the Bears have a pretty incomplete roster on both sides of the ball. Expecting a good game from Jacquizz Rodgers and the Bucs offense wakes up after a bad week 1 against the Dolphins.
 3  @Vikings  24-17 Bucs (2-1) I predict the Buccaneers defense stifles the Vikings offense here, but the Vikings defense will reciprocate and keep Jameis from having an explosive game. Winston has struggled against complete secondaries in the past, and between Rhodes and Harrison Smith, this could be a difficult one for him. Side note: but I think Trae Waynes has a breakout year for the Vikings this year. Bucs come out on top, narrowly.
 4  Giants  28-20 Giants (2-2) This one is tough to predict, but I think Eli Manning is the deciding factor here. If the Bucs defense can force him into some stupid turnovers, they come out on top; but conversely, this Giants defense is spooky good and could force Jameis into stupid turnovers too. I’m expecting some face palm worthy plays from both teams, but Giants win this one.
 5  Patriots  34-13 Patriots (2-3) I’d love to be more optimistic about this one, but the Patriots took their Super Bowl roster and made it even stronger (this time without our players). If there’s one consistent thing Belichick has done throughout his career, it’s make an ass out of young quarterbacks. This is a game that could be a potential demoralizer.
6  @Cardinals  27-17 Cardinals (2-4) I really hope our run game is ready to take the load and produce, because if last year was any indication, the Cardinals are not the kind of team you want to make Jameis throw a ton of passes against. Winston threw a whopping 4 picks against them last year on 54 passes (and lost a fumble). While surrounded by better targets this year, this is a game that will hopefully limit Jameis to no more than 30 passes. Cardinals may be regressing at the QB position, but this is still a great roster, top to bottom.|
 7  @Bills  31-13 Bucs (3-4) After a three game slide, Bucs get a much needed victory on the road against the Bills. This is a game I could see the Bucs taking over both offensively and defensively.
 8  Panthers  20-17 Bucs (4-4) In terms of defensive talent, Panthers are still as good as they come. Love the addition of McAffrey on the other side of the ball too and think he’s going to break out for some big plays early on in his career. Jameis has gone an even 2-2 against Carolina in his career so far. I like his odds at home here.
 9  Saints  41-27 Bucs (5-4) Expecting a shootout here and for our offense to finally have that explosive game where their potential is realized. I also hate the Saints more than I hate ISIS, so would love this result to actually happen.
 10  Jets  30-10 Bucs (6-4) Right now, Jets would be my early candidates to get the #1 overall pick in the 2018 draft. They have just enough defensive talent to keep them competitive (particularly their front four), but I could see their offense looking similar to our 2014 dumpster fire when McCown was our QB. Expecting a relatively low scoring game with Tampa coming out on top at home.
 11  Bye  N/A  Someone’s going to get arrested. I just know it.
 12  @Falcons  34-27 Falcons (6-5) I don’t know if the Falcons go through your typical Super Bowl hangover or not, but what I do know is that the Bucs still can’t stop Julio Jones. Fun facts: nearly 15% of his career receiving yards have come against Tampa. He averages 111 yards and a TD against us in his career. He is good at NFL football. Bucs-Falcons matchups have been very exciting as of late. I think the Falcons take the first one in ATL.
 13  @Packers  28-24 Bucs (7-5) This is the game I’m most excited for and could be one of those career defining games for Winston, going head to head with the league’s best in Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau. Packers might be my early NFC pick for the Super Bowl, but for some reason my biased gut tells me that Jameis will pull some of his magic here on the road in a statement game.
 14  Lions  34-17 Bucs (8-5) Expecting another big offensive performance for the Bucs, namely from our rushing attack. Home stretch here, and this is a must win at home to squeak into the playoffs.
 15  Falcons  41-27 Bucs (9-5) Jameis stepped up bigtime last year against the Falcons, throwing for 542 yards, 7 TD’s, and 1 INT in two outings. I think he blows up for one more big game at home here.
 16  @Panthers  31-24 Panthers (9-6) We end a three game win streak on the road against Carolina, who we’ve gone an even .500 against in the Jameis Winston era. I think we split the series here.
 17  Saints  37-24 Bucs (10-6) The division and playoff hopes may very well come down to this game, and the Bucs have the advantage of playing all three division rivals the last three games to take the lead (or squander it). Bucs win Week 17 to take the NFC South and get our first playoff berth in 10 years. There, I said it. Fight me.

Projected Starting Lineup & Analysis: Offense

2017 Draft Review

2017 Free Agency Review

Projected Starting Lineup & Analysis: Offense

Success starts with the Jaboo!

Success starts with the Jaboo!

QB

Jameis Winston

 

Confidence Rating for Jameis: 5 Jaboos

Confidence Rating for Jameis: 5 Jaboos

Jameis Winston exceeded expectations in his first two years, becoming the first player in NFL history to throw 4,000+ yards in his first two seasons. It hasn’t been without significant issues with turnovers, however. In 2016, Winston had the 2nd highest number of interceptions among active QB’s, with 18 picks (6 lost fumbles in addition), completing the ball to the defense in 11/16 games (four of which were multi-pick games). It didn’t help that Winston was limited by a sheer lack of weapons, narrow WR depth, and an offensive line who didn’t do him many favors. A lot of these roster deficiencies were addressed this offseason in signing D-Jax, drafting Howard, and drafting Godwin. As his rapport continues to develop with his existing targets in Evans, Humphries, and Brate, I’m expecting a big leap in year three for him. Probably Wrong Projected Stats: 4,353 yards, 61.3% completion percentage, 32 TD’s, 14 INT’s


WR1

Mike Evans

Confidence Rating for Evans: 5 Jaboos

Confidence Rating for Evans: 5 Jaboos

Evans made a monstrous leap last year, securing his first career All-Pro honors while reducing his drops he was often criticized for. With Doug Martin’s suspension, Evans became the centerpiece of the Bucs offense, and rose to the occasion. /u/houndstooth37 found this great factoid about Evans’ performance last year: he had 96 catches, 81 of them went for first downs, and 12 went for TD’s. In other words, Evans only had three catches that didn’t go for a 1st down or a TD. As the offense opens up with more targets, Evans will face less double teams and should continue his monster trajectory. Probably Wrong Projected Stats: 91 catches, 1,412 yards, 10 TD’s.


WR2

Desean

Jackson

Confidence Rating for D-Jax: 4 Jaboos

Confidence Rating for D-Jax: 4 Jaboos

 

I talked about Jackson a little bit in the free agency section, but I love his potential to open up our offense and stretch the field for us.

Much needed addition to take some heat off Evans.

Probably Wrong Projected Stats: 47 catches, 816 yards, 3 TD’s


RB

Jacquizz Rodgers

Confidence Rating for Quizz: 2 Jaboos

Confidence Rating for Quizz: 2 Jaboos

Rodgers will likely be the starting back while Doug Martin serves the final three games of his PED suspension. I suspect, in Martin’s absence, the Bucs will split carries between Rodgers, Charles Sims, and a few to Jeremy McNichols sprinkled in.

Once Martin returns, it’s his load to carry, and Martin will need a stellar year to justify his roster spot beyond 2017. Probably Wrong Projected Stats for Jacquizz Rodgers: 528 yards rushing, 3 TD’s and Probably Wrong Projected Stats for Doug Martin: 764 yards rushing, 4 TD’s


TE

Cameron Brate

Confidence Rating for Brate: 4 Jaboos

Confidence Rating for Brate: 4 Jaboos

Brate has been one of GM Jason Licht’s best finds as a UDFA. In year three, Brate had a quiet and productive year, catching 57 balls for 660 yards and 8 TD’s. I like the potential our two TE sets will have between Brate and Howard, and the two of them should create some mismatches in the short and medium passing game.

Probably Wrong Projected Stats: 66 catches, 794 yards, 7 TD’s and because some of you might be wondering… Probably Wrong Projected Stats for OJ Howard: 19 catches, 286 yards, 2 TD’s.


LT

Donovan Smith

Confidence Rating for Smith: 2 Jaboos

Confidence Rating for Smith: 2 Jaboos

The progression I was hoping to see from Donovan Smith in his second year just wasn’t there. Flat footed, slow of the snap, and often got dominated in the run game, in my opinion, he’s the biggest road block in Jameis’s progression to the top tiers of QB’s right now. Against middling pass rushers, Smith has shown the ability to compete, but match him up against the league’s premier rushers, and he looks like a Kenyatta Walker throwback. Smith’s third year is going to be make or break to prove his worth protecting Winston’s blindside. The penalties have got to go down, the agility and smarts must go up, and the aggression needs to come to fruition, or we may begin looking for his replacement.  


LG

J.R. Sweezy

Confidence Rating in Sweezy: 2 Jaboos

Confidence Rating in Sweezy: 2 Jaboos

I hated this signing last year even before he went on IR before the season even began. The Bucs overpaid for a guy who was an average G in Seattle, and right now, he’s could wind up being the next bullet in the latest list of overpaid Jason Licht FA disasters. He gets a clean slate and a fresh start this year, but I won’t get my hopes up.

In early preseason action, Sweezy has looked smoothe. We'll see if that translates to regular season play as well. 


C

Ali Marpet

Confidence Rating in Marpet: 4 Jaboos

Confidence Rating in Marpet: 4 Jaboos

In perhaps one of our bigger head scratching moves (for me at least), HC Dirk Koetter announced he intended to bounce Ali Marpet to Center from Guard this offseason. The move was peculiar for a variety of reasons: we already had an adequate Center in Joe Hawley, Marpet was progressing rapidly as a Guard and looking like he could break out as our best OL, and switching to a Pamphile/Sweezy lineup at Guard didn’t exactly inspire confidence. But, in Koetter we trust, so we’ll see how this pans out. With Marpet’s work ethic, smarts, and how quickly he adjusted from D3 Football to the Pros, this should be a smooth transition inside for him. I think. I hope.

RG

Kevin

 Pamphile

Confidence Rating for Pamphile: 1 Jaboo

Confidence Rating for Pamphile: 1 Jaboo

This is probably our most concerning spot on OL right now. While Pamphile has played decently at times, on any other roster, he would project more to a reserve than he does a starter. If I had a dollar last season for every time I said “uh oh” as I watched him lose leverage off the snap, I’d have $11 or $13.

Still a guy in development, and I haven’t written him off yet, but he’s a concern. Don’t forget the name Caleb Benenoch. If he makes the roster again, he’ll see action if Pamphile struggles.


RT

Demar Dotson

Confidence Rating for Dotson: 3 Jaboos

Confidence Rating for Dotson: 3 Jaboos

At times, Demar Dotson has quietly performed as one of the better RT’s in football. At other times, he gets enough flags that I sometimes mistake him for the United Nations. When he’s not getting flags, he’s a mauler in the run game and offers solid pass pro as well. Dotson does his job, and he does it well, but like his LT counterpart, the flags could really put a damper on us having a fluid offense. Still, next to Marpet, he remains the piece of our O-Line I have the most confidence in.


Projected Starting Lineup & Analysis: Defense

2017 Draft Review

2017 Free Agency Review


Gerald McCoy...Still a Legend. 

Gerald McCoy...Still a Legend. 

RE

Noah Spence

Confidence Rating in Spence: 4 Jaboos

Confidence Rating in Spence: 4 Jaboos

After a rocky NFL start (that’s what rookies do) Spence had a heck of a second half rookie season, notching 5.5 sacks while playing through a torn labrum. Spence looks even leaner, more cut, and has had a full offseason to rehab.

I’m starting this hype train in full effect right now: Spence is our breakout candidate and will become our first player to notch 10+ sacks since Simeon Rice. Probably Wrong Projected Stats- 10.5 sacks


LE

Robert Ayers

Confidence Rating in Ayers: 3 Jaboos

Confidence Rating in Ayers: 3 Jaboos

Ayers has been one of Licht’s better free agent signings in the Licht era. Like Spence, Ayers played through a considerable amount of pain last year, but still looked to be in disruptive form despite being on the wrong side of 30.

At Ayers’ age, he will benefit from a respectable DE rotation that includes the underrated Willie Gholston, as well as Jacquies Smith who provides a good speed rush on obvious passing downs. Throughout his career, Ayers has rarely showed up on the stat sheet, but watch his tape, and you’ll see a guy who wrecks many a play. Probably Wrong Projected Stats- 6.5 sacks


DRT

Chris Baker

Confidence Rating in Chris Baker: 3 Jaboos

Confidence Rating in Chris Baker: 3 Jaboos

See above analysis in free agent section. I like this big man.


DLT

Gerald McCoy

Confidence Rating in Gerald McCoy: 5 Jaboos

Confidence Rating in Gerald McCoy: 5 Jaboos

Ahhhh Gerald. We don’t deserve ye. McCoy remains the heart and soul of the Bucs defense. A survivor of the Raheem Morris, Greg Schiano, and Lovie Smith regimes, McCoy has been as good a professional (in every sense of the word) as they come. Still one of the quickest off the snap in football, McCoy is coming off his 5th consecutive Pro Bowl and a 2016 All-Pro honor as well. He will benefit with the addition of Baker, and a healthy Noah Spence and Ayers. Probably Wrong Projected Stats- 7.5 sacks


Will

Lavonte David

Confidence Rating in Lavonte David: 4 Jaboos

Confidence Rating in Lavonte David: 4 Jaboos

Under Lovie Smith, Lavonte’s capabilities were used conservatively, particularly with regards to pass rushing. That changed under Smitty’s scheme, where David got back to his 2013 form, often dropping back into coverage, being used in blitz packages, and stuffing the run. David finished his 5th season with his second career All-Pro nod, and Smitty appears willing to plug him all over the field. Expecting another big year from him.


Mike

Kwon Alexander

Confidence Rating in Kwon: 4 Stars

Confidence Rating in Kwon: 4 Stars

In his first two years in the league, r/Buccaneers has been a lot more on the Kwon hype train than I’ve been. I’ve often talked about how he struggled with play recognition and diagnosis, often being just a step behind. As he enters his third year, I’m ready to get on this hype train and conduct it, because the leap from year one to year two was so drastic I think he will finally have the season that puts him in the conversation with the great ILBs of the league.

Kwon brings back memories of Shelton Quarles, a guy who could drop back and cover the middle of the field while also coming up to deliver a crushing, demoralizing hit when needed. And don’t just look at the 6.0 career sacks for Kwon—watch some of the QB hits he delivers, and you’ll see a guy who QBs will start to fear. Here’s a bold prediction for you: Kwon won’t win DPOY, but I think he’ll be in the conversation at some point this year.


SAM

Davonte Bond

Confidence Rating in Bond: 1 Jaboo

Confidence Rating in Bond: 1 Jaboo

This is probably one of the starters I’m least sure about, in terms of if he’ll actually be the starter, and how ready he’ll be. Bond was our 6th round pick in the 2016 draft, but spent the season on IR. Judging from Bond’s college tape, he’s a solid tackler, and given the lesser importance of Sam in Smitty’s scheme, he’ll likely be used as a two-down linebacker and in limited packages.

Keep an eye out for Kendell Beckwith, who may push for the starting role. Beckwith is already having an impressive camp and fared well in both preseason games thus far. 


CB1

Brent Grimes

Confidence Rating in Grimes: 4 Jaboos

Confidence Rating in Grimes: 4 Jaboos

Apparently, Grimes was considering retirement this year to go play pro basketball. We’re glad he didn’t. Grimes was the saving grace of our secondary last year, and a great free agent pickup after he was cut by the Dolphins. He’ll be 34 this season, and with our razor thin depth at CB, we’ll need his 2016 production to carry into this year.

Still a good player, but at his age, and with him set to become a UFA after this season, it may only last for so much longer.


CB2

Vernon Hargreaves III

Confidence Rating in VHIII: 3 Jaboos

Confidence Rating in VHIII: 3 Jaboos

VH3’s rookie season was not so great. But you know what the epitome of “not fun” is? Being thrust into a division that includes the last two MVP winners and a future HOFer in Drew Brees. That’s like asking an AP Anatomy student to conduct open heart surgery after he scores a 5 on the AP exam.

Rookies aren’t supposed to be good out of the gate, and what’s important is I saw just enough promise from him that I think he’ll progress in year two. We need more aggression out of him and a willingness to attack the ball. I think we’ll get what we ask for.


SS

J.J. Wilcox

Confidence Rating in Wilcox: 2 Jaboos

Confidence Rating in Wilcox: 2 Jaboos

See analysis in free agency review section


FS

Keith Tandy

Confidence Rating in Tandy: 3 Jaboos

Confidence Rating in Tandy: 3 Jaboos

Another position where I’m not sure how we pick our starter here. Could be Ryan Smith, could be Chris Conte (plz no), could even be rookie Justin Evans. I think Tandy will start the season. While he’s best used as a rotational player, Tandy made just enough clutch plays last year that he deserves a look as a starter to begin the season. Maybe he’s ready for primetime.

On the Complicated Legacies of Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden: a Retrospective

Last week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced their two latest additions to the Ring of Honor: the late, great owner Malcolm Glazer, and Jon Gruden, the coach responsible for leading us to our first and only Lombardi Trophy. Notably absent from the Ring of Honor announcement was none other than Tony Dungy, the recent inductee to the NFL Hall of Fame.

The Ring of Honor announcement reignited an age-old fan debate regarding the Super Bowl victory, and whether it was “Dungy’s team” that won it, or if Gruden truly deserved the sole recognition. It’s a complicated debate, with no clear answer for one coach or the other.

The crux of it is, Dungy planted the seeds, and Gruden was the catalyst needed to grow the tree (before he chopped it down). The legacies of both Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden cannot be assessed solely upon the Super Bowl XXXVII victory. It’s a question better observed through the context of where the franchise was before Dungy, what Gruden brought to the team that Dungy couldn’t, and how Gruden’s pride dismantled the team in his later years before he was ultimately fired.

Gruden will (deservedly) enter the Ring of Honor this coming fall. To keep Dungy out in future years, however, would degrade his legacy as the coach responsible for turning habitual losers into viable contenders—all in a matter of years. Both are worthy of the Ring of Honor, and in this post, the Jaboo will explore why. 

The crux of it is, Dungy planted the seeds, and Gruden was the catalyst needed to grow the tree (before he chopped it down).

The Tony Dungy Era & the Rise of Tampa 2 Dominance

Dungy & Glazer. Image shared from NBCSports.com

Dungy & Glazer. Image shared from NBCSports.com

In the first 20 years of the franchise’s existence, the Buccaneers had a grand total of two winning seasons out of 20, averaging 4.7 wins per season over that time. Much of the perennial ineptitude of the team could be placed on Owner Hugh Culverhouse, who managed the team with as much reliability as a Sabby Piscitelli secondary, and even that parallel may be generous to Sabby. Culverhouse passed away in the Fall of 1994, opening the door for Malcolm Glazer to purchase the team from Culverhouse’s estate for a (then) record $192M in January of 1995 [Source].

The urgency with which Glazer assumed his role to deliver the fans a competent and competitive franchise cannot be understated. Head Coach Sam Wyche was fired at the end of the 1995 season, and Glazer immediately secured public funds to build Raymond James Stadium, putting an end to the Sombrero.

Even our Bucco Bruce logo and creamsicle uniforms got the axe in Glazer’s early days. But Glazer’s true facelift to the Buccaneers franchise came in the hiring of Tony Dungy, who faced the monumental task of turning around a culture that was born in, molded by, and came to only know losing.

Dungy inherited a promising young group of players from Wyche, including (now) Hall of Famers Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp who had just completed their rookie seasons, Hardy Nickerson, and John Lynch. But the defense had no identity. Within one year, the Dungy-Kiffin Tampa 2 scheme was already having a material impact to the defense. Within two, it was a whole different team. Take a look at the below table with the team’s defensive figures in Weich’s final year, Dungy’s first year, and Dungy’s second year. The takeaways and sacks skyrocketed, and the yards allowed decreased by nearly 20%.

Sacks & Takeaways

Yards Allowed

While the Bucs missed the playoffs in Dungy’s first year with a 6-10 record (what’s another losing season when there were already 18 of them?) Dungy’s Bucs came back with a vengeance in year 2(1997), tying for a franchise history best 10 wins, winning the Wildcard round before losing in the Divisional round to the Packers, ending a playoff drought of 15 years.

For the remainder of Dungy’s career in Tampa, an 8-8 1998 season was the worst record the team saw. For a team that had only two winning seasons prior to Dungy, he delivered four of them in six years in Tampa, making the playoffs in each of them. In 1999, Dungy advanced the Bucs as far as the NFC Championship game, losing to the St. Louis Rams over the goddamn Bert Emmanuel fiasco.

Dungy’s demise came from two fatal flaws: he never had a quarterback, and two, he couldn’t beat the Eagles in the playoffs. In 2000 and 2001, Dungy’s Bucs went out in the Wildcard round to the Eagles. Despite the drastic franchise turnaround by Dungy, the Glazers opted to make a drastic change, firing Gruden after the 2001 season. It would pay off.

Tony Dungy’s career in Tampa can be summarized as follows: he was the reason the Buccaneers went from the serial laughing stock of the NFL to a competitive franchise the fans could be proud of. He’s a figure in team history who deserves nothing but admiration and respect for the seeds he planted for Gruden’s future; and while the playoff record of Dungy was mired by bad luck (see Bert Emmanuel), no viable QB, and an Achilles heel in the Eagles, holistically, Dungy must be considered a Buccaneer legend worthy of the Ring of Honor.

The Gruden Era: the Rapid Rise and Fall

Image shared from Operationsports.com

Image shared from Operationsports.com

Following Dungy’s firing, it was initially rumored that the Buccaneers would be in pursuit of Hall of Fame Coach Bill Parcells [Source], who pulled out at the last second after insisting he was done coaching (he would become the Head Coach of the Dallas Cowboys one year later).

The Buccaneers turned to Plan B, orchestrating one of the most bizarre, blockbuster moves in NFL history to trade for Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden.

In his third year as the Raiders Head Coach, Gruden had grown estranged from Owner Al Davis, and with his contract set to expire soon, Davis wasn’t willing to offer Gruden more than 3 years, $9.5M. The relationship was further eroded [Source].

Gruden was one of the hottest young names in coaching, and Bucs Owner Malcolm Glazer decided to go with a “whatever it takes” approach to land Gruden. Thus, the Buccaneers shipped off a whopping, unprecedented two 1st round picks, two 2nd round picks, and $8M to the Raiders to get him [Source]. The payoff was immediate. In his first year as Head Coach, Gruden led the team to a franchise best 12-4 record, and would go onto win its first and only Super Bowl.

The dominant defensive performance continued and hit its peak that year. Monte Kiffin was retained as DC, and his unit produced 31 interceptions, 16 recovered fumbles, and 43.0 sacks.

The glorious story of the playoffs that year need not be rehashed once again; but, it goes without say how beautiful Ronde’s pick 6 to take us to the big game was, as well as the absolute 48-21 humiliation of the Raiders and Rich Gannon in Super Bowl XXXVII.

The magical 2002 season remains cherished to this day, but in many ways, winning the Lombardi became Gruden’s curse. It started with the nightmarish 2003 season. Star WR Keyshawn Johnson was deactivated for the remainder of the season after a public sideline blowup with Gruden, the Colts delivered one of the most devastating losses in team history on Monday Night Football, and RB Michael Pittman had a much-reported incident of domestic abuse after ramming his Hummer into his wife’s Mercedes in a fit of rage.  The Bucs finished 7-9, missing the playoffs—their first losing season since 1996.

Things began to unravel from there.

By the end of the 2003 season, GM Rich McKay and Gruden had become incompatible. McKay asked to be released from his contract, and in perhaps committing one of the biggest mistakes in franchise history, the Bucs allowed McKay to walk for the Atlanta Falcons. ''What it mainly came down to was Jon's vision of the football team and how to build it that was different from mine,'' McKay said. ''No question about it, and I really became uncomfortable as to how do I compromise this and how do I make it work and how do we build a consensus? Because in the cap era, to the extent that you do make mistakes, you will pay the piper.'' [Source]

McKay’s quote was prescient, in many ways. Gruden hired his former Oakland GM Bruce Allen from Oakland, but assumed personnel control. The Bucs would make a series of mind boggling moves, including the signing of an aging Tim Brown, signing 32 year-old RB Charlie Garner to a $20M deal, and a pair of poor OT’s in Todd Steussie and Derrick Deese. Worst of all, franchise staples John Lynch and Warren Sapp were allowed to walk in free agency, despite their continued abilities to play at a high level. The Bucs finished 5-11—good for a 4th place finish in the NFC South.

Gruden’s remaining time in Tampa was non-descript, and the Buccaneers didn’t win a single playoff game (and still haven’t since). Between 2004 and 2008 (when Gruden was fired), the Buccaneers started seven different QB’s (Johnson, Simms, Griese, Rattay, Garcia, McCown, Gradkowski), failing to find a long-term solution at the position.

Draft selections were (mostly) abysmal, and included names like Michael Clayton, Sabby Piscitelli, Davin Joseph, Jeremy Trueblood, Gaines Adams, Arron Sears, and who could forget Dexter Jackson!

Year by year, the Buccaneers roster eroded piece by piece until the denouement of Gruden’s coaching career: the 2008 season. After starting the season with a respectable 9-3 record, the Bucs unraveled in spectacular fashion, finishing the season 0-4. Monte Kiffin announced he would be leaving the team to join his son Lane at Tennessee, no doubt creating distraction for a team that had been familiar with him for a dozen years. On the heels of Kiffin’s departure, the Buccaneers announced that DB Coach Raheem Morris would be promoted to Defensive Coordinator.

After seven seasons, Gruden was fired, ending an era that began with a bang and concluded with the team unraveling. While perhaps time to part ways, losing Gruden left the Buccaneers with a coaching void and a playoff drought that has continued since his departure. The Buccaneers are on their 4th head coach since his firing, and have only managed two winning seasons.

Jon Gruden "delivered the goods," so to speak, but his legacy is often viewed with rose colored glasses, neglecting to assess some of the destructive personnel decisions that dismantled the team's core and set the franchise back for many years. Despite his flaws, the continued admiration of Gruden is warranted. He remains an iconic figure in Buccaneer history, and continues to be adored by football fans for his candor and knowledge in the booth. His induction into the Ring of Honor is a worthy accolade for bringing the team to the promised land and for giving fans the memory of a lifetime. 

The Legacy of Dungy & Gruden

The fairy tale ending to this story would have been for Gruden and Dungy to be inducted into the Ring of Honor together. One story can not be told without the other, and the Super Bowl ring wouldn't have been possible without the combined success of both men. 

Dungy would go on to build a Super Bowl winning team in Indianapolis, proving that he could in fact take a team all the way if given a good QB-- something he lacked during his tenure in Tampa. 

Following Gruden's firing, he would retire to the broadcast booth where he has since become one of the most beloved and entertaining commentators in sports. Many fans speculate that had Gruden kept McKay on board to handle personnel decisions, he may have remained Head Coach to this very day. 

Dungy will hopefully join his successor in Ring of Honor enshrinement in the near future. The manner in which he turned a 20 year loser into a dynastic defense and contender was unprecedented, and his induction would be worthy given his accomplishments. 

Dungy & Gruden Wins