Of all the recently hired head coaches, perhaps Dirk Koetter remains the most overlooked. Which is odd given that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers stepped out of the AFC South cellar for the first time since 2010 and higher than third place for the first time since 2007. With the rise of quarterback Jameis Winston and wide receiver Mike Evans towards the upper echelon of offensive duos, the Bucs are surely going to be a popular sleeper to win a Super Bowl in the next three years.
But there’s plenty of work left to be done.
Tampa Bay currently has $67 million in cap space for 2017 with some big potential cuts coming soon, but will they avoid handing out bad contracts simply because they can? The Buccaneers need to improve the running game, the defense, and need to provide Winston with more weapons than just Evans. Still, players who might not be right for Koetter could still be useful to other coaches. Will that include Pete Carroll?
Impending Free Agents
Mike Glennon, QB
Glennon’s free agency might have come one year too late, his market totally torpedoed by the awful season we just saw from Brock Osweiler. But the Houston Texans’ mistake doesn’t necessarily preclude another franchise from making a similar one.
I probably like Glennon a little bit more than Osweiler simply because we already knew (or should have known if you, you know, watched one of his NFL games) that Osweiler was bad, whereas there’s still hope with Glennon. His play in 2013-2014 was decent and it’s fair to understand why the Bucs benched him in 2015 because they couldn’t avoid getting on the Jameis Winston train. That being said, a team would be foolish to invest much more in Glennon than the Buffalo Bills invested in Tyrod Taylor two years ago, which was a two-year, $7 million deal and a chance to compete for the starting job ... not just the starting job right off the bat with $37 million guaranteed like Osweiler got.
I like the New York Jets as a landing spot for Glennon. They have cap space, they can give him something like a two-year, $20 million deal (more than what Tyrod got but he’s played a lot more than Tyrod had at that point), and with Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty in the fold, he’s competing, not outright being given the starting job. It’s likely that he’d win it, but if he doesn’t, that’s okay.
Gosder Cherilus, RT
A first round pick by the Detroit Lions in 2008, I don’t think Cherilus has the athleticism or strength that the Seahawks would be looking for in a tackle, especially not one who is turning 33 this summer.
Alterraun Verner, CB (released)
I’ve always had a soft spot for Verner, the former Titans cornerback who peaked in 2013 as a 25-year-old Pro Bowl player with five interceptions. Verner signed a four-year, $25.5 million deal with the Bucs in 2014 to replace Darrelle Revis, but almost immediately proved to be a free agent bust, falling out of a starting role by 2015 and being released last week. I don’t think him and his 31” arms will be a solution for Seattle’s woes at cornerback.
Joe Hawley, C/G
Hawley has proven to be a pretty good center and he could potentially be moved back to guard if the situation called for it, but most likely Tampa Bay will retain him as their man in the middle. I don’t think the Seahawks are interested in a free agent lineman who needs to be moved off of the position he’s been most successful at.
Vincent Jackson, WR
Jackson is really, really not good and it’s been years since he was pretty good. I wonder if he’s the type of player the Rams would target. Let’s hope so.
Sealver Siliga, DT
Siliga spent some time with Seattle last year so it makes some sense that they might be calling him again. I think there are better ways to go at defensive tackle this time around but you never know. Siliga is still only 26.
William Gholston, DE (re-signed)
The Bucs re-signed Gholston to a five-year, $37 million contract. He doesn’t have gaudy sack statistics but is considered their best run defender on Tampa’s defense.
Others: LB Daryl Smith, RB Antone Smith, TE Brandon Myers, RB Jacquizz Rodgers, WR Cecil Shorts, S Chris Conte, CB Josh Robinson (31.25” arms), DT John Hughes, WR Russell Shepard, S Bradley McDougald, QB Ryan Griffin, DT Akeem Spence
Potential Cap Casualties
Doug Martin, RB
My advice every year: Don’t sign big name free agent running backs. Don’t do it. I said it in 2015 with DeMarco Murray, I repeated it in 2016 with Doug Martin, I’ll say it again right now with Le’Veon Bell. Yes, even Le’Veon Bell. The Pittsburgh Steelers applied the franchise tag to Bell, which is a little more palatable, but even then it’s $12 million for a running back. If the Steelers turn around then and give Bell a $60 million long-term deal, I just can’t agree with that and yes, I know that Bell might have been the real MVP last season. I just can’t get on board with it. I could be wrong, there have been exceptions recently with Marshawn Lynch, but even Lynch’s contract became a burden not worth bearing by the end. That happens more often with running backs than any other position these days.
The Bucs are extremely fortunate (maybe not the truest choice of words, as I wouldn’t call Martin’s situation “fortunate”) that his guaranteed money was voided by a failed drug test. Because now they can get away from him entirely and his $7 million salary for 2017. I was not surprised that Martin struggled so badly in 2016 because it wasn’t even the first time in his career that he disappointed, it was the third terrible season in a five-year career. He may have better days ahead of him, like former Tampa Bay back LeGarrette Blount ended up having, but right now he seems certain to be released. If he’s not, it’s only because the Bucs want to show fans and their locker room that they have loyalty and won’t leave troubled players behind, but in a business sense, it’s the right thing to do. They could get a comparable or better player for much less than $7 million. Meanwhile, Martin is suspended for three games next season but could provide a value boost to the team that signs him. Just because he could still be good next year, I don’t think a team needs to risk $7 million to find out if he is.
Evan Smith, C
George Johnson, DE
Besides these two there are other players that Tampa Bay could conceivably part ways with if they needed to save money, but they don’t have that need, so I wouldn’t expect any good players to hit the market from this area.
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