Yardbarker Horiz

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

2010 Draft Pick #1: QB or not QB?

That is the question.  And more and more the answer seems to be "yes" -- but there could be a new question:  "which team?"

March 29th was a pivotal day for the 2010 draft as Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford performed at a second Oklahoma Pro Day in front of NFL scouts.  By all accounts it went very well.  With this strong performance, Bradford could have locked himself into the Saint Louis Rams #1 overall pick in the 2010 draft.  If the Rams do indeed select him it guarantees the Tampa Bay Buccaneers one of the top two defensive tackles in the 2010 draft.  The Rams also have a private session scheduled with Bradford on April 19th, a mere three days before the draft (Chris Mortensen, ESPN).

The Rams are not the only ones eying Bradford.  The Washington Redskins are also thinking quarterback, which is not news to Stowaway regulars, but for the first time there is tangible evidence.  The Redskins have scheduled a private workout for Bradford on April 15th (again, Chris Mortensen, ESPN).  This is the first direct evidence that the Redskins are considering a quarterback selection.  However, this could be because they expect Bradford to be on the board when they pick (with the Rams, Lions, and Buccaneers all bypassing quarterback selections for other players).

Yet the timing of the personal workouts is intriguing.  There may be more going on between the Rams and Redskins than first meets the eye.

It is a bit hard to believe that Saint Louis would be waiting until three days before the draft to make a determination on Sam Bradford and their top pick.  Exactly what would they see on April 19th that would be much different than March 29th?  The only information which could be gained would be a check on the rehabilitation progress of Bradford's throwing arm following season ending surgery last fall.  I have a lingering suspicion that it could be a quick health check before contract negotiations begin.

But there is that Washington workout -- what if the Redskins really like what they see?  They have Jason Campbell (6th year) as an established quarterback and have also acquired Rex Grossman (8th year) so they appear to have room for a young quarterback to sit back and learn (or recover) for a year or two.  Is it possible that the April 15th workout is a chance to consider moving up for that top position?  Could the Redskins be the team that jumps up to #1 to get Bradford?

Finally, Cleveland and Seattle have made moves that would appear to set them up for a quarterback selection and there is news regarding both teams:  Seattle traded San Diego for quarterback Charile Whitehurst (5th year) and Cleveland announced they will be looking for a quarterback in the 2010 draft (just not until the later rounds).  Seattle's actual action appears to remove their need while Cleveland's comments are pretty much worthless in the world of NFL predraft misdirection.  At this time of year you have to doubt what teams say and look at what they do.  Regarding the Bradford workout at Oklahoma, I offer this as "what they do" evidence:

"General manager Billy Devaney and coach Steve Spagnuolo were among the contingent sent by the St. Louis Rams, who have the first pick in next month's draft. Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, San Francisco 49ers coach Mike Singletary and Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren also watched."
-- Jeff Latzke  (The Associated Press)
So we have the usual suspects:  Rams, Seahawks, and Browns . . . wait, Browns?  Doesn't seem like they were very committed to looking at the "later rounds", does it?  Certainly some member of the Redskins attended as well -- probably just not a well-recognized name.  The San Francisco 49ers are a new twist.  Like Seattle, they also have two first round picks in 2010 (49ers:  #13 and #17; Seattle: #6 and #14).  Could the 49ers or Seahawks be the team that moves up to #1 and selects Bradford?

And where does that leave the other first-round-value quarterback, Jimmy Clausen of Notre Dame?  His pro day is coming on April 5th.  As usual, all regional scouts will be attending.  What will be  interesting is if any coaches or front office personnel show up as well.

We are now just over four weeks out from the 2010 Draft.  Things will continue to heat up from now until that first pick.  The Tampa Bay Buccaneers need one team, any team, to draft somebody but the top two defensive linemen so they will get the player they want and need.  It appears Sam Bradford has significantly improved his chances of being that somebody the Buccaneers are hoping for.

Eric Berry to Visit with Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL.com is reporting tonight that Tennessee Safety Eric Berry will be visiting with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at One Buccaneer Place before the draft.

Such player visits are usually a strong indicator at the top of the draft board.  Should both the top defensive linemen already be off the board Berry could the player the Buccaneers target with the third overall pick.

More visits will occur over the next several weeks (that is, Berry is not a lock for Tampa Bay).  One of these visitors will be that first pick of 2010.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tampa Media And The Must-Spend-To-Win Myth

Recently the Tampa Media has become self-convinced (which I'm sure they would call self-enlightened) that the amount of money an NFL team spends is directly proportional to the success of the team.

This is completely and totally F-A-L-S-E.

Unlike the Tampa Media, who believes whatever they think is true, I will actually prove it.

If spending a bunch of money does determine how successful a team will be, it would be expected that the teams that reach the SuperBowl each year would be among the highest spending teams for that year (because the SuperBowl is the Championship).  To test this hypothesis, I offer the following graph regarding team payrolls for the NFL seasons between 2002 and 2009:

NFL Team Payroll Range For 2002-2009
The Upper Black Line shows the Highest Payroll of the given year.
The Lower Black Line shows the Lowest Payroll of the given year.
The Dashed Black Line shows the NFL Salary Cap since 2005 (with amounts).
The Dark Blue Line shows the payroll of the SuperBowl Winner for the given year.
The Light Blue Line shows the payroll of the SuperBowl Loser for the given year.
The Red Line shows the payroll of the Buccaneers for the given year (with amounts).
(Data from USAToday.com)

To make clear the information in this graph, let me explain the 2002 data points at the far right of the graph.  In 2002, the Dark Blue line and the Red line start at the same place because the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Red) won the SuperBowl (Dark Blue) for that season.  The highest payroll team that year (Upper Black Line) meets the Light Blue line because the SuperBowl losing team (Light Blue) was also the highest payroll team in the NFL that year (the Oakland Raiders).

The SuperBowl winner is the Dark Blue line -- only once in the past 8 years has it been the team with the highest payroll (2006 Indianapolis Colts).  Once (2007 New York Giants) in the past 8 years the SuperBowl winner was the team with the lowest payroll.  From that perspective, over the past 8 years the SuperBowl winner is just as likely to be the lowest payroll team as the highest payroll team, but is most likely to be neither.

The SuperBowl loser is the Light Blue line.  Twice this line touches the highest payroll line, and in four of the past eight seasons the SuperBowl winner spent less than the SuperBowl loser.

The Red line of the Tampa Bay payroll is above both of the teams which made it to the SuperBowl in 2003, yet the Buccaneers finished 7-9 that year.  The Buccaneers also outspent the SuperBowl winner in 2004, yet finished 5-11.  Notice that the payroll for 2009 was larger than the payroll of the 2002 Superbowl Champion team as well as three of the four following years.  Finally, the Red line shows the effects of the 2009 veteran purge with a substantial decrease from 2008 to 2009 (just like both black lines; both 2009 season SuperBowl participants spent less than the 2008 season SuperBowl participants as well). 

So, does this mean the Buccaneers must spend hand over foot to be competitive next year?  Is the Tampa Media correct in continuing to trumpet a low cap number as the reason for the team's 3-13 campaign in 2009?  Is some perceived lack-of-spending-conspiracy mean the Buccaneers won't be able to compete in 2010?  Absolutely not.  Just watch those blue lines bounce.  Payroll is obviously irrelevant.

What the Buccaneers should NOT do is bring in a bunch of free agents from the thinnest crop of free agents in years (while giving up 2010 draft picks for the best of a low value group) and put themselves in a bad salary cap position once the new CBA is established.  The reason for keeping a large amount of cap room now is because young players like Penn, Joseph, Ruud, Jackson, Williams, and others will demand larger contracts later should they continue to improve (if the Buccaneers have a bloated salary structure in 2011 they will lose young talent to teams who have been more frugal).  This, I believe, is one factor that led to the replacement of the Buccaneers front office last year (too much money tied up in veterans, no young player development).  Apparently that fact has been lost on the Tampa Bay Media.

So, as usual, it appears the Tampa Media can unfortunately only see things one way -- their way -- particularly when there is no credible evidence.  General Manager Mark Dominik has said repeatedly that he is not interested in throwing good money at bad value.  Perhaps one day the Tampa Bay Media will remember the 2002 season when the Buccaneers had half the payroll of the team they beat in the SuperBowl.  Until then we can look forward to this same old tired premise all summer (like their kicker-salary misconception).  Bummer.

A Big Day For Sam Bradford Is A Big Day For Tampa Bay

Today, March 25th, is the Oklahoma Sooners pro day.  It's the first time that Sam Bradford, injured early in the 2009 college football season, will throw in front of NFL scouts.

That means it's a big day for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

If Bradford is impressive it could seal his selection by the Saint Louis Rams who hold the #1 pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.  The Rams have made several moves which demonstrate they are working toward resolving a weak quarterback position.

If the Rams select Bradford #1, they guarantee the Buccaneers will either have DL Ndamukong Suh or DL Gerald McCoy available to pick at the #3 position.  These defensive linemen are the top at their position and a would fill in nicely in the young core defense next to 2009 draft pick Roy Miller.

A good showing for Bradford could mean a better defensive line for the Buccaneers.  Have a great workout, Sam!

Monday, March 22, 2010

General Manager Dominik's Plan, Year 2

Tampa Bay General Manager Mark Dominik has stated his intent since taking over at the top of the Buccaneers was to mold the Buccaneers into a powerful, fast team and build through the draft for the long term, not through free agency for the short term.  Let's see if that is indeed the approach he has been taking so far.

Getting Younger
As documented here many times before Dominik has made the hard (and, in retrospect, dead on right) moves in this area.  The intent behind the veteran purge during the 2009 offseason was to provide opportunities for young players to step up and demonstrate they are capable of competing at the NFL level.  Although the team did not put up many wins, players like Geno Hayes and Maurice Stovall demonstrated skills that the team can build around.  In addition, those moves helped the Buccaneers to reduce payroll from $104 million in 2008 to $94 million in 2009, generating room to retain young talent as they become free agents.  While the CBA has changed free agency into a chess match this year, the Buccaneers nonetheless have ample resources to play the game.

Stability at Quarterback
After the selection of Josh Freeman with the #17 pick in the 2009 NFL Draft GM Dominik stated his intent was to make the quarterback position a source of strength and stability for the franchise instead of the revolving door it had been during the previous regime.  And not just the Freeman pick -- during the season Dominik picked a young quarterback off the Dallas Cowboys practice squad.   This foresight removes the Buccaneers from the QB drama of the 2010 NFL Draft and allows the team to take the best available player with the #3 pick.  New Cleveland Browns GM Mike Holmgren is fighting the same battle, first year GM Bruce Allen may be looking to get a young QB with the #4 pick for the Redskins, and the Rams are looking at that quarterback at the top of the draft with pick #1.

By settling the quarterback position last year, the Buccaneers will have plenty of great choices during the 2010 draft to address other positions on the team.   How confident was Dominik that this part of his plan was working as he wanted?  Rumor has it he attended the Oklahoma @ Nebraska fooball game on November 7th, 2009, in Lincoln, Nebraska (for the record, that was the Buccaneers Bye week in 2009).  If so, looks like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers draft preparation for 2010 was right on the mark long ago as the top two non-quarterback prospects played in that game in the persons of Ndamukong Sun (DL, Nebraska) and Gerald McCoy (DL, Oklahoma).  In 2008 Dominik attended a college game which involved 2009 first round pick Josh Freeman -- seems a pattern could be developing!

Moving foward

For 2010, the workings of the next phase of the plan could not be clearer.  During the offseason the NFL roster limit is 80 players.  Just prior to free agency, the Bucs trimmed their roster to 70 (anticipating 10 draft picks) by cutting Josh Bidwell (P), Dirk Johnson (P), and Torrie Cox (DB). 

Nine men were then tendered free agent offers:
- Rod Wilson (LB)
- Byron Storer (RB)
- Matt McCoy (LB)
- Brian Clark (WR)
- Jimmy Wilkerson (DE)
- Jermaine Phillips (S)
- Angelo Crowell (LB)
- Antonio Bryant (WR)
- Will Allen (S)

Here is what has transpired since:
Lost:  3/8/2010:  Brian Clark (WR, 4th season) signed by Detroit
Lost:  3/8/2010:  Will Allen (S, 7th season) signed by Pittsburgh
Added:  3/10/2010:  Reggie Brown (WR, 6th season, 6' 1", 197); Tampa Bay also gave up a 2011 6th round pick.
Lost: 3/10/2010:  Antonio Bryant (WR, 8th season) signed by Cincinnati
Added:  3/12/2010:  Jon Alston (LB, 5th season, 6' 0", 235 lbs)
Added:  3/16/2010:  Sean Jones (S, 7th season, 6' 1", 220 lbs)
Lost:  3/17/2010:  Matt McCoy (LB, 6th season) signed by Seattle

The pattern here is clear if you consider these transactions as sets of swap-outs:  one with wide receivers (Antonio Bryant for Reggie Brown), one with safeties (Will Allen for Sean Jones), one with linebackers (Jon Alston for Matt McCoy), and one without a match (WR Brian Clark).  These transactions are a good look into the thinking of the General Manager.

From the point of youth, the safety swap was a push, the wide receiver swap goes younger by two years, and the lineback swap goes younger by a year. These all fit the plan for getting young talent to create competition at all positions.

From the point of position these three swaps do not change the team composition.  This, to me, is a glimpse into the head of the GM.  There is a certain mix of players which is preferred, and the cuts before free agency landed the team at that mix.  The obvious intent with tendering the nine free agents is to get them back at market value (playing the expiring CBA to his own advantage) or release them to a team which places a higher value on the player.  When a free agent is hired away, a suitable replacement is signed.  This shows that the organization does not feel a need to change the internal chemistry of the team.  Put another way -- the Buccaneers are committing to their young players and not grabbing free agents which would reduce the minutes of the key players in the young core offense or defense.  This is exactly what we've been told time and time again by General Manager Mark Dominik -- this team will be built around young player development and not around a crop of veteran free agents.

Now the interesting part:  The team is "down" one wide receiver.  Going by the trend this offseason, we should expect the Buccaneers to sign a wide receiver soon with somewhere between 3 and 5 years of experience.  If Tampa Bay does not make such a move in the near future it tells me that the Buccaneers are anticipating drafting more than one wide receiver to bring the numbers into balance or the spot is staying open for a possible post-draft move later in free agency.  I think both options are equally good and equally likely.  UPDATE:  This unbalanced free agency loss has been offset by the award of a compensatory 7th round pick for the Buccaneers in the 2010 NFL Draft.  Expect at least one pick in the draft at WR because of the pattern outlined in this paragraph!

Barring another signing, the following players would rejoin the team at their tendered offer sometime in the near future:
- Rod Wilson (LB)
- Byron Storer (RB)
- Jimmy Wilkerson (DE)
- Jermaine Phillips (S)
- Angelo Crowell (LB)

These actions performed by General Manager Mark Dominik show that he is running this team with a steady hand, sticking to the principals he has stated he wants to build the team around, and keeping an eye open for young talent.  These are tried and true philosophies teams like Pittsburgh and Indianapolis have used to stay at a highly competitive level for many years.  I expect it will do the same for Tampa Bay.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

2009 Week 9: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38, Green Bay Packers 28

It's a Football Fix Friday!!  Head over to the NFL videos site and enjoy the highlights of the Buccaneers victory over the Packers.

The 2009 Newbies Show Their Teeth

Preseason football season is a mere five months away!!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Holmgren Takes First Steps From Dominik's Plan

A funny thing has happened in Cleveland since free agency has started -- something that Buccaneer fans know well.  The GM set off to fix the quarterback position.  And Holmgren played it by-the-book from Buccaneers GM Mark Dominik's plan.

Here is how it's unfolded (Holmgren in 2010, Dominik in 2009):
-  Holmgren cut the underperforming starter Derek Anderson (Dominik cut Jeff Garcia)
-  Holmgren as signed an older, veteran player in Jake Delhome (Dominik signed Byron Leftwich)
-  Holmgren traded away his #2 quarterback (Dominik traded Luke McCown).
All this to solidify a position that Holmgren knows is vital -- quarterback.

All that's left is for Holmgren to draft a quarterback -- and they "might draft a quarterback next month" according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  But we've already known that for a couple weeks.

Will Dominik recieve accolades from the Tampa Bay Area Media for not only solving the Buccaneers quarterback situation last year (heard anyone mention it since the season ended?), but solving it with a long term solution?  Will he get recognition for going through the same process that a seasoned General Manager like Holmgren is also going through?

No, he won't.  The Tampa Bay Media will continue to rehash the handling of the quarterback position in 2009 without even a nod or acknowledgment that the same thing goes on elsewhere.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tampa Bay's 2009 Cuts Head For History Books

In 2009 new General Manager Mark Dominik and Head Coach Raheem Morris made swift and bold personnel moves before the 2009 Free Agency period started.  One message sent loud and clear was that the Buccaneers were going to get younger.  This plan was emphatically put into place with the release of a large number of veteran players.  That group contained Phillip Buchanon (CB), Jeff Garcia (QB), Cato June (LB),  Joey Galloway (WR), Derrick Brooks (LB), Kevin Carter (DE), Warrick Dunn (RB), Brian Greise (QB), and Ike Hilliard (WR).

Of that list, only a handful were put under contract in 2010 (as previously reviewed), and of those who were signed only Joey Galloway, Phillip Buchanon, and Jeff Garcia generated statictics with play on the field.

With the final game of 2009 in the books, Joey Galloway was cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Just before free agency started for 2010, Phillip Buchanon was cut by the Detroit Lions.  Jeff Garcia appeared only briefly with the Philadelphia Eagles before he also was released.

So, at this time, none of these men are under contract and in fact all are basically retired whether they think they are or not.  There is, of course, a chance that one or more may get phone calls before the 2010 preseason, but with over 200 young men being drafted into the league at the end of April, it appears the opportunity for these players continues to diminish quickly.  It is hard to find fault with the new GM and Coach for making these moves when 31 other teams appear to agree with the decision.  In fact, it appears this move was indeed long overdue.  While I'm quite positive the Tampa Bay area media will not give any credit for these bold but correct moves, it is my opinion that these moves were crucial to make the most of the 2010 Draft, so I give Dominik and Morris all the credit for starting their plan swiftly and decisively and not slowing down the progression of the team by keeping popular players on the roster past their prime.  And there can be no doubt that these players had indeed achieved all they could achieve in the NFL.

Certainly several of these men will have their name mentioned in five years on a ballot for Canton, Ohio.  But the net result for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is that, while an unpopular decision at the time, the move did what GM Mark Dominik said it would do.  Cutting these players allowed a group of talented but inexperienced players to take their knocks on the field in 2009 and become a young core offense and young core defense for the Buccaneers to build around for the next few years.  No stone on the roster was left unturned for playing time.  And so, going into the 2010 offseason, the team can see exactly where they are strong and where they are weak.  And that should provide a clear vision for one of the most significant drafts in Buccaneer history.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Free Agency: Bucs add LB Jon Alston

Alston, listed as an outside linebacker on the Oakland Raiders depth chart for 2009, is most likely a player at the same position for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As he has less than six years of NFL experience, he becomes a member of the young defensive core:

(Players who contributed significantly in 2009 are in italics):
RE - Stylez White (4), Tim Crowder (4), Maurice Evans (1)
UT - Roy Miller (1)
DT - Dre Moore (2)
LE - Kyle Moore (1), Micheal Bennett (1)
SLB - Quincy Black (4), Lee Robinson (2), Jon Alston(5)
MLB - Adam Hayward (4)
WLB - Geno Hayes (3), Rod Wilson (4)
LCB - Aquib Talib (3), Derrick Roberson (2), Brandon Anderson (1)
RCB - Elbert Mack (3), E.J. Biggers (1), Stoney Woodson (2)
SS - Sabby Piscatelli (4), Corey Lynch (3), Emanuel Cook (2)
FS - Tanard Jackson (4), De'von Hall (1)
P - Sam Paulescu (3)

It appears that Tampa Bay still has plenty of room to draft another linebacker or two in the April 2010 NFL Draft.

Alton most likely replaces Matt McCoy, who was entering his 6th NFL year and was on the depth chart at outside linebacker before being cut by the Buccaneers just before the 2010 Free Agency period began.  McCoy was also very active on special teams.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Free Agency: The Big Move That Nobody Is Talking About

While the signing of Reggie Brown is big news for Tampa Bay, the biggest news of the week for Buccaneers fans happened far from One Buccaneer Place.

Going largely unnoticed by the underperforming Tampa Bay media is a single move which may make all the difference to Tampa Bay when the 2010 Draft begins on April 22nd.  And while the Tampa media has finally figured out that the Rams will most likely pick a quarterback with the first overall pick in the 2010 Draft (Stowaway regulars have known this since February 1st), they have completely missed even bigger news.

Here is the biggest news of the week for Buccaneer fans:  The Seattle Seahawks traded Seneca Wallace to Cleveland for an undisclosed 2011 draft pick.  Yes, seriously.  No, I'm not insane . . . mostly.

This single move has many implications as to what those two teams are thinking.  Why would a Tampa Bay fan care what an NFC West and AFC North team, both of which pick after Tampa Bay, are thinking?   A great deal, I think.

Seattle has the #6 and #14 first round picks coming in the 2010 NFL Draft (as of today).  Cleveland has 11 picks in the 2010 NFL Draft, including #7 in the first round.  These teams have a form of currency that NFL General Managers crave -- draft picks in one of the deepest, most talented drafts in recent years.

Seneca Wallace was the Seahawks #2 quarterback.  The starting quarterback for Seattle has been the often injured Matt Hasselbeck who is entering his 12th NFL season.  With Wallace gone, Seattle is left with Mike Teel, 2009 5th rounder out of Rutgers, as their quarterback of the future.  Teel is 6' 3", 225 lbs, which are great physical numbers.  However, he did not take a single snap during the 2009 regular season which does not give any confidence to him being the answer at quarterback in Seattle.  There has been a coaching change in Seattle this offseason (Pete Carroll has arrived from USC) and the new coaching staff may have a high opinion of the youngster.  In that case, it seems that keeping Wallace while Teel develops would be prudent.  Since they did not keep Wallace, I believe it is more likely that Seattle is positioning to draft a quarterback in 2010.  This is very important assumption for the Buccaneers.  More on this a bit later.

On the other side of this transaction, the Cleveland Browns have not only acquired Wallace, an 8-year NFL veteran, they have also cut one half the two-headed monster they rolled out at quarterback last year.  Derek Anderson was simply cut and is now out shopping his talents as an unrestricted free agent.  There are also reports that Cleveland could be shopping Brady Quinn, the other "head" of that same quarterback monster as well (in a sense, there might be trade value in Brady Quinn -- which means he is more valuable than Anderson?  Yet Anderson started, did not start, then started again in 2009.  The mysteries of the Browns!).  This leaves new Cleveland General Manager Mike Holmgren with Seneca Wallace (8th year), Brady Quinn (4th year), and Brett Ratliff (2nd Year).  Ratliff took no snaps and did not see the field in 2009.  If the Browns are indeed shopping Quinn and trade him before the draft it would signal to me that Cleveland is also planning to seek a quarterback in the 2010 draft.

That's the groundwork.   The kicker is, according to CBS/NFLDraftScout.com (for example, and others agree), it appears there are only two first-round-quality quarterbacks available this year:  Sam Bradford (Oklahoma) and Jimmy Clausen (Notre Dame).  Both sustained injuries during the 2009 campaign.  A very significant clue is that, post combine, these two men did not slide down draft boards.  Both attended the combine, but neither fully participated, electing to instead wait until their respective campus pro days with the suspected intent of having the most time possible to train and rehab.  However, even though they did not go through drills, they did go through the rigorous medical exams and appear to have come through clean.  So both these men have run over 90% of the rehab and recovery gauntlet and shown themselves to have franchise quarterback skills.

A quick check the top of the draft board as far as quarterback needs go sets the table:
1 - Saint Louis Rams:  Need a quarterback
2 - Detroit Lions:  Matt Stafford (2009 draft) appears to be their answer
3 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers:  Josh Freeman (2009 draft) is their man
4 - Washington Redskins:  Is Jason Campbell the answer?  Todd Collins?
5 - Kansas City Chiefs:  Gave Matt Cassel a $63 million contract in 2009
6 - Seattle Seahawks:  Appear to be looking for a quarterback
7 - Cleveland Browns:  If Quinn is out, also looking for a quarterback

I believe that, should either of the two young quarterbacks fall to the Washington Redskins and new head coach Mike Shannahan at #4 he will be more than happy to make that pick.  All things staying as-is the pick would be Clausen.

I look at this chart and it seems pretty obvious -- if you want one of the top two quarterbacks this year you have to get the #1 pick away from the Rams or get ahead of the Redskins at #4.

And, after all that, here is why it matters to the Buccaneers:  if one QB goes in the #1 or #2 spot, one of the top two defensive linemen in the draft fall to Tampa Bay at #3.  And if Seattle or Cleveland uses that valuable draft currency to make a deal with Detroit (or if Washington decides to get into the mix and move up from #4), then quarterbacks could go #1 and #2 and the Buccaneers would have a clear board to take the player of their choice -- most likely their favorite of the two defensive linemen -- getting the best player to fill a team need and blend into an already existing solid young defensive core.  That would have to be the best possible result with the #3 pick.

That is why I think Seneca Wallace going to Cleveland for a 2011 draft pick is very big news for Tampa Bay Buccaneer fans.  Now you know, too, even if nobody (else) noticed.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Bucs Pluck Reggie Brown From Eagles

Yesterday the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded away a 6th round pick in the 2011 draft to Philadelphia for wide receiver Reggie Brown.  Brown (6' 1", 197 lbs, 6th NFL season) was a second round pick of the Eagles in the 2005 draft.  Brown's career statistics show he has been a productive receiver each year with a high water mark of 46 catches for 816 yards in his second season in the NFL.  Some injuries in 2008 and a young and improving core or receivers in Philadelphia (Jason Avant, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin) made him expendable.  Buccaneers General Manager Mark Dominik may have been able to wait until free after the draft to see if the Eagles released Brown from his contract.  However, the Buccaneers are in a position to absorb Brown's contract so to avoid a bidding war Dominik moved early and offered a late pick next year.

One thing you want with a young team is a player who loves the game.  Reggie Brown certainly has, at least, a great sense of humor:

Combine that with a guy who's been man enough to go over the middle since college:

Reggie Brown appears to be that physical-type player Coach Raheem Morris has said he wants on this team.  One other bit of trivia:  if you check the video on Brown's NFL.com statistics page, you'll see he was the benefactor for the longest pass thrown by Micheal Vick in 2009 (and help set up Vicks only passing touchdown of the 2009 season).

Brown is not part of the young core offense of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  He is more likely to replace some of the production lost when Antonio Bryant became an unrestricted free agent.

Welcome to the Buccaneers, Reggie!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Free Agency: Rams Leave Hints With Early Moves

Since the end of the 2009 Season, the Saint Louis Rams General Manager Billy Devaney has been busy looking for players who can help his team improve.  None of the moves are significant enough to tell us what Saint Louis might do with the first pick in the 2010 draft:
1/6 - OC Drew Miller signed.
1/6 - OG Mark Lewis signed.
1/6 - DE Sean Conover signed.
1/8 - CB Marcus Brown signed.
1/13 - LB Dominic Douglas signed.
1/13 - TE Eric Butler signed.
1/20 - DT Chris Bradwell signed.
1/28 - WR Nick Moore signed.
2/17 - TE Derek Fine acquired from waivers.

However, two moves on the first day of free agency could be the best insight thus far regarding the Rams intentions with the #1 pick in the 2010 Draft:  the Rams cut Kyle Boller (QB, 7 years) and signed AJ Feeley (QB, 10 years).  These two moves speak volumes about the quarterback situation in Saint Louis as well as confirm the initial review of the Saint Louis situation heading into the 2010 offseason.  The Rams need a new quarterback.

The situation:
- The incumbant, Marc Bulger, finished 2009 on injured reserve.  Bulger's situation was recently summarized as:
"Bulger signed a six-year, $65 million contract extension in 2007, and next season, he's due $8.5 million, which is a large amount for a quarterback who hasn't performed well or stayed healthy the past three seasons. He has passer ratings of 70.3, 71.4 and 70.7, respectively, in the last three seasons and missed 11 games because of injuries."
- Sam Wyche, NFL.com columnist
It appears that Bulger is not an option. 

- Kyle Boller was the #2 QB in 2009 appearing in 7 games and starting 4 for the Rams.  He obviously did not show enough to be either the backup or the plan for the future.  Boller had signed a one year contract in April 2009.  Since he has now been cut Boller is not an option.

- Perhaps the Rams are considering giving the reins over to 2009 6th round selection QB Keith Null.  Null started four games including the season finale for Saint Louis.  His performance was not exceptional but he does have a full offseason and preseason to improve.  Null is one option.

- In December (as insurance when Marc Bulger went on the Injured Reserve List), the Rams signed Mike Reilly off the Green Bay Packers practice squad.  Reilly did not play in 2009 and is an undrafted 2nd year player.  Only the Rams know what they have with this player.  Since he is still on the roster it appears that Reilly is an option.

After these four players there are only two other options -- free agency and the 2010 draft.  The Rams moved quickly on the first day of free agency.

But is free agency the answer?  AJ Freeley has appeared in five games in the past six years while bouncing through four different rosters (San Diego, Miami, Philadelphia, and spent 2009 on the Carolina roster).  He did not take a snap for Carolina last year.  Is this 10 year veteran the answer?  He is certainly part of the answer or he would not have been signed -- but most likely only a short term answer.  Freeley is an option.

That brings us to the 2010 Draft and the Rams #1 pick.  It appears that this is where they will look to find their long term answer to compliment AJ Freeley as the short term answer.  The top two QBs in the 2010 draft appear to be Sam Bradford (Oklahoma) and Jimmy Clausen (Notre Dame).  Both Bradford and Clausen were injured in 2009.  To compensate for recovery time a team would need two experienced QBs to run the show while the rookie completes rehabilitation.  Saint Louis has set themselves up for this situation with Feeley and Null.  By getting the pieces in place right away the Rams have given themselves the maximum time to evaluate both 2010 draft candidates.  However, I think it is more likely that the Rams have already decided that one or both of the 2010 quarterback draft candidates are player(s) they want to target.  Said another way, by the Rams knowing what they would pursue with their draft strategy a clear set of needs dictated their early free agent moves (instead of making the moves in hope of finding out if one of the quarterbacks was healthy enough to be the player they need).

And so comes the pressure of the pick:  The Rams selected 2nd in 2009.  Matthew Stafford was off the board but Mark Sanchez was not.  The Rams picked an offensive tackle and Sanchez took the Jets to the playoffs.  In 2008, the Rams also selected second and picked a defensive end.  The third pick that year was Matt Ryan who took the Atlanta Falcons to the playoffs.  Can the Rams afford to pass a third time on a young signal caller?

I fully expect the Rams will be selecting a quarterback with their #1 pick in the 2010 draft.

Free Agency: Tampa Bay Enters Silently

Sticking to a plan mentioned many times recently (and stated on this blog in January), General Manager Mark Dominik of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers entered free agency quietly.

In the late hours before free agency the Bucs made a few last moves:
- Tendered WR Mark Bradley with 2nd round pick
- Tendered RB Clifton Smith
- Tendered CB Elbert Mack

Four free agents were not tendered:  LB Matt McCoy, LB Rod Wilson, FB Byron Storer, and WR Brian Clark.

As mentioned yesterday, there was no massive release of veteran players like in 2009.  However, the Bucs did cut three veteran players:  DB Corrie Cox (7 years), P Josh Bidwell (10 years), and P Dirk Johnson (7 years).  All three finished 2009 on the injured reserve list.  Look for Tampa Bay to possibly negotiate a new deal with Cox depending on the value of other offers received.  The Buccaneers entered the offseason with P Sam Paulescu on the roster so it is unlikely that either Bidwell or Johnson will return to the roster this offseason.

It's important to remember that roster bonuses occur on June 1st and the 2010 Draft starts April 22nd.  Both of these events can prompt additional roster moves.  The Buccaneers roster currently contains 59 players (the offseason limit is 80 leading into training camp).

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Another Veteran Purge in 2010?

Will they do it again?  Will the Buccaneers 2010 offseason have another veteran purge like during the 2009 offseason? 

Free Agency begins March 5th, 2010, and while some of the players on this list are still under contract, a number of them could be missing by the time training camp rolls around next fall.  And it would be with good reason:  Tampa Bay purposely moved veterans out of the way to find out exactly what they had on the younger end of the roster.  Now that all has been revealed it's down to who can help the team next year.

Will there be a purge like 2009?  No.  But with 10 draft picks looming at least some of these men have played their last game as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer.

The players with seven or more NFL seasons from the 2009 Buccaneers roster are:
Ronde Barber (13)
Josh Bidwell (10)
Chris Hovan (10)
John Gilmore (8)
Jermaine Phillips (8)
Ryan Sims (8)
Jerramy Stevens (8)
Antonio Bryant (7)
Torrie Cox (7)
Angelo Crowell (7)
Jeff Faine (7)
Byron Leftwich (7)
Jimmy Wilkerson (7)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The February Draft: Players Return from Injured Reserve

On February 10, 2010, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cleared their injured reserve by welcoming players injured during the 2009 season back to the regular roster.  This is the second round of potential improvements for the 2010 regular season roster (after practice squad promotions).

Notable among the list of returning players:
- Byron Storer, who missed some of 2008 and all of 2009 with a knee injury and re-injury.  Storer started three games each in 2007 and 2008. An undrafted free agent picked up by the Buccaneers on May 3, 2007, they have stuck with Storer for some time.  It will be worth watching to see if the new administration continues to believe Byron can come back from his injuries.  If so, it creates a battle-to-watch with B.J. Askew, who is also returning from injured reserve due to back and neck injuries from a 2009 car accident.  The cupboard is certainly full in the Tampa Bay backfield and keeping two fullbacks seems very unlikely with the versatile Earnest Graham on the roster.
- Two Punters, Josh Bidwell and Dirk Johnson, return to the roster.  Which (if either) of these men will battle incumbent punter Sam Paulescu for the only roster spot?  Again, a possible preseason battle-to-watch.
-  Three 2009 draft picks ended the 2009 season on IR:  Xavier Fulton (T), E.J. Biggers (CB),  and Sammie Stroughter (WR).  Stroughter played very well and only missed a few games at the end of the season.  Fulton and Biggers, on the other hand, missed all and most (respectively) of the season and are basically 2010 draft picks.

Here is the full list of the players returning to the Tampa Bay roster organized by the day they were placed on injured reserve.  Also noted is the start of the regular season and the three games won in 2009:

5/18  Byron Storer (FB) (knee)
8/17  Josh Bidwell (P)  (hip)
8/24  Angelo Crowell (LB)  (torn biceps)
9/5  Xavier Fulton (T)  (knee)
9/19  E.J. Biggers (CB) (shoulder)
9/22  Jermaine Phillips (S) (broken left thumb)
10/20  B.J. Askew (RB) (PUP - back, neck)
11/8/2009 GREEN BAY

11/10  Rod Wilson (LB)  (undisclosed)
11/11  Will Allen (S) (thumb)
11/17  Arron Sears (G) activated from PUP
11/24  Byron Leftwish (QB) (right elbow)
11/30  Torrie Cox (CB) (hip)
11/30  Dirk Johnson (P) (hamstring)
           Aaron Sears to Reserve/Non-Football Injury
12/8  Clifton Smith (RB) (concussion)
12/20/2009 SEATTLE WIN
12/21 Sammie Stroughter (WR) (foot)
12/27/2009 NEW ORLEANS WIN
12/28  Jimmy Wilkerson (DE) (torn acl)
12/28  Earnest Graham (RB) (toe)