Yardbarker Horiz

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Penn To Get Top Ten Money

If everyone signs on the dotted line, Donald Penn will report to the Buccaneers training camp firmly entrenched as one of the ten highest paid offensive linemen in the NFL at around $8 million/year, joining fellow Buccaneer Jeff Faine near the top of the offensive-line-salary-cap-hit chart:

Top 10 2009 Offensive Line Salaries
Player (Team)Total SalaryCap Value
Staley, Joe (SF)$ 12,677,280$ 13,527,280
Peters, Jason (PHI)$ 10,504,680$ 12,704,680
Jones, Walter (SEA)$ 6,206,240$ 9,806,240
Long, Jake (MIA)$ 8,006,240$ 9,606,240
Clifton, Chad (GB)$ 6,373,610$ 8,040,280
Faine, Jeff (TB)$ 2,006,760$ 8,006,760
Faneca, Alan (NYJ)$ 7,000,000$ 7,890,000
Hutchinson, S (MIN)$ 5,500,000$ 7,500,000
Backus, Jeff (DET)$ 4,500,000$ 7,273,176
Dielman, Kris (SD)$ 5,506,630$ 7,206,630

Don't forget: Davin Joeseph's contract will be up after this season as well. Excluding labor unrest, the cost to keep this group of offensive linemen together will be a big topic for the 2011 offseason.

Bradford, Berry Contracts Narrow McCoy Contract Numbers

Sam Bradford, the #1 pick in the 2010 draft, has signed a six-year, $78 million contract (with incentives which could escalate to over $86 million).

Eric Berry, the #5 pick in the 2010 draft, has signed a six-year, $60 million contract.

Gerald McCoy, picked #3 in the 2010 draft, by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has an approximate contract value of six years, $69 million.

With these deals bracketing McCoy, confirmed rumors of him on his way to Tampa, and McCoy's agent finally done with Sam Bradford's deal, expect McCoy to have a done deal in short order, perhaps even tonight.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Penn Contract: Very Little Up Front, Big Incentives

It appears the initial rumors are starting to pan out -- Penn will sign a contract which is multi-year (what he wanted) and has low up front number with lots of incentives (what the Buccaneers wanted).  Looks like a good deal for all.  Quiet talk is that Dominik and Penn agreed for Penn to have the most success this season Penn needed to get to camp on time -- and this formed the basis for the negotiations today which appear to have paid off in the form of a new contract and no more lost time for Penn.

Here is a look at the offensive line salaries last year:

2009 Buccaneer OL Salaries
PlayerTotal SalaryCap Value
Faine, Jeff$ 2,006,760$ 8,006,760
Penn, Donald$ 2,797,200$ 2,797,200
Joseph, Davin$ 1,511,760$ 1,711,760
Trueblood, Jeremy$ 541,760$ 849,260
Economos, Andrew$ 541,760$ 646,760
Zuttah, Jeremy$ 391,760$ 570,260
Lee, James$ 391,760$ 391,760
Fulton, Xavier$ 491,000$ 355,250
Dotson, Demar$ 310,000$ 310,000
Murphy, Shawn$ 390,980$ 249,118

Is It All Happening Tonight?

Another rumor, this one with substance, says that Gerald McCoy has left Oklahoma and is on his way to Tampa.  I do not hear anything about an agreement -- but it seems something may be in the works, stay tuned!!

Penn Contract Rumor Has Legs

I'm hearing rumors of six years and possibly $48 million over six years -- unconfirmed at this point -- but I do know there is something going on.  Rumor is very little up front money with a major bonus for getting to the Pro Bowl -- stay tuned!!

Friday, July 23, 2010

What To Do With Piscitelli

It was a rugged year for the defensive backfield in 2009. It started with Tanard Jackson's four game suspension and finished with Jermaine Phillips on the injured reserve.

The 2009 version of the pass defense started out by giving up 353 yards to Dallas and Tony Romo, leaving a season-long bad smell in the air even though there were 3 interceptions by the Buccaneers in the game. Fifteen weeks later, the Buccaneers gave up 258 yards (and had zero interceptions) in a game at New Orleans and Drew Brees -- and won! This inconsistency shows clearly it wasn't just the pass defense which was the problem. Another facet of the problem was the defensive backs not getting much help up front. The Buccaneers had a total of 28 sacks over 16 games in 2009 (tied for 26th in the league) with the lowest (Jacksonville) having 14 sacks and the best (Minnesota) having 48 sacks.

Through all this, the Tampa Bay defensive backs ended the season tied for 9th with 19 interceptions in 2009 (the Packers topped the league with 30; the Raiders and Rams tied at the bottom with 8).

But there were going to be changes. You knew there were going to be changes. And there have been quite a few.

Nine year pro Jermaine Phillips is gone from the roster and, as seems to be more the rule than the exception during the Dominik/Morris era, has not been picked up by another team. Enter Sean Jones, a 7th year free agent pickup from the Philadelphia Eagles (FYI, Jones played but did not start against the Buccaneers in week 5 last year. He recorded one special teams tackle). The Buccaneers also drafted cornerback Myron Lewis which could be a very telling move -- for the safety position.

Why take a corner and not a safety? Is it possible the fans and the reporting about the problems in the defensive backfield were (gasp!!) misdirected?

One player who took a great deal of heat last season for pass defense was Sabby Piscitelli. In his third year of NFL ball he found himself in the difficult position of starting at strong safety without Tanard Jackson at free safety for the first four games.  Tanard Jackson is a big difference maker back there. Unfortunately, Piscitelli was in the area for some of the long completions in the Dallas game, leaving an impression with some fans (and bloggers) the mistakes were his. Anyone who has played a down of football knows that the player closest to the end of a play is rarely the person who broke down -- in fact, as a safety, shouldn't Piscitelli be part of the last line of defense? If Sabby had been nowhere in sight with a receiver running free in the defensive backfield then it would be correct to say he was out of position or not playing the position correctly. Did he play every down to perfection?  I'm sure Sabby himself would tell you he did not.  But to say it's on him alone is very unfair; to say he is not capable is an outright lie.

Consider this:  if it was all on the safety play, the Buccaneers would have drafted another safety as part of the youth movement, right?  But they haven't (2009 or 2010).  In 2010 they drafted on the defensive line as well as corner -- the two pieces which indirectly have the biggest impact on safety play (more quarterback pressure, better coverage outside). In 2009 they also drafted a defensive lineman and a corner. 

So is it possible the talent at safety is sufficient and just needs better support around them? I think the answer is "Yes", so my take is a different angle:  Is it possible that Sabby Piscatelli was playing the wrong position when he incurred the wrath of media and fans?

Obviously Tanard Jackson will be the starting free safety.  With former Eagle Sean Jones replacing the departed Jermaine Phillips you have a strong safety who has solid performances under his belt and plenty of experience.  With those two as capable starters Piscitelli can now be groomed for either (or both) positions.  Last year he was needed at Strong Safety -- I think the Buccaneers would be well served to give him a look at free safety where his speed plays to his advantage.  It also provides a bit of a hedge against future problems for Tanard Jackson.

I'll be watching for a Piscatelli/Jones Tampa-2 a few during the preseason.  If it proves capable it will allow for giving Tanard Jackson a breather on occasion, helping him stay fresh for the fourth quarter.  This subtle move may not generate a few extra wins for the Buccaneers (the line and corner moves could!), but it could put more players in the right position to make plays.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Expectations for 2010

A quick look at the expectations for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is in order as everyone gets ready for camp to open on August 31st.  For the record, I expect the team to press for an 8-8 season this year, but six wins with this level of youth would also be a very good season.

Gary Shelton (tampabay.com) is more blatant about his lack of confidence in the upcoming season. His article parrots an article from earlier in the summer by Pat Kirwan (NFL.com).  In the article, both guys believe youth is the downfall of this team.  And while growing pains will happen, I have already offered clear proof of how much youth can contribute to a successful season (case in point: Roy Miller). Miller, who was a rookie defensive tackle last year, had an outstanding season which went completely unnoticed by most, completely disproving the points of Shelton and Kirwan.  With two more rookie defensive tackles coming in this year, having Miller as a mentor is solid gold.  I mean, I get it -- the Buccaneers are too young to win the Superbowl this year.  Duh.  So were the Jets last year but they had a pretty good season anyhow.

At this point, the ESPN "Group Think" has the Bucs rated 30th in the NFL.  They, however, have been distracted by baseball and World Cup soccer so their rankings have not been reconsidered since the end of the 2009 season.

Pete Prisco of CBS Sports rated the Buccaneers 28th on May 7th.  He has not shuffled the order since the end of 2009 but has added comments.  While he believes "they are at least a year away" he also admits "I do like the way they are building this team."

BleacherReport has the Buccaneers at 27th and will probably lower that number to match ESPN once they realize it's different.  Why do they rate Tampa Bay at 27?  Because Tampa Bay did not draft a defensive end in the second round of the 2010 draft.  Wow.  Are we supposed to be impressed with that "outstanding analysis"?  Did they miss the drafting of Kyle Moore in 2009 and the emergence of waiver-wire free agent Tim Crowder last season?  Perhaps a longer look at the depth chart would serve them well -- or even a first look.  Stowaway regulars have seen the real analysis and can see right through this "ranking" as a meaningless placeholder until someone tells them what to think.  Seriously, if you are going to blog about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, you should have some pride.  The players have been sweating bullets for months yet you wipe away everything because you mis-predicted the draft?  The players deserve better than that.  A lot better.  Perhaps they will pay more attention next year.

Fox Sports did offseason rankings way, way back on February 11th.  Fox finished the season with the 3-13 Buccaneers at 27th, ahead of the 4-12 Redskins, 4-12 Chiefs, and 5-11 Seahawks, among others. Obviously they liked where the team was heading during the second half of the season.

Peter King of Sports Illustrated had the Buccaneers ranked 30th on May 16th, 2010, -- he really likes the draft picks but feels the team is far too young this year to move up the ratings.

NFL.com writer Pat Kirwin also has produced a team-by-team ranking.  His was last published on June 7th, 2010.  He rates the teams into five tiers of six teams each.  The Buccaneers are in the bottom tier, but Kirwin says "The Bucs are headed in the right direction and should be tougher in the second half of the season".

Finally, NFL.com writer Steve Wyche released an actual preseason team-by-team review on June 17th, 2010.  He placed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 22nd after a 28th place ranking at the end of 2009.  This is above the Redskins, Lions, Browns, Panthers, and Rams who are all on the 2010 season schedule.

This is not exactly glowing praise for the 2010 season.  It is a dose of reality -- a 3-13 team does not get a lot of respect the following season.  That's the nature of sports media.  Add in the half-thoughts usually given to the "small market" NFL teams and this set of early reviews feels like what would normally be expected. 

This team must win early if the perception of the team is to change.  And that perception will be a main focus this season -- when youth believes in what can happen they can pull surprises.  And a few surprises this year would go a long way in putting the 2009 season in the rear view mirror.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

(r)Amp Up for 2010!!

Wow, there is nothing like a long, hot summer!!  Hope everyone has had time to enjoy it!  It's been a madhouse of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and individual workouts at One Buccaneer Place.  Now it's getting close to time to get to work.

Oh-yeah!!  Football Season is only about two weeks away!!

It has been a very busy offseason for the Buccaneers:  a promising draft is in the books, the scouting staff has been reorganized, the team held off on OTAs until after the draft so their rookies could fully participate (as far as I've seen or heard, Tampa Bay was the only team to do so), and contract work has gone on all summer.

Camp starts July 31st.  Are you feeling it yet?

So not too long to prep for camp, and there is a lot to review and analyze, not the least of which are the following:

1)  Unsigned draft picks:  #1 Gerald McCoy, #2 Brian Price, #3 Arrelious Benn, and #7a Cody Grimm.
2)  The players released as these rookies get signed.
3)  One Restricted (and now Exclusive) Free Agent, Donald Penn, has not signed his contract for the upcoming season.
4)  Position battles on the Offensive Line, at Safety, and at the Wide Receiver positions.

Plus a revisit to the young core rosters to check on the rebuilding process and see how many of the young players have survived the offseason. 

Oh, and the Buccaneers are carrying one too many Quarterbacks as well.

You gotta be feeling it!  Tell me you're feeling it!!

Let The Games Begin!!!