Yardbarker Horiz

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

2012 Summer of Change: The Departed

What an offseason, and we're still over a month away from training camps opening!

The Buccaneers have been as active this offseason as any in recent memory. There have been dozens of transactions including free agent signings, draft picks, college free agents, waiver pickups, and even street signings. Where is all this going and why? What can we determine are points of emphasis of Head Coach Greg Shiano and the new coaching staff? What can we find out about the current thoughts in the head of General Manager Mark Dominik? And finally, what can we see which shows us progress away from a repeat of last season?

Today we start with a list of who's gone. In order of occurrence:

The Departed

2012.01.02 - Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator Raheem Morris, Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson, and the entire coaching staff are dismissed.
This included everything, all the way to strength and conditioning coaches and their staff. It was, truly, a purge of nearly everything related to regular season execution at One Buccaneer Place. All that remained was the regular season roster of players. It was a powerful statement by the executives of the organization that performances like 2011 will not be tolerated. Remember, this was shortly after watching the team cap the season by starting off down 21-0 to Atlanta after the first quarter.

2012.02.15 - Albert Haynesworth released.
While not a surprise considering the locker-room baggage which has been hung on Haynesworth since leaving the Titans, I have since heard indirectly from a couple sources Albert's time in the weight room was not exactly impressive, both from a conduct and an effort standpoint. As such, it's doubtful his on-field play would have improved next season and he has not played a 16 game season in several years. This one was probably just a matter of time, and General Manager Mark Dominik and newly hired Head Coach Greg Schiano probably figured better sooner than later applied.

2012.03.13 - Free Agency Begins.
The following players became free agents and have not been resigned by the Buccaneers:

Earnest Graham - A longtime performer in the Buccaneers' backfield, Graham has had a solid career and may show up elsewhere this fall, but now is probably a long shot to return to Tampa Bay.
Kregg Lumpkin - Lumpkin was starting to come on as a third down back after coming to Tampa Bay from the Packers via the waiver wire a couple seasons ago. This season's draft, however, may mean the team does not require his services at this time. Certainly young enough to get a chance somewhere else this fall.
Geno Hayes - Hayes was picked up by the Chicago Bears on a one-year contract on April 19th. We'll dive deeper here another day.
Sean Jones, Corey Lynch, Elbert Mack - There has been big change in the defensive backfield this offseason. This is a big pile of experience to lose. More on this upcoming.
Micheal Spurlock - Spurlock was the veteran of the receivers group last season and was a solid return man. But the amount of youth behind him means he'll probably have to look for work elsewhere.
James Lee - The big offensive tackle made the starting lineup during the injury plagued 2010 campaign but could not hold on. We'll dive deeper here another day as well.
Josh Johnson - When the NFL and Players Union decided to remove the "third QB" rule in the new CBA, Johnson's value skyrocketed to the rest of the NFL. He's been a solid backup, and now he'll get to compete in San Francisco for his college coach Jim Harbaugh.
Jovan Haye - Haye left Tampa Bay for the Titans a few years ago. His return was mostly as a known commodity to fill injury holes. He may get a chance to get into training camp if recently signed vets along the defensive line do not work out. I would not count on it.

2012.03.14 - Jeff Faine released.
While this looked to be due to the signing of free agent G Carl Nick as far as timing, this is probably more about just plain old time. Faine has been outstanding for a long, long time. He has had a couple serious injuries the past two years plus the Buccaneers have been grooming Jeremy Zuttah for a while. This is probably the natural NFL process of where two players cross. In one aspect, it's good when the pipeline works. In another aspect, there is no way to know the value of Faine until the first game of the regular season (which is commonly known as "risk") and it will be an important position to watch all preseason.

2012.03.22 - Tim Crowder, Nick Reed released.
Crowder, a DE pulled from the Broncos waiver wire in 2009, was part of the early rebuilding of the DE squad by GM Mark Dominik. He played in 40 of 47 games for Tampa Bay (including 13 starts) and scored three or more sacks in 2009 and 2012. Only a fifth year player, Crowder may find it rough to return to the youthful Buccaneers squad. DE Reed signed in December as injury insurance; since being release he has signed with Minnesota.

2012.04.04 - Rudy Carpenter released.
Carpenter was the #3 guy on a team which is no longer planning on keeping three quarterbacks on the roster. The young undrafted college free agent (2009) showed occasional promise in very limited play but is not likely to return to Tampa Bay.

2012.04.10 - Tanard Jackson released.
This is the third safety released (see 2012.03.13 above) this offseason. With the youth on this team, his inability to stay out of the Commissioners office, and draft picks spent at the safety position the past two drafts, Jackson was facing an uphill battle.

2012.05.04 - John McCargo and Raymond Webber released.
DT John McCargo had a bizzarre Tampa Bay experience. The day after he signed (11/8) as a replacement for the injured Gerald McCoy he was cut to create a roster spot for Albert Haynesworth. The following week, McCargo was signed again after DE George Johnson was placed on IR. Around a month later, McCargo himself went on IR. It's worth noting he played in all four games he was on the roster but as a sixth year player he probably did not have a roster spot with all the youth Tampa Bay has playing in the defensive interior. McCargo has since signed with the Chicago Bears.
WR Raymond Webber was an undrafted college free agent last summer but spent the year on the disabled list after an injury in camp. He led the NCAA in receiving yardage his senior year at Arkansas -Pine Bluff.

2012.05.21 - Kellen Winslow traded to Seattle.
This could be the most unexpected event of the summer (so far).  Since signing one of the most lucrative Tight End contracts in NFL History, Winslow has been a favorite target of young QB Josh Freeman.  He gained over 725 yards per season and caught more than 65 passes each year.  Now he's gone, and in his place is a different veteran, Dallas Clark, the longtime target of Peyton Manning.  Former Head Coach Raheem Morris treated Winslow very differently from the rest of the team; could it be new Head Coach Greg Schiano was not willing to soft shoe with Winslow?  Regardless of the reason, this is another strong Schiano fingerprint on the roster.

The rookie mini camp on May 7th generated a large number of signings, leading into more typical offseason roster churn.  As the mini camp and OTAs start to show the coaches what they have and what they are missing there will continue to be a rotation of players in and out of One Buccaneer Place. Those are stories for another day. The players listed above represent a remarkable amount of talent and production for a team to release (mostly) prior to draft day.

How much change has occurred?  Today, exactly half the offseason roster of 90 players were not with the team last season.

It is going to be a very different looking Buccaneers team this fall.