The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have only two games left in 2014, and they’re as important as the last fourteen for many of the players on the roster. While the playoffs are long gone and most of the team’s dignity has been lost, many are fighting for their jobs. In the past few weeks and the final two coming up, the players themselves get to decide what those games mean. For every single man on the roster, this finish will be one of two things. If you play like Bradley McDougald, get comfortable and start preparing to fight for a starting spot come training camp.
If you play like Michael Koenen has all season, consider this your exit interview. Say goodbye and start updating your resume for the rest of the NFL. The following players have two weeks to change things, but the past fifteen weeks of football indicate that some need to start looking for a new job. If the Lovie-Licht Connection remains as unforgiving as they were last offseason, some players have little chance to hold on. I’m not saying every man on this list gets released, but not a single one of them would surprise me.
The extremely popular option to pick on all season is clearly the free agent flop that was acquired from the Cincinnati Bengals during the offseason. Johnson signed a five-year deal worth $43.75 million. That number is absolutely terrifying after the way Johnson has played throughout the season. Early on there was speculation that his issues stemmed only from a nagging ankle injury, but unfortunately for Johnson the tape don’t lie. As the season has progressed, his consistency has faltered even more. Johnson’s level of play has gotten lazier by the quarter, and circumstance may be the only thing that keeps him on the roster. Should he be cut, that will still leave $9 million in dead cap money next season. It’s a tough hit for a team looking to capitalize on all of their funds, and that fact may well give Johnson another chance. It certainly seems his performances won’t be giving him such an opportunity.
I’m happy that this is the only other defensive player I included on this list. As the season has gone on, much of the defense has settled into their roles. Despite constant injuries in just about every area of the defense, people have stepped up. I don’t include Da’Quan Bowers on here as a result of horrible play, but I wonder if he has made enough of an impact for Lovie Smith to hold on to him. Bowers has sadly failed to live up to expectations for several seasons now, and this may be the final straw. Bowers has a solid chance to hold onto a backup role, but don’t be surprised if he’s gone.
Anthony Collins/Oniel Cousins/Patrick Omameh/Garrett Gilkey/George Warhop
These four offensive linemen and their supposed coach George Warhop should all have a party at the end of the season. They should celebrate the fact that they actually got paid without doing their jobs. While at the party, they can take shots for every block they missed. Sadly, if they used the real number all of them die from alcohol poisoning. All four of these linemen have been pitiful this year. Omameh is probably the best out of them if for no other reason than the promise he showed in Training Camp. Unfortunately, that promise was broken along with any hope for Collins, Cousins, or Gilkey to do anything other than piss their pants when a play hits.
I almost included Evan Dietrich-Smith in this grouping, but I think there is a higher chance he stays than any of these four and their coach. EDS has been inconsistent, but he has actually had good games. His quality moments make me wonder to what extent he has faltered because of trying to cover up for mistakes and missed blocks that other linemen have made. Nothing excuses his failed snaps, but EDS hasn’t had the same track record of complete and utter suckage like these four. Offensive coordinator may be the hot topic on the coaching hunt, but I just want us to get the Tony Dungy of Offensive Line Coaches.
This is a bittersweet inclusion, because I love Vincent Jackson. The only thing I like more than hearing “Touchdown Vincent Jackson” is hearing “Touchdown Mike Evans!” Combine that with Jackson’s great charity work, children’s book, and proof of his character, and you can see why him leaving would hurt. It always gets said because it’s always true: football is a business. I don’t care how awesome Bob is at the Christmas Party, he has to be worth what he’s being paid. I think Vincent Jackson is worth keeping, but he’s not worth what he’s being paid. Preferably, Jason Licht will work to restructure with Vincent Jackson to free up more cap money this year and give him a reasonable pay cut. Jackson is set to make $9.7 million next year, and if released or traded would still have a dead money cap hit of $4.8 million. It’s not ideal, but if things line up it has to be considered.
Josh McCown/Mike Glennon
I was going to separate these, but there really isn’t much to say about one that can’t be said about the other. McCown has gotten the majority of the starts this season and his turnover ratio speaks for itself. I genuinely believed at one time that Mike Glennon was the future of this franchise. I also wasmleading my own leg of the Josh McCown wagon trail. As many statistics as I looked at, I focused on the positives. While few quarterbacks could have significant success behind an offensive line as horrendous as this year’s, neither of these two showed they are the “Quarterback of the Future.” Consider both of these men to be on the chopping and trading block, and not much can be done in the last two games to change that.
Doug Martin/Bobby Rainey/Mike James
Much like the poor play at quarterback, a hefty serving of blame for the Buccaneers poor run game lies with the offensive line. However, any of these three men may not make it to the 2015 Season as Buccaneers. Doug Martin still shows flashes of his ability, and this makes him a prime option for a trade should there be a valid offer from around the league. Bobby Rainey has had some ball security issues and the late reacquisition of Solomon Patton could negate his return game intangible. Mike James hasn’t been terrible this year, but he’s never made a huge impact in the moments he’s been provided. In all, the only running back I consider safe is Charles Sims. Sims has had a modicum of success on the ground, but he’s proven himself a valid target in the passing game. That will keep him in town while this trio may not be so secure.
DO YOU EVEN PUNT BRO? Okay, let’s get serious for a second. Michael Koenen is set to be paid $3.25 million in 2015 based on his current contract. When compared to the crazy numbers that quarterbacks and high level wide receivers put up, that doesn’t seem like an insane number. However, Koenen is tied with San Diego’s Mike Scifres as the highest paid punter in the entire NFL. So, you’d expect Koenen would be good, right? I think everyone has heard grumblings about Koenen’s punting woes, but let’s see what the numbers say.
Tampa Bay is dead last in the league at an average of 40.2 yards per punt. Koenen has dropped a grand total 14 punts inside the 20 yard line this season. That’s actually one up from the fewest in the league. So at least it’s not last, right? Wrong. The team with the fewest punts dropped inside the 20 is Green Bay, who happens to have kicked the fewest punts in the entire NFL this season. Let’s go to the other end of the financial spectrum with Washington Redskins punter Tress Way. Way’s salary is $420,000 this year, which is tied with four others for the lowest punter salary in the entire NFL.
Financially, Michael Koenen is at the top and Tress Way is dead last. Statistically, it is the exact opposite. Way leads the league with an average of 47.9 yards per punt. Buffalo Bills punter Colton Schmidt is tied with four others for the league lead of 29 punts dropped inside the 20. That’s more than twice the amount Koenen has managed. Want to know how much Schmidt is paid? Guess! That’s right! Colton Schmidt’s salary is also tied for the league low at $420,000. When Koenen is released, he’ll have zero dead money sitting on next year’s cap. There are plenty of punters around who are better and getting paid significantly less money. I wish you the best in your future endeavors Mr. Koenen, but I’m ready for you to be punted clear out of Tampa Bay.
The season isn’t over yet, and many of these very players will be doing everything in their power during these final two games to secure positions going into next year. Some have a good chance to do so, while others don’t have a chance in hell. One thing is for certain, the Buccaneers will likely be one of the most active teams in the offseason for the second year in a row. That’s not a good thing, but hopefully the results will turn out better than they have this year. The draft is too far off and unpredictable to start taking potshots at, but there is a level of certainty in seeing who won’t be here when all is said and done.