I LOVE THIS TIME OF YEAR!
Sure, there’s no football on Sundays. The podcasts are few and far between. The front office and coaching staff are busy evaluating players. The news stories about the team are scarce. And there’s no entertaining videos to watch on Buccaneers.com. However, that’s all about to change come March 13th.
That’s when the fun begins!
At 4pm on that day, the 2019 league year officially starts and so does the NFL free agency frenzy. That’s the day that most fans look forward to every offseason. Who is their team going to sign? Who is their team going to let go? Who is going where and for how much? It really is exciting stuff.
Then just as free agency slows down, we get hit with even more exciting times with the NFL Draft from April 25-27. Another landmark event in every offseason that has fans waiting with anticipation wondering which players their team’s going to pick?
Well Bucs fans, have no fear.
I’m here to tell you exactly what I think the Buccaneers should do this offseason. Jason Licht may want to pay attention and take notes. He just might learn a thing or two.
I’m kidding, Jason. You know I think you’re the man.
That being said, here is my official “battle plan” for the 2019 Buccaneers offseason from
So let’s get started, shall
***DISCLAIMER*** This “battle plan” is mine and mine alone. It is my opinion and NOT, I repeat NOT the opinion of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers organization or anyone that is involved with or employed by them. It is not a reflection of the organization’s intentions for this offseason or their plans for the impending free agency period or the upcoming draft. The transactions made here are of my own volition and no other persons were involved or colluded with during the process of creating this “battle plan”.
The Bucs were only sitting at just over $7 million in cap space to begin this offseason. They now have almost $16 million after the outright release of last year’s free agent signing DE Vinny Curry. I have a feeling that the early move was to clear up enough cap space for them to be able to franchise tag LT Donovan Smith which will cost them roughly $14 million. That being said, here are the other players that I would be releasing/trading to create some additional cap space for the rest of the offseason.
Trade DT Gerald McCoy ($13M)-
I love Gerald McCoy as a player and as a person. He’s awesome. That being said, he’s gotta go. The Bucs are too cash strapped and need to fill too many holes to be paying a 31 year-old that much money. Is he worth it? Absolutely. But the Bucs are broke and need the extra cash. So they call up Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden in Oakland to work out a trade. They could use a legitimate pass rusher and with the 7th highest amount of cap space available of any team they can afford his $13M price tag. The Raiders offer their 2019 third round pick (#66 overall) and I take it. Not only do the Bucs get a Day 2 pick, but they get rid of the $13 million contract. If Mike Greenberg could work some kind of cap friendly magic trick and restructure his contract to keep him in town, then great. Otherwise, I’m going this direction.
Trade WR DeSean Jackson ($10M)-
Jackson is a cancer. Bruce Arians might publicly say that he wants DeSean to stay in Tampa, but I don’t see him wanting a drama creating diva like him on his team. There’s a 95% chance that Jackson is gone one way or another so why not try to trade him? I call up the Buffalo Bills who could use a speedy veteran receiver and have the 3rd highest amount of cap space available to spend so they can definitely afford his $10M a year deal. I talk them into giving me one of their 2019 fourth round pick (#124 overall) and once again, I’ll take the gift. It gets the Bucs another mid-round pick and gets his $10 million contract off the books.
Release DT Beau Allen ($5M)-
I like Beau. But let’s face it, the Bucs paid him $5 million in 2018 for 20 tackles and zero sacks and that’s playing next to Gerald McCoy who constantly draws double teams. Not only that, but Allen essentially lost his starting job to rookie DT Vita Vea who came on strong midway through the season so it’s hard to justify paying him that much money at this point.
Release RT Demar Dotson ($4.8M)-
Dot is one of the biggest, nicest guys on this team. However, he’ll be 34 years-old in October and he hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2014. He simply becomes a cap casualty at this point. There are some pretty good right tackles in the upcoming draft that the Bucs could get to replace him at a much cheaper price.
Waive Injured DL Mitch Unrein ($3.75M)-
In my opinion, this would be my easiest decision of this offseason. Unrein was signed as a free agent in 2018 and never played a snap all season after suffering what was apparently the worst concussion in the history of medicine. I don’t see a reason to keep him around.
Release P Bryan Anger ($3M)-
As good a punter as Anger is, this is just too big of a price tag for the cash strapped Bucs. The Bucs have already signed a free agent punter named Hayden Hunt as a possible replacement. I would use that $3 million to sign another free agent.
Release G Evan Smith ($2M)-
Smith is one of the funniest, coolest dudes on the team. But he’ll be 34 years-old this summer and he hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2013. This team wants to get younger and needs to get cheaper at the reserve G/C position.
Unrestricted Free Agents Not Re-signed
CB Brent Grimes- Do I really need to explain this move? He’s old and needed to be putout to pasture last season.
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick– As much fun as Fitz was to watch at times last season, his time in Tampa is over. It’s time to let the young Buc have his shot.
WR Adam Humphries- I would love to have Hump back in 2019, but $8 million is just too much to pay for a #3 wide receiver.
S Chris Conte- I’ve been one of the few Conte fans here in Tampa, but with the new coaching staff and new scheme I really don’t think that he fits in with the new defense.
LS Garrison Sanborn- He’s really old and made just over $1 million last season. They can get much younger and cheaper at longsnapper.
RB Jacquizz Rodgers- He was brought in by Dirk Koetter and served his purpose well. Now that Koetter is gone, so is Quizz.
LB Cameron Lynch- He was a solid special teamer, but not a very special linebacker. If anything he could be a late offseason addition to bring into camp, but for right now it’s not happening.
DT Rakeem Nunez-Roches- He didn’t play bad last season, but I don’t see the need to bring him back with the level of d-line talent in this draft.
DB Josh Shaw- Even though he played better than expected, the Bucs have other plans for depth in the secondary.
LB Corey Nelson- He was brought in for depth and hopefully not needed any longer.
LB Adarius Taylor- He filled in decently when Kwon Alexander injured his ACL last season. If the Bucs weren’t so broke, I’d probably re-sign him right now. But since they need every penny they can get at this moment, I have to pass on him for now and hope that we can bring the special teams captain back later for training camp.
OL Leonard Wester- He is serviceable as a backup offensive tackle and I wouldn’t mind keeping him around but for now I’ll pass and hope he can come back for training camp to compete for a reserve role.
Restricted Free Agents Not Re-signed
LB Devante Bond- This guy has been injured more than not in his time in Tampa. I think it’s about time to move on from the Bucs former 2016 draft pick.
TE Alan Cross- He “officially” retired from football to take a coaching gig at his alma mater.
Exclusice Rights Free Agents Not Re-signed
S Isaiah Johnson- He saw a lot of action due to injuries in the secondary last season, but he hasn’t impressed me much. The Bucs have better options available this offseason. He might be worth bringing back to compete in training camp, but I’m not re-signing him right now.
CB Devante Harris- If money wasn’t so tight, then I’d probably go ahead and re-sign him. But for now I’ll have to let him go and hope he can come back to compete in camp.
OL Mike Liedtke– He’s been a decent reserve player for the Bucs, but as of right now I’m not re-signing him. He could be another guy that I might bring back after the draft to compete in camp.
In all, that frees up an additional $42 million in cap space. In addition to that, I convince five of the highest paid players to restructure their contracts for this season to be more “cap friendly”. Jameis Winston takes a $6 million cut, Mike Evans takes a $5 million cut, Jason Pierre-Paul takes a $1.5 million cut, Cam Brate takes a $2 million cut and Ryan Jensen takes a $1 million cut. All together, it frees up another $15.5 million. Add that to the $15 million in current cap space and the Bucs now have nearly $72.5 million to play with this offseason. Now it’s time to do some shopping!
The love affair that new head coach Bruce Arians has for the Bucs franchise quarterback has been well documented. Jameis Winston will be the starting QB for the 2019 season and likely for many years to come. The biggest question for this team is who will be backing him up? Well, here’s my solution.
Re-sign Ryan Griffin- 2yr/$4M
I had considered signing a free agent quarterback here and I was leaning towards Tyrod Taylor. However, I decided that it was time for us to shit or get off the pot with Ryan Griffin. He’s has been a Buc since 2015 and he’s performed pretty well when on the field…in preseason. He’s been in the NFL for six seasons and has yet to take a live snap in a regular season game. I say give the kid a chance. According to former head coach Dirk Koetter, Griff has all the necessary tools to be successful as an NFL quarterback, but he just hasn’t had the real opportunity just yet. I think his skillset outweighs his inexperience and the Buccaneers re-sign him to a 2yr/$4 million contract to officially backup Jameis Winston.
Signed Andre Ellington
The Bucs recently signed free agent running back and former Arizona Cardinal Andre Ellington. He just turned 30 years-old and he didn’t even play football in 2018. He was originally drafted by Bruce Arians in the sixth round of the 2013 Draft. In his first two years in Arians system he totaled 1,312 rushing yards, 766 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns while averaging about 7 yards per touch. He’s a cheap free agent pickup who’s familiar with the system and will be battling for a spot on this roster. He does have an injury history playing just one full 16-game season in 5 years, but if he can remain healthy and return to form, he might be able to replace unrestricted free agent Jacquizz Rodgers as a reserve back.
Re-sign Peyton Barber- 1yr/$2M
Last year’s starting running back Peyton Barber is a restricted free agent this year. He put together a solid 2018 season with 234 carries for 871 yards and 5 touchdowns while averaging nearly 4 yards per carry. Not too bad considering he never had more than 19 carries in a single game. As a restricted free agent, he’ll be inexpensive to keep around so I would offer him a 1yr/$2 million deal.
Sign Tevin Coleman- 4yr/$24M
Despite re-signing Barber and signing Ellington, the Bucs still have a need at running back. I know some fans are hoping that the Bucs jump into the Le’Veon Bell sweepstakes, but it’s just not gonna happen. They can’t afford him…period. However, I may have an excellent alternative. Tevin Coleman has been splitting time in the Falcons backfield for all of his first four seasons in the league with Devonte Freeman. Despite sharing the backfield and snaps, he’s been able to put up 2,340 rushing yards, 1,010 receiving yards and 29 total touchdowns while averaging almost 8 yards per touch. In comparison, Bell touched the ball about 250 more times than Coleman in his first four years and totaled 4,045 rushing yards, 2,005 receiving yards and 42 total touchdowns while averaging just 6.4 yards per touch. Obviously Bell’s production is much more being the feature back in a potent Steelers offense, but considering the fact that Coleman has been sharing playing time with Freeman and has considerably less touches than Bell he’s not a bad consolidation prize. The problem might be that he is reportedly looking for a multi-year/$30 million contract. I think the Bucs can swing it though and he could be a David Johnson type of back in Arians new Tampa Bay offense. I would sign him to a 4yr/$24 million deal to make him the Bucs new starting running back. That now gives them a RB stable of Tevin Coleman, Peyton Barber, Andre Ellington and second year back Ronald Jones with Shaun Wilson on the practice squad. BA can work with that group. Plus they could add another RB in the draft.
Franchise Tag Donovan Smith- 1yr/$14M
This group here needs some work. Much to the disappointment of some Bucs fans, I would franchise tag left tackle Donovan Smith which would keep him in town for another season. That move would cost the team about $14 million for 2019, but there’s not really any other good options on the table. If the Patriots put their franchise tag on left tackle Trent Brown, then Smith would likely be the top free agent left tackle in the market. And as far as the draft goes, there’s no real solutions there at left tackle either. Instead of offering him a multi-year extention, I’d tag him and use the 2019 season as a one year “prove it” deal to see if this new Bucs coaching staff can bring out the best in him. I think Smith has the potential in him to be one of the top left tackles in football, but he just needs someone other than George Warhop to get it out of him.
Sign AJ Cann- 3yr/$12M
Ali Marpet and Ryan Jensen have the left guard and center position solidified, but the right side of the line is the real problem. My answer at right guard is Jacksonville Jaguar AJ Cann. I was really tempted to add former Arizona Cardinal Mike Iupati here, but his price is a little steep considering he’s about to turn 32 years-old and hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2012. The injury history really scares me. That’s why I go with Cann here. Not only is he five years younger than Iupati, but he’s only missed four games in 4 seasons. At 6’3″/315lbs, Cann is an athletic guard who just needs the right coaching staff to get him on the right track. He’ll have that in Tampa. There might end up being a bidding war over his services, but I’d offer him a 3yr/$12 million contract to be the Bucs new starting right guard.
That gives the Bucs an o-line of Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet, Ryan Jensen, AJ Cann, Caleb Benenoch and Alex Cappa. They’ll be adding to this group in the draft as well.
Despite losing Alan Cross to “early retirement”, the Bucs are still pretty solid at the tight end position. OJ Howard and Cam Brate, along with Antony Auclair give them three solid pass catching tight ends and they still have players like Donnie Ernsberger and Tanner Hudson that they’re developing. I wouldn’t make any free agency moves in this group, but I may look at the group of undrafted free agents later on.
Trade DeSean Jackson & sign Michael Floyd- 2yr/$3M
After trading DeSean Jackson to the Bills and losing Adam Humphries in free agency, the Bucs will need to reload at wide receiver. What better way to do that than with a couple of Arians former Cardinal players? Michael Floyd is coming off of two down seasons where he totaled just 20 catches for 178 receiving yards and 1 touchdown while averaging 8.9 yards per catch. Not very impressive I know. But what’s appealing about him to me is his production under Arians early in his career. At 6’1″/220lbs, he just turned 29 years-old so he should be in the middle of his prime. In his first four seasons with Arizona, he totaled 209 catches for 3,293 yards and 19 touchdowns while averaging almost 16 yards per catch. That’s about the same yards per catch average that DeSean Jackson had in his two years here in Tampa. His career took a turn for the worse after Arians left Arizona, but I think reuniting with the man that drafted him could revive it. He only made $790k with the Redskins last season, so I would offer him a 2yr/$3 million contract to be the Bucs new slot receiver replacing Humphries.
Sign JJ Nelson- 1yr/$1M
Signing Floyd doesn’t replace the deep threat speed that the Bucs lost by trading Jackson. That’s where JJ Nelson comes in. At 5’10″/160lbs, Nelson is about the same size as Jackson and he ran a blistering 4.28 forty at the 2015 NFL Combine before being drafted by Arians and the Cardinals. He is 26 years-old and coming off of the worst season of his career where he finished with just 7 catches for 64 yards in 14 games. It was also his first year without Arians. So why would I sign him? Because in his first three seasons under Arians, he totaled 74 catches for 1,375 yards and 10 touchdowns while averaging a whopping 20.5 yards per catch. That’s 4 yards more than Jackson averaged here in Tampa. Nelson provides that speedy deep threat that the Bucs need at a fraction of the cost. He only made $620k with the Cardinals last year, so I would offer him a 1yr/$1 million contract to reunite with his former head coach in Tampa and hopefully revive his career.
These moves would leave the Buccaneers with a receiving corps made up of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Michael Floyd, JJ Nelson, Justin Watson and Bobo Wilson which gives them a good mix of size and speed.
INTERIOR DEFENSIVE LINE
Trade Gerald McCoy & sign DT Rodney Gunter- 2yr/$8M
The defensive line will be going through a big transformation as well with the transition into more of a hybrid 3-4 defense. After trading McCoy to the Raiders and releasing Curry, Allen and Unrein the team will need to fill those spots with capable rotational players. So again, why not fill those spots with Arians former players who are familiar with the system?
Rodney Gunter is a hometown boy from Haines City, Florida. It only makes sense for him to rejoin Arians and Bowles down here in nearby Tampa. At 6’5″/305lbs, he would add good size, speed and athletic ability to the interior of the Bucs new look d-line. He just turned 27 years-old and is coming off of a career year where he totaled 44 tackles, 4.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. I don’t see much of a market for him in free agency, so offering him a 2yr/$8 million contract should do the trick.
These moves give the Bucs a interior d-line rotation primarily consisting of Vita Vea, Will Gholston, Rodney Gunter and Stevie Tui’kolovatu. The Bucs will also be picking up another interior defensive lineman in the draft as well.
Sign Markus Golden- 1yr/$5M
At 6’3″/260lbs, Markus Golden is 28 years-old and would be a defensive end/outside linebacker in Todd Bowles scheme. He was coming off of an ACL injury in 2018, but managed to finish with 30 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 11 games. Golden’s potential was on full display in the 2016 season when he finished with 51 tackles and 12.5 sacks. There could be a market for him in free agency which might drive his price up some, but I think he could be a cost effective addition to the Bucs edge rotation. I’d offer him a 1yr/$5 million “prove it” deal and see if he takes the bait. Hopefully, reuniting with Arians and Bowles is enough added incentive to get him here.
This would give the Bucs an outside linebacker group of Jason Pierre-Paul, Carl Nassib, Markus Golden, Kendell Beckwith and Noah Spence. And again, they will be picking up another edge rusher in this draft.
Re-sign Kwon Alexander- 4yr/$35M
Apparently Kwon is looking for top five linebacker money which is in the $10-12 million per year range. That’s Luke Kuechly kind of money. And as much as I like Kwon, he’s no Kuechly. Plus he’s coming off of an ACL tear so that’s always a sketchy situation. I love his heart. I love his leadership. I love his attitude. I love the way he plays the game. And I love the “dog” in him. For those reasons, I want him back. It sounds like he wants to be back in Tampa next season. I wouldn’t get anywhere near eight figures with him for this season, but I would feel comfortable offering him a 4yr/$35 million deal where he makes $5 million for 2019 and $10 million per in the final three years. It’s a safe contract for the Bucs and would allow them to get out of it with minimal investment after this season should Kwon not return to form after the injury. It’s almost like a one year “prove it” deal for $5 million, with a 3yr/$30 million contract as the reward for staying healthy and producing.
Sign Deone Bucannon- 2yr/$6.5M
Next, I would sign Deone Bucannon. He’s an interesting free agent this offseason. At 26 years-old, he’s coming off of his worst year as a pro totaling just 38 tackles and 1 sack in 13 games. The 6’1″/211lb linebacker/safety has battled injuries over the last few years missing 10 games in that span. He is also a former draft pick of Bruce Arians and the Cardinals and had his best two years under him totaling 195 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries and 1 interception while playing in all 32 games. Once Todd Bowles left Arizona, Bucannon’s production fell off and he hasn’t been the same since. His versatility is what I like. He played safety in college, but got moved to what Bowles called the “moneybacker” with the Cardinals due to injuries and took to the position. He needs to get back into a 3-4 defense and this is his chance. He made almost $9 million in 2018, but he won’t get anything even close to that in free agency. Between his lack of production last season and his injury history, most teams will be scared to sign him which is good for the Buccaneers. I would offer him a 2yr/$6.5 million contract. Besides, the guy literally has “Buc” and “Cannon” in his last name. How could he NOT be a Buccaneer?
Re-sign Kevin Minter- 1yr/$1M
I would also re-sign Kevin Minter to play inside linebacker. He’s 28 years-old and adds solid depth to the position. I’ll bring back Minter with a 1yr/$1 million deal.
These moves leave the Bucs with a inside LB corps consisting of Kwon Alexander, Lavonte David, Kevin Minter, Jack Cichy and Deone Bucannon.
Sign CB Daryll Roberts- 3yr/$12M
With Brent Grimes finally off to the old folks home, the Bucs now need to fill his spot with another veteran. The problem is that they can’t afford a high priced vet. Darryl Roberts only has three years in the league, but he does offer some experience playing in 43 games in that time. The 6’/182lb corner has also been playing under Todd Bowles with the New York Jets. He had his best season in 2018 finishing with 47 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 interception and 7 passes defensed. In fact, he outplayed the high priced Trumaine Johnson who the Jets had just signed to a 5yr/$72.5 million contract. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Johnson was ranked the 54th corner in the NFL for 2018 while Roberts was ranked 20th. I’m not sure how or if that will effect his market in free agency, but it’s projected that he could get around $3 million per year after making just under $800k in 2018. If he continues to play like that, then he’s a bargain compared to the $8 million the Bucs paid Grimes last year. I’d offer a backloaded 3yr/$12 million contract to the former seventh round pick to reunite with his former head coach Todd Bowles and be the Bucs new outside corner opposite second year cornerback Carlton Davis.
The Buccaneers now have a CB group of Darryl Roberts, Carlton Davis, Vernon Hargreaves, Ryan Smith and MJ Stewart. They’ll add another corner in the draft for more depth.
Sign S Tyrann Mathieu- 3yr/$24M
The “Honey Badger” himself, Tyrann Mathieu. Bruce Arians originally drafted him in the third round of the 2013 Draft when other teams were scared away by his off the field concerns. At just 5’9″/190lbs, he’s small in size but he plays big. The 26 year-old is coming off of one of his best seasons with the Texans finishing with 89 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks and 2 interceptions. The free agent safety market will be saturated with plenty of options which could temper his price a bit. His versatility is what adds value because he’s able to play both safety positions, nickel corner and dime linebacker. Hopefully, reuniting with Arians would be incentive enough to sign here in Tampa even if someone offers him a little more money. He made $7 million with Houston in 2018, so I would offer him a 3yr/$24 million deal and hope he bites.
Re-sign Andrew Adams- 1yr/$1.5M
I would also re-sign safety Andrew Adams to a 1yr/$1.5 million contract. He came to Tampa in Week 4 after Chris Conte went down with an injury and filled in nicely even leading the team in picks with 4 interceptions and adding 38 tackles and 9 passes defensed in 13 games.
That would give the Bucs a safety group of Tyrann Mathieu, Justin Evans, Jordan Whitehead and Andrew Adams. They would also have MJ Stewart and Deone Bucannon who could crossover and play safety in this defense as well.
Signed K Phillip Andersen, P Hayden Hunt and LS Zach Triner
It seems as though the Bucs are trying to get younger and cheaper with their special teams unit. I would move on from 34 year-old longsnapper Garrison Sanborn, who made just over $1 million last season and replace him with the 28 year-old longsnapper Zach Triner. I would also move on from 30 year-old punter Bryan Anger who was set to make $3 million this season and replace him with 25 year-old punter Hayden Hunt. With Cairo Santos an unrestricted free agent now, the Bucs brought kicker Phillip Andersen in for a workout and liked what they saw so much that they immediately signed him. The 27 year-old kicker has been playing in the German Football League which is the highest level of American football in Europe.
Sign Matt Bryant- 1yr/$2M
There appears to be mutual interests between the Bucs and Matt Bryant after he was released by the Atlanta Falcons recently. The 43 year-old kicker still has some fight left in him, so I’d sign him to a 1yr/$2 million deal to be the Bucs new kicker while Phillip Andersen develops.
If my math is right, then I just spent about $62.5 million in free agency which leaves the Bucs about $10 million to sign their draft picks and other free agents later on. Now with the main stretch of free agency done, it’s time for my draft picks. So here is my first mock draft for the 2019 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
2019 Mock Draft 1.0
Even though they traded for Joe Flacco earlier this offseason, John Elway and the Broncos are still desperate for a franchise quarterback and they’re not taking any chances this year. The rumor is that Elway wants Drew Lock bad and doesn’t want to wait five more picks to get him, so they call the Bucs to offer up their 10th pick (1,300 points), their 41st pick (490 points) of the second round, their 137th pick (37 points) of the fifth round AND their third round pick in 2020 for the Bucs 5th pick (1,700 points) and their 191st pick (14.6 points) of the seventh round. That’s about 2,025 points worth of picks for the Bucs 1,714.6 points worth of picks. Once again, the Bucs come out of a first round trade way ahead and add a couple more picks in this draft. They now have 9 picks in the first five rounds of this draft. Time to go shopping!
Rd.1/Pk.10 (from Broncos)-
OT Jawaan Taylor, Florida
With Demar Dotson gone, the right tackle position needs to be filled and this is the right guy to do it. At 6’5″/340lbs, Taylor has an excellent combination of size, athleticism and functional power. He played both left and right tackle for the Gators and was steady in pass protection as well as a tough run blocker. “He’s got prototypical size, powerful hands and special movement skills” according to Kyle Crabbs of NFLDraftNetwork.com. He could be the answer to replacing Dot on the right side and be a staple in the Bucs offensive line for years to come.
ILB Mack Wilson, Alabama
With the Bucs transitioning to more of a hybrid 3-4 defense, the roles of their linebackers will be changing. I brought Kwon Alexander back in my battle plan, but the team needs an insurance policy just in case he doesn’t come back from his injury the same player. Wilson is that policy. At 6’1″/238lbs, he has rare instincts and a relentless motor to go along with his athleticism and explosiveness. He’s aggressive and violent at the line of scrimmage, but also has excellent pass coverage skills. He finished 2018 with 71 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions and 5 passes defensed. Not exactly mind blowing stats, but his playing time was cut to one half in most games due to Bama blowing out so many opponents. He may not make it out of the first round, but if he’s still sitting there when the Bucs go on the clock in the second round then they should take the gift and run with it.
Rd.2/Pk.41 (from Broncos)-
DE Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech
The NCAA all-time sack leader (45) was recently uninvited to the NFL Combine when a background check revealed he had been convicted of misdemeanor simple battery resulting from a fight at a McDonald’s restaurant four years ago. Without the opportunity to showcase his ability up close and in person in Indianapolis, the first round talent could possibly drop into the second round. He was extremely productive over his four year college career finishing with 187 tackles, 67.5 tackles for loss, 45 sacks, 6 passes defensed and 7 forced fumbles. He’s a strong, physical player with the ability to convert speed to power. He’s a stud at the point of attack and sets the edge well versus the run. At 6’7″/270lbs, he has great size, length and thickness. He’s got long arms and violent hands which helps him fight off blockers. His primary role would be at defensive end or even outside linebacker, but he could also slide inside to rush the passer on later downs. He would add some much needed versatility to the new look Bucs d-line.
Rd.3/Pk.66 (from Raiders)-
DT Khalen Saunders, Western Illinois
This guy is a physical freak of nature. At 6’2″/320lbs, he does rare things on the football field for a man his size. His combination of size, power, quickness and flexibility is difficult for most offensive linemen to deal with. He was a three year starter in a 3-4 defense where he primarily played nose tackle finishing his college career with 204 tackles, 34.5 tackles for loss, 18 sacks and 4 forced fumbles. He also showed his versatility by lining up at zero-tech, five-tech and even out wide as an edge rusher at times. Coming from a smaller school, he really helped his draft stock during his week at the Senior Bowl where he dominated against the best senior offensive linemen in the country. His technique needs a ton of work, but his potential is through the roof if he can figure out how to most effectively use his strength and athleticism. He would add even more versatility to the Bucs new defensive front.
CB Joejuan Williams, Vanderbilt
The Bucs already have a young secondary, but they need to add more size and depth to their cornerback group. At 6’2″/211lbs, Williams has ideal size and length to go along with his great ball skills. “He matches up well in man coverage and is comfortable playing at the line of scrimmage” according to DraftWire.com who adds “he has the ability to play press bump-and-run or off man coverage in the NFL”. He had a productive junior season with the Commodores finishing with 56 tackles, 10 passes defensed and 4 interceptions. He gives the Bucs another long, physical corner to match up with the big, NFC South wide receivers.
RB Darrell Henderson, Memphis
I’m really hoping that his size scares enough teams off that he falls this far in the draft because this dude can ball. At 5’9″/200lbs, he’s smaller than the Saints Alvin Kamara and the Browns Kareem Hunt, but I think he has that same type of potential to be an explosive offensive weapon for the right team. He had ridiculous production in college finishing his three year career with 3,545 rushing yards, 758 receiving yards and 44 touchdowns while averaging 8.2 yards per carry and 12 yards per catch. “One of the most slippery backs in this draft” according to TheDraftNetwork.com. He has joystick-like cutting ability and elusiveness to go along with breakaway homerun speed. His balance is second to none as shown by his yards after contact and his athletic ability and agility are on display with his yards after catch. His size and lack of pass protection technique might keep him from being an NFL feature back for now, but he would fit right in with the Bucs versatile stable of running backs.
Rd.4/Pk.124 (from Bills)-
C/G Connor McGovern, Penn State
The Bucs could use some depth on their offensive line, especially on the interior. With no true center backing up Ryan Jensen, their options are limited to left guard Ali Marpet or reserve guard Alex Cappa should Jensen go down. At 6’5″/323lbs, McGovern has good mobility and quickness which makes him one of the best pulling offensive linemen in this draft. He has a great anchor and will ride defenders into the ground. He’s also got great functional athleticism and strength and rarely gets caught off balance. He was a two-time team captain and three year starter who played all three interior positions at Penn State. His versatility is appealing and would add depth at center and guard on the Bucs offensive line.
S/OLB Chase Hansen, Utah
Versatility seems to be a characteristic of Todd Bowles defense and Hansen offers just that. At 6’2″/220lbs, he played his first year at Utah as a quarterback, his next two years at safety and his senior year at linebacker where he led the team in tackles (114) and tackles for loss (22) to go along with 5 sacks, 4 passes defensed and 2 interceptions. He’s fast with fluid mobility and quickness which gives him nice range from sideline to sideline. He’s better playing up close to the line of scrimmage against the run than he is out in coverage. Some teams might be scared away by his age (25), but his versatility, football IQ and toughness might make him worth a late round grab.
Rd.5/Pk.137 (from Broncos)-
NT Daylon Mack, Texas A&M
The Bucs add some more depth to the middle of their d-line here with the 6’1″/320lb Mack. He put up decent numbers as a freshman with 32 tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss, but his production declined over his sophomore and junior years due to laziness and playing out of shape. A new coaching staff lit a fire under his ass going into his senior year and he stayed in shape and put up 32 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. He’s exceptionally explosive and quick off the snap. He plays fast, hard and physical with a relentless motor. He has a rare combination of physical traits, but does need to be coached up on technique. If the right coaching staff can teach him how to get the most out of his violent hands and quick feet, then the sky is the limit for him.
UNDRAFTED FREE AGENT TARGETS
QB Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State
Great size at 6’5″/230lbs. Was Dak Prescott’s backup at Ole Miss during his freshman year. Dual threat QB finishing his four year career with 6,207 passing yards, 55 touchdowns, 30 interceptions, 3,607 rushing yards and 46 rushing touchdowns. Has a strong arm and shows ability to read defenses well. He would be an interesting addition as the Bucs third quarterback.
WR Hakeem Butler, Iowa State
Prototypical NFL receiver at 6’5″/225lbs. Had a breakout senior year with 1,318 yards and 9 touchdowns while averaging 22 yards per catch. A true “power forward” receiver and a redzone monster. Excellent functional playing strength and imposes his will as a blocker. He has a promising skillset and possesses physical traits that can’t be taught, but he’s raw and would be a project. He’s starting off on the right foot though preparing for the NFL Combine by training with the legend Calvin Johnson. He would also benefit by playing behind and learning from Mike Evans who’s one of the best big man wide receivers in football.
TE Mavin Saunders, Kansas
Great size at 6’6″/260lbs. Outstanding athlete with raw talent. Not much production at either Florida State or Kansas, but the physical traits are there and his potential is through the roof. He would be coming into a situation where there’s no pressure to play right away and he could learn from one of the best tight end duos in the league.
OT Brock Ruble, Toledo
Monstrous frame at 6’8″/320lbs. Massive reach with strong hands and good upper body strength which provides tremendous push in the run game. Needs some fundamental development from the right coaching staff which the Bucs now have. Could end up being a decent NFL right tackle in time.
DT Olive Sagapolu, Wisconsin
Massive frame and naturally powerful, yet surprisingly flexible and athletic at 6’2″/335lbs. Saw a video of him doing a standing back tuck…on the beach…in the sand. Capable of overpowering blockers pushing them backwards and collapsing the pocket. Just 61 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 6 sacks in four years playing nose tackle at Wisconsin. Hard worker with a relentless motor.
LB Joe Dineen Jr, Kansas
Nice size for a LB at 6’2″/235lbs. Had very productive junior and senior years totaling 275 tackles, 32.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. Good awareness at the line of scrimmage and fast to read and react. Lead the nation in solo tackles with 109 (next closest was 87) and was second in that category in 2017 behind now Cowboys star LB Leighton Vander Esch. The problem is that he’s an old school linebacker playing new school football. Some teams may not think he fits in the modern era game. I think Todd Bowles could find a spot for such a talented kid in his defense.
CB Clifton Duck, Appalachian State
A bit undersized at 5’10″/175lbs, but doesn’t play that way. Highly productive in three years with 158 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 12 interceptions and 31 passes defensed. Non-stop motor, ferocious defender and a hard hitter. Great speed and ball hawking ability. A shutdown corner who can also play behind the line of scrimmage.
CB Lamar Jackson, Nebraska
Decent three year production with 83 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 interceptions and 10 passes defensed. Big corner at 6’2″/215lbs who could cross over to play safety. Again, versatility is the key here.
S Jalen Young, Florida Atlantic
Highly productive in his four years totaling 301 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 13 interceptions and 7 passes defensed. An explosive, playmaking centerfielder in the secondary at 5’11″/185lbs.
P Steven Coutts, California
Huge punter at 6’4″/220lbs. Finalist for nation’s top punter award in 2016. Had longest punts of 64, 68 and 73 yards while averaging 43 yards per punt. Pinned 44 of 128 punts inside the 20 yard line and lead the nation in that category.
With all of these moves this offseason, here’s what my projected 2019 roster would look like:
QB (2)- Jameis Winston, Ryan Griffin, Nick Fitzgerald (R)
RB (4)- Tevin Coleman, Peyton Barber, Ronald Jones, Andre Ellington, Darrell Henderson (R), Shaun Wilson
WR (6)- Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Michael Floyd, JJ Nelson, Justin Watson, Bobo Wilson, Hakeem Butler (R)
TE (4)- OJ Howard, Cam Brate, Antony Auclair, Donnie Ernsberger, Tanner Hudson, Mavin Saunders (R)
OL (8)- Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet, Ryan Jensen, AJ Cann, Jawaan Taylor (R), Caleb Benenoch, Alex Cappa, Connor McGovern (R), Brock Ruble (R)
DL (5)- Vita Vea, Will Gholston, Rodney Gunter, Stevie Tui’kolovatu, Khalen Saunders (R), Daylon Mack (R), Olive Sagapolu (R)
OLB (6)- Jason Pierre-Paul, Carl Nassib, Kendell Beckwith, Noah Spence, Jaylon Ferguson (R)
ILB (5)- Kwon Alexander, Lavonte David, Kevin Minter, Deone Bucannon, Mack Wilson (R), Joe Dineen (R)
CB (5)- Darryl Roberts, Carlton Davis, Vernon Hargreaves, Ryan Smith, Joejuan Williams (R), Clifton Duck (R), Lamar Jackson (R)
S (5)- Tyrann Mathieu, Justin Evans, Jordan Whitehead, Andrew Adams, MJ Stewart, Jalen Young (R), Chase Hansen (R)
ST (3)- Matt Bryant, Phillip Anderson (R), Hayden Hunt, Steven Coutts (R), Zach Triner
Well, there you have it. The golden ticket. The pathway to the playoffs. If Jason Licht doesn’t follow this blueprint, then I just don’t know what he’s thinking.
Apparently, my battle plan is already dead in the water since the news broke that the Bucs are keeping Gerald McCoy and his gigantic $13 million contract in town for this season.
My plan is a bit unrealistic and maybe a little too optimistic. I don’t really expect Winston, Evans, JPP, Jensen and Brate to restructure their deals to free up more money for the good of the team. It’s doubtful that the Bucs go on a big spending spree and sign ten free agents like I did here, especially if they are keeping McCoy around. It’s unlikely that more than half of those free agents are former players from Bruce Arians Arizona Cardinals team.
But guess what…
IT’S MY BATTLE PLAN!
I can do whatever I want with whoever I want. That’s the beauty of doing these things every offseason. I can pretend that it’s my team to do with as I please no matter how far off base I am with it. And I probably am pretty off base with this plan, but it’s just for fun so who cares. If I’m feeling froggy later, I may come up with a more realistic battle plan that suits the Bucs lack of financial freedom a little better. But for now, my next article should be my first “official” mock draft of the offseason (even though it will technically be my second since I did a mock in my battle plan).
Until then, as always…