QB Dan Orlovsky, WR Vincent Jackson, TE Dallas Clark, G Carl Nicks, DE Wallace Gilberry, DE Jayme Mitchell, DT Amobi Okoye, DT Gary Gibson, CB Eric Wright.
Early Draft Picks:
SS Mark Barron, RB Doug Martin, OLB Lavonte David, ILB Najee Goode, CB Keith Tandy.
QB Josh Johnson, RB Kregg Lumpkin, FB Earnest Graham, TE Kellen Winslow Jr., C Jeff Faine, DT Albert Haynesworth, OLB Geno Hayes, CB Elbert Mack, S Tanard Jackson, SS Sean Jones, S Corey Lynch, KR Micheal Spurlock.
2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offense:
The Buccaneers had so many problems last year that it would take hours typing them up. Some can't even be listed, as Josh Freeman, LeGarette Blount, Mike Williams and others had undisclosed personal issues that can't be discussed. And no, that's not referring to stupidity for Blount or lethargy for Williams, although those things did not help matters.
Freeman had his personal demons last year, but his touchdown-to-interception ratio falling from 25:6 to 16:22 occurred for a myriad of other reasons, one of which was lack of pocket awareness. Another was that none of his receivers could get open. Mike Williams, as as reported here, was out of shape during the beginning of the season and fell asleep during team meetings. Fortunately for Freeman, he won't have to count on Williams as his top weapon this year in the wake of the Vincent Jackson signing.
Jackson was a dynamic downfield weapon for Philip Rivers, but there are a couple of concerns with this pairing. If Jackson wanted to have the best pro career possible, he would have stayed in San Diego or signed with a team that has an established, top-tier quarterback. Instead, he chased the money and signed with Tampa Bay. And how great is Jackson anyway? He's never caught 70 passes in a single season, despite having Philip Rivers as his signal-caller. Jackson has never played with a quarterback not named Rivers or Drew Brees, so was he just a product of the system in San Diego? He was the 61st pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, so it's not like he was really highly regarded when he came into the league.
A player who was a high pick was Kellen Winslow Jr., but he's gone because head coach Greg Schiano didn't want to deal with him. Winslow was a declining player anyway, but the Buccaneers somehow managed to downgrade him by signing Dallas Clark, who looked like he was running in quicksand last year. He was also pathetic when attempting to catch the football, finishing second in the NFL only behind St. Louis' Lance Kendricks in drops per reception. It's quite possible that Clark won't even make the team, so it'll be up to 2011 fourth-rounder Luke Stocker to take Winslow's spot. Stocker had 12 catches as a rookie.
The Buccaneers did make two positive offensive acquisitions. The first was Doug Martin, whom Tampa moved ahead of the Giants for in the 2012 NFL Draft. Blount may handle the inside running for now, but Martin will be utilized heavily as a pass-catching safety valve for Freeman. Blount really frustrated the coaching staff with his inability to receive the ball or protect effectively, so Martin will likely be on the field more often despite having no professional experience.
The second good move was signing Carl Nicks, arguably the top guard in the NFL. He'll man the left guard position, formerly stationed by Jeremy Zuttah, who will now play center in place of the decrepit Jeff Faine. The other member on the left side is blind-side protector Donald Penn, whose nine sacks last year were a bit misleading because Freeman was responsible for several of them.
Right guard Davin Joseph is solid, but the one area the Buccaneers really failed to upgrade was right tackle. Jeremy Trueblood was atrocious there last year, so it's really puzzling as to why general manager Mark Dominik failed to provide some competition for him this offseason.
2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense:
Referring to Tampa Bay's stop unit as "terrible" would be very kind. The defense finished dead last versus the run (5.1 YPC), second-to-last against the pass (8.2 YPA) and worst in terms of getting to the quarterback (23 sacks). Several of the players mailed it in, but don't take that to believe there's not a lack of talent on the roster. There definitely is.
The Buccaneers have jettisoned some of the bad apples. In addition to Kellen Winslow offensively, they let go of defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and safety Tanard Jackson. The only poor-character individual still remaining is Aqib Talib, who is facing a possible suspension for an arrest. He may be sidelined for 4-8 games.
It appears as though Tampa Bay has not dumped Talib because of the dubious situation it has at cornerback. It's just Talib and no one else. Mark Dominik signed Eric Wright to a 5-year, $37.5 million deal in March, but the pedestrian corner wasn't practicing with the first team at OTAs because of some undisclosed illness. He'll probably be inserted into the starting lineup eventually because of his ridiculous salary, but he'll quickly be demoted because he can't cover anyone. Anthony Gaitor, Myron Lewis and E.J. Biggers will also be in contention for major playing time, but the latter two really struggled last year.
Ronde Barber used to be a starting corner, but he has moved to free safety - a move that has occurred a year too late based on how brutally he was torched in 2011. Unfortunately, he's 37, so it's unlikely that he'll have much success in his new position. On the opposite end of the spectrum, strong safety Mark Barron has no NFL experience. He was chosen No. 7 overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. There's no question that he was a reach; he was pushed up because of the alarming lack of safety prospects.
Believe it or not, there is some good news pertaining to Tampa's stop unit. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy will be back from injury. He suffered an ankle malady and then tore his biceps, consequently playing in just six games last season. It's a shame too because he was having a great year. He can be a force if he can stay off the injury report - something that has been a major problem for him thus far. McCoy will start next to Brian Price, a 2010 second-round pick who has flopped thus far in the NFL.
There's more of a positive outlook on the exterior of the defensive front. Adrian Clayborn, the No. 20 selection in the 2011 NFL Draft, had an outstanding rookie campaign. He notched 7.5 sacks, five of which came after Week 10. He was a bit weak against the run, but he should improve in that area going forward. Meanwhile, left end Michael Bennett was terrific in every aspect. He was consequently tendered as a first-round restricted free agent this offseason. He'll obviously command a big contract if he has another great season.
The Buccaneers spent two draft picks on linebackers, and understandably so. That area was a major liability last season. Lavonte David, an undersized, but productive weakside linebacker, was chosen in the second round. Najee Goode, a fifth-rounder, will push Mason Foster in the middle. Foster, a third-round selection last year, struggled mightily in his rookie campaign, constantly getting washed away in run support. Strongside linebacker Quincy Black had similar problems, but was much worse in pass coverage.
2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Schedule and Intangibles:
The Buccaneers have a habit of overspending for mediocre (or worse) talents. Punter Michael Koenen was awarded a 6-year, $19.5 million contract last offseason for some strange reason. It's basically the equivalent of an average person spending $2,000 on a pack of gum. Koenen posted a decent 45.1-yard average with 24-of-67 attempts inside the 20.
Kicker Connor Barth, who received less money this spring (4 years, $13.2 million), was brilliant in 2011, nailing 26-of-28 tries, including 13-of-14 from 40-49 and 2-of-3 from 50-plus.
The Buccaneers didn't score a special-teams touchdown and allowed one, but they actually outgained their opponents by less than a yard on punt and kickoff returns.
Prior to the 2009 season, the Buccaneers were 68-36 as hosts. However, they were a shameful 1-6 at the New Sombrero in 2009, a mediocre 4-4 in 2010 (compared to 6-2 in away contests) and 3-5 last year. They need to reestablish dominant homefield advantage.
The Buccaneers have some beatable non-divisional opponents, including: Redskins (home), Vikings (road), Raiders (road) and Rams (home).
2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Analysis: The Buccaneers will be much more competitive than they were last year, as long they don't quit on their head coach again. Assuming Josh Freeman is able to fully concentrate on football, the offense should be pretty solid. The defense, however, will make it extremely difficult for this team to win football games. There's little doubt that Tampa Bay will be the last-place team in the NFC South.
Goals Entering the 2012 NFL Draft: Raheem Morris said it before he was fired - the offense lacks play-makers. Josh Freeman really struggled in 2012 for various reasons, one of which was a miserable supporting cast. Vincent Jackson was added in free agency, but he's not enough. The back seven of the defense also needs to be fixed.
2012 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Back seven fixed? Check. Mark Barron and Lavonte David were drafted in the first two rounds, and then Najee Goode and Keith Tandy joined them on Day 3. Play-makers added? Check. Doug Martin was a great addition at No. 31 overall. The Buccaneers traded up for him, but had to do so because the Giants were prepared to select him. Martin, compared by many to Ray Rice, will be a perfect complement to the hard-running LeGarrette Blount.
The one thing I didn't like is the compensation the Buccaneers received for moving down from No. 5 to 7. First of all, it doesn't add up according to the trade value chart, and second, it's been discussed ad nauseum that there's a big difference between the top six prospects in this class and the No. 7-rated guy. Jacksonville should have been forced to surrender a third-round pick instead of a fourth.
2012 NFL Draft Individual Grades:
7. Mark Barron, SS, Alabama: C- Grade
I like when teams trade down, but the Buccaneers could have just obtained Morris Claiborne at No. 5. Do they really think Mark Barron is that close to Claiborne? Most of the evaluators don't think so, as only one major big board had him above No. 8. Safety is not a value position, so unless you're getting the next Ed Reed, you don't draft one in the top 10.
31. Doug Martin, RB, Boise State: A- Grade
I mocked Doug Martin to the Buccaneers in the second round because it made so much sense. He's great as a pass-catcher out of the backfield and has drawn comparisons to Ray Rice, which makes him a great complement for LeGarrette Blount.
58. Lavonte David, OLB, Nebraska: A Grade
The Buccaneers really needed linebacker help and have shown interest in Lavonte David, so this makes a ton of sense. David was No. 35 on the consensus big board, so he provides great value. I can't fault Tampa Bay at all for trading up for him.
140. Najee Goode, ILB, West Virginia: C Grade
This is a slight reach, but you have to believe that Greg Schiano is familiar with Najee Goode. The Buccaneers had to find multiple linebackers this weekend.
174. Keith Tandy, CB, West Virginia: A- Grade
Finally, a cornerback! Keith Tandy probably should have gone a bit higher than this, so this pick provides some value in addition to filling a huge need.
212. Michael Smith, RB, Utah State: B- Grade
Michael Smith is an OK pick in the seventh round. He might be able to beat out Mossis Madu to be the third running back.
233. Drake Dunsmore, FB, Northwestern: B Grade
The Buccaneers lost Earnest Graham to injury/free agency, so they needed a fullback. This pick makes sense.
How do you go from 10-6 and nearly making the playoffs to 4-12 and having your head coach fired? Perhaps this all happened because this head coach didn't put in the necessary time and effort every week. I'm not sure what's worse - that, or the fact that the Buccaneers couldn't fire Raheem Morris in December because they didn't have the ample personnel to survive without him.
Seahawks acquire TE Kellen Winslow Jr. from Buccaneers for conditional 7th-round pick
Bears sign DT John McCargo
Buccaneers sign WR Tiquan Underwood
Buccaneers sign DT Gary Gibson
Buccaneers cut DT John McCargo
Bears sign OLB Geno Hayes
Redskins sign S Tanard Jackson
Buccaneers cut S Tanard Jackson
Redskins sign OT James Lee
Buccaneers sign DT Amobi Okoye
Chargers sign WR/KR Micheal Spurlock
Seahawks sign RB Kregg Lumpkin
49ers sign QB Josh Johnson
Buccaneers cut DE Tim Crowder
Buccaneers waive DE Nick Reed
Buccaneers sign OT Jamon Meredith
Buccaneers re-sign CB Ronde Barber
Buccaneers re-sign DE Michael Bennett
Buccaneers sign QB Dan Orlovsky
Buccaneers sign CB Eric Wright
Buccaneers sign G Carl Nicks
Buccaneers sign WR Vincent Jackson
Buccaneers franchise K Connor Barth
Buccaneers re-sign G Jeremy Zuttah
Buccaneers cut DT Albert Haynesworth
Two Cornerbacks: Aqib Talib is going to prison, while Ronde Barber is about to retire. Not good. This is Tampa's greatest need, which is saying a lot because there are a ton of holes on this roster. Signed Eric Wright; re-signed Ronde Barber; drafted Keith Tandy
Two Linebackers: The first one can be a strongside linebacker to replace the awful Quincy Black, or an inside linebacker so Mason Foster can occupy Black's position. Foster was terrible last year as well, but he'll get another shot. The second linebacker will have to replace Geno Hayes if he's not re-signed. Drafted Lavonte David and Najee Goode
Right Tackle: Many upgrades are needed on the offensive line, most prominently right tackle. The Buccaneers were absolutely insane to give Jeremy Trueblood a 2-year, $10 million contract this past offseason, given that he's one of the worst linemen in the NFL.
Wide Receiver: The Buccaneers need a downfield threat because their offense is so compressed. They could go for Justin Blackmon in the 2012 NFL Draft, or perhaps wait on someone like T.Y. Hilton in Round 3. Signed Vincent Jackson
Defensive Tackle: Brian Price has been a disappointment thus far in his professional career. Signed Amobi Okoye and Gary Gibson
Center: I don't know what happened to Jeff Faine, but his play has really fallen off in the past couple of years. The center position is one of three upgrades needed on the offensive line. Signed Carl Nicks (Jeremy Zuttah to center)
Running Back: LeGarrette Blount is an idiot. I mean that literally. He can't learn protection schemes, so he's completely lost in the passing game. The Buccaneers either need a full-time runner or someone to complement Blount. Trent Richardson was once listed as an option at No. 5 overall in my 2012 NFL Mock Draft. Drafted Doug Martin
Left Guard: Jeremy Zuttah is a free agent. He had a solid year for the Buccaneers, so they should re-sign him. Re-signed Jeremy Zuttah
Free Safety: The Buccaneers have given up on Tanard Jackson. They cut him, so they'll need a new starter. Drafted Mark Barron
Fullback: Earnest Graham is a 32-year-old free agent coming off a torn Achilles. The team needs to look for a new fullback.
Backup Quarterback: Josh Johnson is a free agent, and I don't think the Buccaneers want to go into 2012 with Rudy Carpenter as the No. 2 quarterback. Signed Dan Orlovsky
Kicker: Connor Barth hit 26-of-28 field goal attempts last season, but he's a free agent. Franchised Connor Barth
2012 NFL Free Agent Signings:
Carl Nicks, G, Saints. Age: 27. Signed with Buccaneers (5 years, $47.5 million)
Carl Nicks is arguably the top guard in all of football. He has no weaknesses to his game; his blasts open huge holes for his running back, and he seldom allows a quarterback pressure. He was whistled for only two penalties all year.
Vincent Jackson, WR, Chargers, Chargers. Age: 29. Signed with Buccaneers (5 years, $55 million; $26 million guaranteed)
Vincent Jackson amazingly has never caught more than 68 passes in a single season, but with his size (6-5, 230) and downfield ability, he's one of the top physical talents at the wide receiver position in the NFL.
Amobi Okoye, DT, Bears. Age: 25. Signed with Buccaneers (1 year, $2 million)
After being discarded by the Texans, Amobi Okoye found a home with the Bears as a rotational defensive tackle who can pressure the quarterback.
Dallas Clark, TE, Colts. Age: 33. Signed with Buccaneers (1 year)
Dallas Clark looked awful without Peyton Manning last year. He struggled with injuries and drops, as it gave credence to those who believed that he was just part of Indianapolis' system. Clark should sign with whichever team is lucky enough to land Manning (Update: It's pretty telling that the Broncos didn't even want Clark, opting for Jacob Tamme instead).
Wallace Gilberry, DE, Chiefs. Age: 27. -- Signed with Buccaneers
Eric Wright, CB, Lions. Age: 27. -- Signed with Buccaneers (5 years, $37.5 million) WTF!?
Gary Gibson, DT, Rams. Age: 30. -- Signed with Buccaneers (2 years, $2 million)
Jayme Mitchell, DE, Browns. Age: 28. -- Signed with Buccaneers
Dan Orlovsky, QB, Colts. Age: 29. -- Signed with Buccaneers (2 years)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Free Agents:
Salary Cap: TBA.
Connor Barth, K, Buccaneers. Age: 26. Franchised by Buccaneers
One of the league's top kickers, Connor Barth drilled 26-of-28 tries last year, including 13-of-14 from 40-49 and 2-of-3 from 50-plus.
Michael Bennett (RFA), DE, Buccaneers. Age: 26. Re-signed with Buccaneers (1 year)
Stout against the run and effective as a pass-rusher, Michael Bennett is a really solid left defensive end.
Albert Haynesworth, DT, Buccaneers. Age: 31.
There's a misconception that Albert Haynesworth played poorly for the Buccaneers last season. He didn't; he was decent at times, but wasn't worth the $7.2 million price tag - or the headaches that come with his lack of effort. He's still immensely talented, however, and he could be motivated for a new contract. He's definitely worth the risk for a 1-year "prove it" deal.
Josh Johnson, QB, Buccaneers. Age: 26. Signed with 49ers (2 years)
Josh Johnson has some nice skills and the upside to potentially make some team believe that it can groom him into a starting quarterback.
Jeremy Zuttah, G/C, Buccaneers. Age: 26. Re-signed with Buccaneers
Jeremy Zuttah is a decent lineman who can play multiple positions. The Buccaneers had far worse starters on their roster.
Tanard Jackson, S, Buccaneers. Age: 27. Signed with Redskins
Tanard Jackson was considered to be one of the NFL's top up-and-coming safeties prior to his season-long suspension in 2010. He returned to the lineup last year, but really struggled. He's still young and talented, so maybe he can revert to 2009 form with good coaching.
Jeff Faine, C, Buccaneers. Age: 31.
Jeff Faine has battled way too many injuries over the years. He managed to play in 15 contests last season, but he looked like a shell of his former self. Perhaps he can get healthy and rebound, but no one should hold their breath.
Earnest Graham, FB, Buccaneers. Age: 32.
Earnest Graham was a really good fullback before he tore his Achilles in late October. That injury is really difficult to recover from.
Geno Hayes, OLB, Buccaneers. Age: 25. -- Signed with Bears
Sean Jones, SS, Buccaneers. Age: 30.
Kregg Lumpkin, RB, Buccaneers. Age: 28. -- Signed with Seahawks
Micheal Spurlock, KR, Buccaneers. Age: 29. -- Signed with Chargers
Elbert Mack, CB, Buccaneers. Age: 26. -- Signed with Saints
Corey Lynch, S, Buccaneers. Age: 27. -- Signed with Chargers
James Lee, OT, Buccaneers. Age: 27. -- Signed with Redskins
John McCargo, DT, Buccaneers. Age: 29. -- Signed with Bears
2012 NFL Free Agent Rankings Coming Soon
Divisional Rival History: Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan is 6-2 against the Buccaneers. There's no need to explain that record. Carolina Panthers: After losing 11 of 14 meetings to Carolina, the Buccaneers swept the Panthers in 2010. Things were back to normal in 2011. New Orleans Saints: A road-dominated series. The visitor won 12 of the past 18 meetings prior to 2011.
Features to be Posted This Offseason:
2012 NFL Draft Grades (Pick-by-Pick NFL Draft Grades as well - Live on Draft Day!)
I would bet 10 units on both the Packers and Patriots, and then 5 units on the Packers in the Super Bowl. The Packers will obviously blow out the Falcons and Tom Brady is the best QB of all time. They've both won 7 consecutive games (Rodgers and Brady) and they are both unstoppable. Rodgers will obviously throw a touchdown in the final seconds to win the Super Bowl. I would bet a million dollars that this will happen.