DIRK SHADD | Times
Vincent Jackson, right, ranks 15th on the list. Carl Nicks, left, ranks 21st.
When the Bucs made a procedural move last December, shifting the 2013 salaries of receiver Vincent Jackson and guard Carl Nicks onto the ledger for the 2012 league year, it did more than help the team’s current salary cap situation (enabling it to acquire cornerback Darrelle Revis).
The moves also put huge lump sums in the players’ pockets, with Jackson receiving his $13 million and Nicks getting his $12.5 million nearly a year in advance. That put the pair in rare air when it comes to total compensation in the past year, landing them on Sports Illustrated’s “Fortunate Fifty” list of the highest-paid athletes.
Jackson, with total salary and endorsements bringing him to $25.36 million in compensation in the past year, ranks 15th on the list. Nicks, with $24.285 million, ranks 21st.
Because of the structure of their deals, Jackson and Nicks won’t bring home much of anything for the 2013 season and likely won’t sniff next year’s list. Meanwhile, Revis, while the Bucs’ highest-paid player, is not on the list because his $16 million salary for 2013 is not reflected in this year’s calculations; he doesn’t begin receiving that money until the regular season begins in the fall. …Full Story
Geno Smith, a second-round draft pick out of West Virginia, looks to pass during the Jets' rookie minicamp earlier this month in Florham Park, N.J.
The Bucs’ regular-season opener could be notable for more than just the return of Darrelle Revis to the Meadowlands.
The week’s overarching theme, with former Jet Revis set to take on his old mates on Sept. 8, might also be combined with another interesting subplot: The debut of Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith.
The reported decision by Jets veteran quarterback David Garrard to retire on Wednesday has left the Jets without many good options, especially with the team seemingly bent on replacing incumbent starter Mark Sanchez.
Garrard was, perhaps, the best option for the short term. He was atop the Dolphins’ depth chart in the 2012 preseason when he suffered the knee injury that now is forcing him to step away from the game entirely. He reportedly said the knee is not responding well to workouts and won’t allow him to continue playing.
With Garrard out of the picture, the Jets are much more likely to turn to second-round draft pick Smith, the former West Virginia star. Sanchez committed 26 turnovers last season and it’s widely believed he would have been cut if not for the substantial financial guarantees in his contract. …Full Story
DANIEL WALLACE | Times
Akeem Spence could be an important member of the defense this season as he is a strong candidate to assume the starting nose tackle job left vacant by the departure of free agent Roy Miller.
The Bucs continue making headway in signing their recent draft class, with fourth-round selection Akeem Spence the latest to sign his contract.
Spence signed a four-year deal, the Bucs announced, a standard contract under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement.
The Bucs have now signed four of their six picks from last month’s NFL draft, with second-round pick Johnthan Banks and third-round choice Mike Glennon the only picks remaining unsigned.
Spence could be an important member of the defense this season as he is a strong candidate to assume the starting nose tackle job left vacant by the departure of free agent Roy Miller. The Bucs traded up 12 spots to select Spence with the 100th overall choice from the University of Illinois.
Exact details off Spence's deal aren't known, but you can expect it to be a slight increase over last year's selection in the same slot. The 100th selection in 2012, Travis Benjamin of Miami, received a $2.57 million contract and $477,000 signing bonus from the Browns.
DANIEL WALLACE | Times
This year is Josh Freeman’s second in offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan’s intricate system.
As the Bucs’ offseason program continues, it’s a key time for development both on the field and in the meeting room.
But there are some players in particular who stand to benefit from good efforts this offseason. While all players can make improvements during this period, there are some players for whom it’s an absolutely critical time.
Here are five players we think can make major improvements with a strong offseason:
* TE Luke Stocker: It remains to be seen how much the Bucs intend to use Stocker in their passing game. But unless newcomer Tom Crabtree, a free agent signing from the Packers is a quick study with a new offense and outperforms Stocker, the starting tight end duties likely will belong to this 2011 fourth-round pick.
Stocker’s resume’ is not impressive; he’s caught just 28 passes in two seasons (Crabtree has just 18 catches in three seasons). But two things have primarily held Stocker back: injuries and opportunity. …Full Story
EVE EDELHEIT | Times
William Gholston is expected to compete for a spot in the defensive-line rotation.
The Bucs have moved a step closer to getting their entire six-man draft class under contract, signing fourth-round pick William Gholston to a four-year contract today.
Gholston, a defensive end from Michigan State, was the 126th overall choice after recording 142 tackles, 13 passes defensed and 10 sacks and 30 tackles for losses in his career with the Spartans.
Gholston is expected to compete for a spot in the defensive-line rotation, with his versatility (he can play on either side of the line and has some potential as an interior pass rusher) being one of his key attributes.
Gholston’s signing leaves three draftees unsigned – second-round pick Johnthan Banks, third-round pick Mike Glennon and fourth-rounder Akeem Spence.Full Story
SKIP O'ROURKE | Times
Darrelle Revis will often be solely responsible for an opponent's top receiver.
This likely comes as no shocker, but when the Bucs ramp up their offseason next week with the start of offseason team activities, you will not see this offseason’s most widely-discussed NFL player.
Cornerback Darrelle Revis, who arrived via that blockbuster trade with the Jets last month, won’t participate in OTA practices. He’ll instead continue to work with Tampa Bay rehab personnel, working to get his surgically-repaired left knee back to 100 percent.
Considering how heavily the Bucs are expected to lean on Revis this season, his absence during offseason practices raises questions about how seamlessly he can be integrated with his new team. Essentially, the man who is expected to be the most vital member of the defense won’t join his teammates on the field until the first day of training camp, at the earliest.
But this isn’t as much of a problem as you might think. …Full Story
DANIEL WALLACE | Times
Running back Mike James jogs by head coach Greg Schiano during rookie minicamp.
The Bucs took care of a little business today, signing fifth-round draft pick Steven Means and sixth-round choice Mike James to rookie contracts.
With the current collective bargaining agreement simplifying the process of signing rookies by reducing the negotiating parameters, more teams are moving to sign draft picks earlier than in past years.
Means and James are the first Tampa Bay picks to sign deals in 2013.
Means, selected from the University of Buffalo, joins the Bucs with high hopes after his pass-rush success in college. Means had 18.5 sacks and 29.5 tackles for losses in his career.
The Bucs also are high on James, who arrives from the University of Miami where he rushed for 1,386 yards and 17 touchdowns and was productive as a receiver out of the backfield.
Kevin Ogletree, a free agent signing from the Cowboys, needs to show more consistency.
The Bucs have been ramping up their offseason workouts in recent weeks, with players now permitted to work on the field with coaches and their position groups.
But a week from today, things move to the most important stage when offseason team activities, or OTAs, begin.
The Bucs and all NFL teams are permitted 10 such practices plus a three-day minicamp. These practices aren’t going to make the difference between a losing season and winning the Super Bowl, but they’re important nonetheless. They give coaches opportunities to experiment with personnel combinations and to assess where things stand in position battles.
It’s that latter issue we want to take a look at today. A majority of the Bucs’ starting jobs are practically locked in. But there are a handful of starting spots and key backup jobs that will be open for competition.
And that competition starts this month, not in late July when players report for camp. Here are the positions to watch when OTAs begin:
No. 3/slot receiver: We know Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams are going to be the Nos. 1 and 2 receivers. Who can quibble with that? …Full Story
The Bucs selected a cornerback, defensive tackle and a pair of defensive ends in the NFL draft.
They did not, however, pick a single linebacker, a decision that speaks volumes.
The Bucs – and the rest of the NFL – think weak-side starter Lavonte David is an emerging star in the league. And everything he’s shown indicates they’re right.
Mason Foster has been adequate at middle linebacker, although you could still argue he’s better suited to play outside. But his production can’t be questioned, and David’s ability to handle defensive play-calling duties (and the wear the helmet transmitter) has lightened the load on Foster.
But the questions emerge when we get to strong-side linebacker. We don’t know who the starter is going to be now that Quincy Black has been released because of his career-threatening neck injury.
But the Bucs didn’t feel it necessary to address the position in the draft because they like the current candidates to step in. …Full Story
A tearful Ronde Barber said what he will miss about not playing football is not the games on Sundays or the fame or adulation from fans.
It's coming to work every single day, one day after another, earning his pay for an honest day of labor for 16 NFL seasons.
"I think the best way to end it is to say, "I had fun,'' Barber said during a press conference at One Buc to announce his retirement. "I loved coming to work every day. Even last year when you (coach Greg Schiano) beat us up. I love football, I'll always love football. But football is just what I did, it's not who I am and I'm ready to move on. I'm ready to do what's next. You turn enough chapters in one book, you finally get to the end, you shut it, put it on the bookshelf and you pick up another book. That's what I'm going to do right now.''
Barber, 38, said he made the decision to walk away from the game a month ago but only began letting family and friends know earlier this week.
"I'd be lying if I said I made it today. I didn't,'' Barber said. "I made it about a month ago. I was pretty certain that it was the right decision.'' …Full Story
Ronde Barber scheduled a 2 p.m. news conference at One Buc Place to formally announce his retirement. Watch it here. Full Story
There is no real disagreement that Ronde Barber is one of the greatest players in Buccaneers history. He redefined his position and made more splash plays than even some of the game’s most revered defensive players.
But his election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame isn’t considered a slam dunk. There are only 15 players in the Hall who spent the majority of their careers playing cornerback, as Barber did. It’s a tall order to make it into Canton for any player.
Still, talking to those closest to Barber, the people who watched him work for the past 16 seasons, you get a sense that there’s a particularly strong case to be made for Barber to earn the highest honor in the game.
His former teammates and coaches might not be the most objective, but their cases for Barber are compelling.
Here are a few.
Former Bucs coach Tony Dungy …Full Story
Ronde Barber was leaning toward retirement a few weeks ago when he sought some advice from former Bucs safety John Lynch.
“We talked a couple of times throughout the off-season like we always do about where his mind was at and I just let him know he couldn’t make a bad decision,'' Lynch said. "I thought he had options to play and Ronde is a smart guy and brings a lot to the table away from the field and I know there’s going to be people after him in the broadcast world. There are multiple things he can do and I didn’t think he could go wrong and I let him know that. I had a sense a couple weeks ago when I spoke to him it was probably coming to an end. He was enjoying golf too much.
“This should be a big day of celebration for a tremendous, tremendous football player. And how rare is it in this day and age that he gets to finish his career in the same place it started? That was something that was important for Ronde. He got to do that.''
Barber told Jay Glazer of Fox Sports Wednesday that he was retiring after 16 seasons. …Full Story
Bucs draft pick Mike Glennon isn’t a threat to incumbent starting quarterback Josh Freeman, according to general manager Mark Dominik and coach Greg Schiano.
Freeman apparently sees things that way, too.
After taking part in a Play 60 fitness event on Tuesday, Freeman said he’s eager to work with the third-round choice from last month’s draft and expressed positives based on his first impressions of the rookie.
“I’ve talked to mike a couple of times on the phone,” Freeman said Tuesday during a visit to Pierce Middle School in Tampa. “I’m definitely excited. I don’t know a whole lot about him, but from what I’ve seen he’s very capable, a tall kid with a strong arm. And from what I’ve gotten to know of him, he’s a good person, too. So I’m definitely excited to work with him.”
The Bucs have, thus far, decided not to extend Freeman’s contract even though he is entering its final season and will become a free agent next spring. Glennon could enter the picture if Freeman either isn’t retained or leaves to play elsewhere. But nothing in Freeman’s reaction indicated that any of that matters to him right now. …Full Story
DANIEL WALLACE | Times
Da'Quan Bowers laughs as he guides sixth grade students from Pierce Middle School in Tampa through football drills for the Buccaneers Play 60 Challenge on Tuesday.
Da’Quan Bowers has had to bear a lot on his broad shoulders the past two years.
From seeing his stock plummet from the highest reaches of the 2011 NFL draft to a devastating Achilles tear in the summer of 2012 to his February gun-possession arrest in New York, there have been a never-ending string of setbacks for the Bucs defensive end.
But Bowers’ load is lighter these days.
He’s healthy, and his case has been resolved favorably. The only challenge in front of him now is fulfilling the high expectations he set for himself long ago.
“It’s not only injuries, but (my) play. I haven’t been the dominant player that I know I can be,” Bowers said today at Pierce Middle School in Tampa, where he and several teammates participated in a Play 60 physical fitness event.
“I have a lot of potential to be one of the best and the elite at what (I) do, and I haven’t shown that at this level yet. (It was) injuries and not understanding what was going on. It takes time to mature at this level. I think my maturation process is going on now and a lot of it has already passed. So I’m just looking for an opportunity now.” …Full Story