Maybe the Bucs are better off not winning the offseason

Tampa Bay loses Kwon Alexander, Adam Humphries to free agency and trades DeSean Jackson to the Eagles.
The Bucs lost two receivers on Monday, with Adam Humphries (10) signing with the Titans and  DeSean Jackson getting traded to the Eagles. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times files (2018)]
The Bucs lost two receivers on Monday, with Adam Humphries (10) signing with the Titans and DeSean Jackson getting traded to the Eagles. [MONICA HERNDON | Times files (2018)]
Published March 12

TAMPA — The Bucs are finally going to lose the offseason. So far, they are getting shut out.

First it was linebacker Kwon Alexander, repaired ACL and all, heading to the 49ers on Monday. He’s not cleared to play football for four months but this will make the time fly by: four years, $54 million with $27 million guaranteed.

Then DeSean Jackson, after holding his breath and stomping his feet, got his wish when he was traded to the Eagles.

Disproving late is better than never, the Bucs may have fetched a fourth-rounder for Jackson when he asked to be dealt in October but turned it into the Eagles’ sixth-rounder in 2019 (in exchange for the Bucs seventh in 2020) on Monday.

What? You think it’s easy making these decisions?

Finally, Adam Humphries’ gamble to become a free agent paid off to the tune of four years, $36 million from the Titans. Finally, somebody who can answer the burning question: Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota?

Those deals will become official at 4 p.m. Wednesday, the first day of the free-agent signing period.

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This may be hard for some Bucs fans to digest, what with all the winning they are used to from March until September, but all dynasties must come to an end and the Bucs have been the NFL offseason champs for at least four years in a row.

The regular season is when they struggle.

Back-to-back 5-11 records and five head coaches since 2011 have proven that.

If you think about it, even though 117 receptions for 1,590 yards and nine touchdowns walked out the door Monday, it was a good day for the Bucs.

The Bucs have said 2019 is all about giving Winston the best chance to prove he can be a franchise quarterback.

The Jackson distraction was never going to help him accomplish that. You may have gotten snowed by coach Bruce Arians gushing about what a great meeting he had with Jackson three weeks ago, but Jackson quit on the Bucs with a month left in the 2018 season.

He even predicted early Monday afternoon that Tampa Bay would soon be in his rear-view mirror.

“Tampa it was a great experience, but things didn’t work out!! Looking forward to my next destination...Stay Tuned #OneOfone,” Jackson posted on Instagram and Twitter.

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At the time, the Bucs did not have a trade with the Eagles, nor had they agreed to release him.

But Jackson, who must agree to a new deal with Philadelphia for the trade to be completed, can now frustrate Carson Wentz. Bye, Eagles, bye.

Six hours later, Jackson posted a picture of himself in an Eagles uniform on Instagram and said, “Gotta luv it.”

So what really happened Monday? Was this really a bad day for the Bucs or addition by subtraction?

If you think about it, the Bucs find themselves in this lousy cap situation because, on some level, they did a good job. The 2015 draft class, which included Winston, Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet, Alexander and even Humphries, will all be making more than $10 million per season in 2019.

But while those players are getting paid, that draft class (plus Humphries) hasn’t paid off for the Bucs with only one winning season and no playoff appearances. Other stars, such as Mike Evans, Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David, all made it to the back end of their second contracts.

Taken collectively, Monday seems like the worst day the Bucs have had since Hard Knocks came to town.

While the Bucs will miss Alexander, whom GM Jason Licht called the heart and soul of the defense, the 49ers can’t say whether their new linebacker will be ready to play in September. The Bucs didn’t feel comfortable betting $27 million that he would make a full recovery.

What it means is that the Bucs are more likely to draft LSU linebacker Devin White with the No. 5 overall pick.

Alexander and Humphries were popular among teammates. “One of the best in the game and one of the best teammates. Well deserved brother we gon miss you,” Evans tweeted.

The Bucs believe Chris Godwin is ready to step up in his third year and they like second-year pro Justin Watson. If that fails, they can just draft Clemson’s Hunter Renfrow, who is a better version of Humphries. Come to think of it, has anyone ever seen Humphries and Renfro together in the same room?

But Monday was hard for Bucs fans. They’re not used to losing during March gladness.

Unfortunately, this may not be the end of it. While the Bucs can create more cap space by restructuring Evans’ $20 million contract or cutting some backup players, you get the feeling more losing is ahead. Gerald McCoy has a $13 million salary that is not guaranteed, and he and the Bucs front office are like strangers on an elevator trying not to make eye contact.

But look at it this way: by losing Alexander, the Bucs may get a third- or fourth-round compensatory pick in 2020.

Why not try something different? Try winning during the regular season.

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