Let's get this clear right from the start. The Bucs are a mess.
That is why they have a new general manager. That is why they have a new head coach.
They went 4-12 last season.
Four … and … twelve.
They're bad and it's hard to remember the last time they were good.
They haven't won a playoff game since they won the Super Bowl. That was 12 seasons, three coaches and something like half a dozen quarterbacks ago. They haven't even been to the playoffs in seven years.
So if you are here today worrying or complaining about the Bucs possibly cutting ties with some of their more experienced players then you are two things:
One, you're a die-hard fan. Okay, I get that. Fans hate to see their favorite players let go. Familiar is comfortable even if comfortable is mediocre.
But here's what else you are: a fool.
You are a fool if you think a little tinkering here and the return of a few injured players there will suddenly turn the last-place Bucs into a threat. Not in their conference. Not even in their division.
This isn't going to be easy. This won't be a quick fix. The Bucs require a major overhaul.
This franchise is not a piece or two away. It has miles to go and sometimes to move forward, you need to start over.
So when you see names such as Davin Joseph and Donald Penn and, yes, even Darrelle Revis as possible trade bait or candidates to be cut, why would you get worked up? And why would you be surprised?
The Bucs would be crazy not to consider all options, including the idea of showing some of their most well-known players the door. And here's news for you: the Bucs absolutely are considering everything and anything.
Forget where players were drafted or how much you gave up to get them. Forget how many games they've played. Forget that many of them are nice guys and still can play a little. This is business and, right now, business is bad at One Buc Place.
The way I see it, the Bucs have two absolutely can't-touch players. That would be defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David.
After that, there's not one player on this roster who is irreplaceable or should be considered untouchable.
Doug Martin? A fine player, for sure. But he's a running back. You don't build around running backs in the NFL. This isn't 1978.
Vincent Jackson? He's a productive receiver, but not the type of game-changer you would expect from someone who signed a $55 million contract.
There are plenty of other players who range from good to promising, such as safeties Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron, cornerback Johnthan Banks, and maybe a couple of others.
That's about it. Before you start arguing that point, just remember that only two teams had a worse record than the Bucs last season. Two!
This doesn't mean the Bucs should cut everybody. Martin will be back, of course. So will Jackson. So will Goldson and Barron and Banks. Those are good pieces to build around. They can help you win games.
But when you look at this roster and see how much money is being spent on players who weren't all that productive in 2013 — Joseph, Penn and, quite frankly, the entire offensive line, for example — how could you not consider making some major changes? How can you not see if there are better ways to spend your money?
Even Revis is up for debate. He's a sensational cornerback. I'm all for keeping him. He might be better at his position than any other Buc is at his. And when the sum of your parts lacks talent, you need to keep as many talented parts as you can.
But, now, too many smart football people are making a convincing argument that paying a cornerback — any cornerback — $16 million a year is just too much.
Keeping Revis, even at that price, wouldn't be the worst thing to happen. I guarantee, however, that the Bucs are picking up the telephone every time someone calls about Revis. And they should. It makes sense to listen.
Meantime, even new coach Lovie Smith can't help but mention how the productivity of some players isn't equal to how much they are being paid.
Penn's cap hit is more than $8 million. All that for a tackle who gave up the second-most sacks in the NFL among tackles last season. Joseph makes $6 million. All that for a tackle who seems like he hasn't fully recovered from a knee injury sustained in 2012. Jeremy Zuttah makes $4.5 million. That feels like more than he's worth.
The Bucs can start heading in the right direction if they draft well, but before that, they can make some smart moves in free agency.
To do that, they have to clear space — in the lineup and under the salary cap.
The old regime left the Bucs in shambles. To fix it, the new regime has to rebuild.
And how do you rebuild? You start by clearing out the dead wood.