Saturday, August 18, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs plan to be aggressive during NFL free agency

TAMPA — Lovie Smith is a soft-spoken coach, hired to do a hard job. Without raising his voice, his message this offseason has been delivered with pot-and-pan-clanging clarity.

The Bucs, coming off a 4-12 season, are not good and need to retool at darn near every position.

"I'll just say we're trying to upgrade our entire roster," Smith said.

That process begins at noon today when NFL teams begin a three-day period of contacting and negotiating with free agents. The start of the 2014 league year begins at 4 p.m. Tuesday, when players also can sign contracts with teams other than their own.

Tampa Bay is about $18.8 million under the $133 million salary cap and could create more space by restructuring, releasing or trading high-priced veterans.

Smith and new general manager Jason Licht have spent the past two months evaluating their roster and comparing it to the players who might become available. With only five picks entering the draft — tied for second fewest in the league — the Bucs can't sit on the sideline during free agency.

"We're going to try to be pro-active," Licht said. "We're going to try to fill as many holes as we can in free agency, and we're going to do it wisely. I don't want to go into the draft with our first pick having to pick a position. If it is a need and that's the best player on the board, then we do it. Sometimes, that's the way it goes, but it usually doesn't."

Smith is a defensive-minded coach, and as such, he knows the Bucs must upgrade their pass rush. In 2010, Smith, then coach of the Bears, benefited from Chicago signing end Julius Peppers as a free agent, which Smith calls "one of the best moves we ever made."

"You can never have too many defensive ends," Smith said. "The moment you say they're all set with defensive ends, bam, you'll say, 'Can you believe they signed another guy?' But that's the case. We always look for defensive linemen."

Fortunately for the Bucs, there is a fairly deep pool of free agent linemen. It starts with Vikings end Jared Allen, who has the league's most sacks (35½) over the past three seasons.

It won't hurt that Allen loved playing under former Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, now the Bucs' defensive coordinator. But Allen, who turns 32 next month, could command a large salary and might prefer to sign with a Super Bowl contender at this stage of his career.

Meanwhile, Smith has said while he likes what quarterback Mike Glennon accomplished as a rookie, the Bucs will not anoint him the starter at this point. While they might also address the position in the draft, several free agents will command interest, including Josh McCown, who played for Smith in Chicago.

McCown, who turns 35 in July, has played with five teams but enjoyed the most success last season with the Bears, when he went 3-2 with 13 touchdowns and one interception. Other options include the Eagles' Michael Vick and Jets' Mark Sanchez (if he's released).

"We've spent the last three weeks going through with a fine-toothed comb every position," Smith said. "And quarterback was one of them. So there are some veteran quarterbacks out there that kind of fit that bill that can be that guy that can help groom what we have or can compete with him to start."

Protecting the quarterback has been an issue for the Bucs. Glennon was sacked 40 times over 13 games despite a highly paid line.

"It's the play of our group that wasn't good enough," Smith said. "We say we're evaluating it. But you have to first compare it with the first step (free agency) and what's out there; whether we have a legitimate shot with certain guys. I'll just say we need to upgrade our offensive line play."

Smith plans to run the ball, and running back is one of the few positions the Bucs have depth with Doug Martin, Mike James and Bobby Rainey. But to open holes, Smith says he needs a run-blocking tight end. Tim Wright caught 54 passes for 571 yards and five touchdowns in 2013. But he's limited as a blocker.

"If we talk about being a running football team, we need a traditional (tight end) that can block and be a pass catcher also," Smith said. "Injuries have hurt the position. But right now, we need to upgrade the tight end position also."

There are a lot of holes to fill, but Smith isn't worried.

"We have a plan," he said.

 
Comments
Jameis Winston vs. Marcus Mariota: The stats that matter

Jameis Winston vs. Marcus Mariota: The stats that matter

Yeah, but …Every Jameis Winston-Marcus Mariota debate is full of them.Winston has completed more passes (939), gained more passing yards (11,636) and thrown more passing touchdowns (69) before his age 24 season than any quarterback in NFL histo...
Published: 08/17/18
Updated: 08/18/18
From Hawaii to the honky-tonk: Nashville’s in love with Marcus Mariota

From Hawaii to the honky-tonk: Nashville’s in love with Marcus Mariota

NASHVILLE — Ten thousand blue leis were distributed to Titans fans for the NFL draft on the day their team picked Marcus Mariota.The 2014 Heisman Trophy winner wasn't even at Nissan Stadium for the party, which drew a crowd of 20,000. But the w...
Published: 08/17/18
Updated: 08/18/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Talking with Titans GM Jon Robinson

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Talking with Titans GM Jon Robinson

Rick Stroud sits down with Tennessee Titans general manager Jon Robinson, who served as the Bucs' Director of Player Development under Jason Licht and was in Tampa Bay when the team scouted Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota prior to the 2015 NFL Draf...
Published: 08/17/18
Titans GM Jon Robinson sees playmakers everywhere for the Bucs

Titans GM Jon Robinson sees playmakers everywhere for the Bucs

Jon Robinson was in Tampa Bay when he and Bucs and general manager Jason Licht began assembling the team that came to practice with the Titans this week.The Titans GM still thinks highly of the players he helped the Bucs acquire, such as Kwon Alexand...
Published: 08/17/18
Catching up with the guy who’s been on both sides of Winston-Mariota

Catching up with the guy who’s been on both sides of Winston-Mariota

NASHVILLE — Jon Robinson knew being the general manager of the Titans meant almost every decision would pass by his desk."I got into this for football,'' Robinson said. "And now I'm trying to buy vacuum cleaners.''The Titans' kicker is Ryan Suc...
Published: 08/16/18
Bucs sign former Panthers DT Drew Iddings, waived Stevie Tu’ikolovatu injured

Bucs sign former Panthers DT Drew Iddings, waived Stevie Tu’ikolovatu injured

One Bucs player will be departing Nashville before the team does.Defensive tackle Stevie Tu'ikolovatu, a seventh-round pick from Southern Cal in 2017, was waived injured Thursday. Tu'ikolovatu suffered what is believed to be a triceps injury.The Bucs...
Published: 08/16/18
Titans cornerback flips after two interceptions against Bucs

Titans cornerback flips after two interceptions against Bucs

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee cornerback Adoree Jackson was flipping for joy after a couple of interceptions defending Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and the rest of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 18th pick overall in 2017 by the Titans, Jackson celebrated...
Published: 08/16/18
The best answer to the Winston-Mariota debate

The best answer to the Winston-Mariota debate

Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota? The great debate of Tampa Bay football.Who would you rather have? That is and always will be the burning question of Tampa Bay football fans.Winston and Mariota will be forever linked. For as long as they play, we wi...
Published: 08/16/18
How the Bucs did Luke Stocker a real favor

How the Bucs did Luke Stocker a real favor

NASHVILLE — Tight end Luke Stocker got to see how the other half lives.After being released by the Bucs last Nov. 28, Stocker signed a two-year contract with the Titans and enjoyed one of his best months in pro football.Stocker played in t...
Published: 08/16/18
Ali Marpet making move to left guard appear easy, and a big pay day awaits

Ali Marpet making move to left guard appear easy, and a big pay day awaits

NASHVILLE — Ali Marpet's move to left guard, his third position in as many years, has been pretty seamless. A big reason for that is his close relationship with left tackle Donovan Smith.Both came to the Bucs as second-round picks in 2015, Smit...
Published: 08/16/18