Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Front seven remains a concern for Tampa Bay Buccaneers


The Bucs are rightfully being hailed for a $140.5 million spending spree for WR Vincent Jackson, G Carl Nicks and CB Eric Wright. They will help the passing game, running game and pass defense.

But the weak link last season was the defensive front seven, which contributed to allowing 156.1 rushing yards per game and 26 rushing touchdowns.

Specifically, the linebackers were subpar, to say the least, and injuries on the line only exposed the problem.

There has been a lot of talk by the Bucs about possibly moving Mason Foster from middle linebacker, which remains an option. And it's true they have shown interest in Falcons free agent Curtis Lofton, who has visited the Saints.

But GM Mark Dominik said he is now focused on the draft.

How can the Bucs be content at linebacker?

The truth is, they're not. Lofton has received minimal interest because it's believed he priced himself out of the market. With every free agent signing period, there is a dizzying rush of mega-deals for a few worthy stars. Then things settle down.

The Bucs remain approximately $20 mil­­lion under the salary cap. But coach Greg Schiano and his staff haven't seen Foster on the field. They haven't had a chance to see how he could function at middle linebacker in the scheme of defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan and certainly haven't evaluated fellow LBs Dekoda Watson or Quincy Black.

As a new coach, Schiano gets an extra minicamp, which the Bucs will hold before the draft.

"Certainly, we have some players who will have the opportunity to see what they can do at certain positions," Dominik said. "I know we're talking to the team about Mason Foster being the (middle) linebacker. And I think the coaching staff that has been in here evaluating that tape feels like he has a great opportunity to (call the defensive signals)."

To be fair, Foster was put in a difficult situation as a rookie coming off the lockout, with no offseason to prepare, being asked to not only perform his job, but be responsible for calling the signals.

He'll have to learn another system under Schiano, but at least he has experience under his belt and an offseason to improve.

That said, expect the Bucs to sign a veteran middle linebacker in free agency at some point to give them the option of moving Foster.

Barber update: The Bucs have invited CB Ronde Barber to return for a 16th season, but he says he needs more time to decide.

How does the signing of Wright affect his plans? It won't.

Wright is outstanding in coverage, but Barber is a tougher run defender and might win the job if allowed to compete. The Bucs will monitor CB Aqib Talib's trial, which starts March 26 and should be over prior to the draft. But a cornerback likely will be among their picks.

The word is Barber wants to play. Determining his role — and his salary — might take a little more time before he can make a decision.

No worries: The Bucs say they did plenty of research on Jackson, who has two convictions for driving under the influence since 2006. His blood alcohol level for his last arrest, in 2009, was .17, double the limit at which California presumes impairment.

Dominik said the Bucs are convinced the arrests are behind him.

"I'd say production speaks volumes," Dominik said. "Obviously, the guy has been a 1,000-yard receiver every time he's played. Certainly, he had a … situation there in San Diego. And certainly, we're aware of that and we dug into that very deep before we made the decision because we felt it was important.

"But certainly, we felt the time, what's happened, his punishment, what he's done, how he's responded over the last few years spoke volumes to us."

Front seven remains a concern for Tampa Bay Buccaneers 03/17/12 [Last modified: Saturday, March 17, 2012 7:42pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Lightning takes defenseman Cal Foote with top pick in draft

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — Cal Foote said he was so young when his father, Adam, played in the NHL, he didn't remember their hug in the Avalanche's dressing room during the 2001 Stanley Cup celebration.

    Cal Foote, second from left, is welcomed to the Lightning by GM Steve Yzerman, far left.
  2. It's Rays' turn to pound Orioles pitching (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG - Ah, the fantastic four.

    The Rays smashed the reeling Orioles 15-5 on Friday, scoring a season-high in runs, to climb four games above .500 for the first time since July 1, 2015.

    Rays third baseman Evan Longoria scores on a triple by Logan Morrison during the first inning against the Orioles.
  3. Lightning journal: Plans set for 25th anniversary season

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — The Lightning revealed some of its plans for its 25th anniversary season Friday, including a ceremony to honor the 2004 Stanley Cup team.

    John Tortorella, in Tampa in 2014 for the 10-year Stanley Cup win party, will return next season for the team’s anniversary event.
  4. Rays believe Matt Duffy takes positive step in effort to get on field

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — After nearly four months of starts and stops where the pain in his left heal would not go away, the Rays finally feel they have some clarity on what is wrong with SS Matt Duffy. What's more, they believe it has been corrected.

    Matt Duffy is expected to resume his baseball activities once the stitches heal.
  5. Lightning picks defenseman Cal Foote


    Cal Foote is the son of former Avs defenseman Adam Foote.