Thursday, January 18, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Mankins gives Bucs cover to not go Incognito

TAMPA — After suffering from some sort of strange 24-hour bug that left them without their good senses and a decent chunk of their integrity, the Bucs finally snapped back to their right minds Tuesday.

The result: It looks like Richie Incognito is not coming to Tampa Bay.

Thank goodness.

The Bucs have not closed the door on bringing in the biggest meathead in the NFL and the villain of last year's bullying scandal in Miami. But selling a piece of their souls to sign the former one-time Pro Bowl guard seems less likely now that the Bucs have traded for six-time Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins.

Logan Mankins? They could have traded for anyone who flew through Logan Airport on Tuesday and it would have smelled better than signing Incognito. The fact that Mankins happens to have a solid reputation off the field and a pretty good track record on it gives Bucs fans reason to get excited.

Mankins is a former captain, a locker room leader and, from the sounds of things, an all-around good guy who spends Sundays pulverizing defensive linemen and off days walking little old ladies across the street.

"Most people say Logan Mankins is a tough football player, a real man," Bucs coach Lovie Smith said. "Everybody loves him. Great guy in your locker room. And that's earned from playing so many years of top-level football."

Give Bucs general manager Jason Licht credit. This was a slick move. But he needed a nifty move to make up for a few miscalculations.

To use a golf analogy: Licht hit his tee shot into the woods, but has scrambled to get back on the fairway.

Go back to the offseason. Licht did a lousy job constructing an offensive line that was completely void of serviceable guards, a fact that became apparent when the offensive line looked like the Sun Pass lane on the Veterans Expressway during the first preseason game.

Licht ignored the guard position in free agency and waited until the fifth round of the draft to take a guard from that noted NFL guard factory of Tennessee State.

He cut ties with veteran Davin Joseph and then watched helplessly — although he couldn't have been taken completely by surprise — when Carl Nicks limped away from the game because of a MRSA-damaged big toe.

You didn't need to be a first-time general manager to see that the Bucs had a major problem.

That was all on Licht.

The preseason continued. The Bucs changed a few pieces, but nothing else changed. Defenses continued to have team meetings in quarterback Josh McCown's face.

While Smith insisted that it was still early and not to panic and that there was plenty of time to shore up the offensive line, desperation started to set in.

What else would explain the Bucs playing footsie with that clown Incognito?

And Licht confirmed that the Bucs were talking trade with several teams before finalizing the deal Tuesday with the Patriots.

On the surface, it seems like a great trade: A fourth-round draft pick and a tight end that probably wasn't going to get a whole lot of action, for a six-time Pro Bowl player who is still only 32 years old.

The only thing that gives you pause is dealing with the Patriots' Bill Belichick. Shake hands with him and you better check to make sure your watch is still on your wrist.

But if Mankins is everything he is supposed to be and isn't too bummed about going from a perennial winner like the Patriots to a team that hasn't won a playoff game in 12 years, this should be a good deal for the Bucs.

This isn't to say that all problems are solved, but is this a better offensive line today than it was two days ago? Absolutely.

"Do I feel better about adding a Pro Bowl player to the offensive line?" Smith said. "Yes, I do. … We're always trying to improve our roster, constantly, it doesn't stop."

That's how an organization is supposed to think.

"We have a responsibility to our team and, of course, our fans to put the best possible football team on the field that we can," Smith said.

That means the Bucs haven't positively, absolutely closed the door on bringing in Incognito. They still might see a need to add another guard, and Licht wouldn't rule out Incognito. Meantime, Smith admitted that nothing came up in his meeting with Incognito on Monday that would eliminate Incognito from consideration.

"I talked about getting information," Smith said. "I didn't want to get things second hand. I wanted to hear it for myself. He was able to answer all of the questions that I had."

Here's the final question I have: Can we please move on from any talk of bringing in this menace to society? The Bucs just picked up a good guard who is thought of as a leader, not a bully.

Now that's the type of player the Bucs can use.

Contact Tom Jones at [email protected] or (727) 893-8544. He can be heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-AM 620.

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