TAMPA — Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer is right.
Whether you agree with his approach or not, it's hard to deny his basic premise that the team has drafted so poorly in recent years, it has had very few — if any — players worth re-signing to large contracts.
Take a look at the numbers.
The only player remaining from the 2004 draft is WR Michael Clayton, the Bucs' first-round pick whose career has gone south since his rookie year. The Bucs did re-sign Clayton last year to a five-year, $24 million contract with $10 million guaranteed. He rewarded them with 16 receptions.
The 2004 draft was the first under then-general manager Bruce Allen. The 2005 draft wasn't much better, netting only two starters from 13 picks — RB Cadillac Williams and LB Barrett Ruud — and no backups. Two of those picks are with other teams, and nine are out of the NFL.
Guards Davin Joseph and Jeremy Trueblood are the only starters remaining from the 2006 draft. From 11 draft choices, one other is a Bucs backup (WR Maurice Stovall), one is with another team, and seven are out of the league.
The 2007 draft was the Gaines Adams draft. Three starters remain: S Tanard Jackson, LB Quincy Black and S Sabby Piscitelli. Of the 10 picks, four are no longer in the NFL. The 2008 draft netted CB Aqib Talib in the first round. But it produced WR Dexter Jackson as a second-round pick. He was cut in training camp in August.
Without calling them out by name, Glazer placed the blame at the feet of Allen and ex-coach Jon Gruden, who controlled the draft from 2004 to 2008.
"We endured a lot of criticism many years ago in that journey to get (to the Super Bowl in the 2002 season)," Glazer said. "That's fine. We'll do what's best. A lot of people can't handle criticism. A lot of people react to the press. We're used to it, and sometimes that's leadership, to be able to take it on, fight through it and lead."
To be fair, college scouting director Dennis Hickey still is with the club, as are many of the scouts who helped produce those below-average drafts. Time will tell whether general manager Mark Dominik and coach Raheem Morris got it right in 2009.
"Physical starters, we had (QB) Josh Freeman," Dominik said. "Roy Miller played a tremendous amount of snaps as a rotating third tackle. (DE/T) Kyle Moore was banged up but played a lot toward the end, especially the last two or three games when he had success. Obviously, Sammie (Stroughter) played a lot as a slot receiver and third receiver. So it's all perspective.
"You like to think you can look at it as who is going to start. I don't think that makes it successful. Truthfully, I think it's their body of work as they play."
That's why the draft in April is so critical for the Bucs. They have 11 choices, including three of the top 42. At No. 3 overall, they should get an impact player who should be a solid player for 10 years.
"You're talking about a guy that's exciting … that's going to contribute to your football team immediately," Morris said. "He'll have his ups and downs. He'll go through his rookie woes, but those are the things you look forward to as a coach, those are the things you're challenged by. You don't want to be in this position a lot, but when you are, you have to take advantage of it.
"I wasn't excited building up to (the draft) and how we got there, but it's very exciting that we're there now, and now we have to draft the best player, the player you think is going to contribute the most."
SPEAKING OF CLAYTON: Despite a lack of depth at receiver, it's not a forgone conclusion that Clayton is with the Bucs next season.
Injuries have derailed him much of his career, but that's no longer an excuse.
"Everybody is on the bubble," Morris said. "You talk about Michael Clayton, he came in last year, you saw him in (offseason workout) days, we thought he was going to come back and have a better year. Unfortunately, he pulled a hamstring, he did this and did that. … He's going to go out there and give it his best shot.
"The guy plays so hard, he gets little nagging injuries that hurt his performance, then he drops the football and … all anyone remembers is the drop. I have a lot of confidence in Michael. Michael has a lot of confidence in himself. I look for him to come out and be more prepared than he was last year."
Rick Stroud can be reached at email@example.com.