Bucs aim to capitalize on waiver claim status

Jason Licht announced as the fifth general manager in franchise history at One Buccanneer Place in Tampa on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014.
Jason Licht announced as the fifth general manager in franchise history at One Buccanneer Place in Tampa on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014.
Published March 15, 2015


As painful as a 2-14 season can be, it has its rewards. The most obvious one is owning the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

That means the Bucs can select a potential franchise quarterback, either Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota.

Less publicized, but also an effective tool, is that Tampa Bay will have the first waiver claim until after Week 3 of the regular season, when the order is determined by won-loss record.

"It's a huge deal," GM Jason Licht said. "Bigger than people realize."

It means the Bucs will have their choice of any player released by the other 31 teams and subject to waivers (players with less than four years accrued service) until the end of September.

It helps that Licht and Jon Robinson, director of player personnel, have extensive backgrounds as scouts and talent evaluators.

What kind of player can you find with a waiver claim? A year ago, the team — holding the seventh spot in the draft and waiver claim to start the year — nabbed DE Jacquies Smith from the Bills.

Smith, 24, slowly emerged as the team's best outside pass rusher and finished second on the team with 6½ sacks in only seven games started. In 2013, S Bradley McDougald (who became a starter last season), RB Bobby Rainey (who led the team in rushing with 532 yards and five touchdowns) and G Patrick Omameh (who started 16 games in 2014) were all waiver claims.

A year ago, the Texans added three players through waiver claims with the No. 1 position — slot WR Damaris Johnson (31 catches, 331 yards, one TD), DB Darryl Morris (31 tackles, one INT) and OT Jeff Adams, who eventually landed on the practice squad.

Nothing trumps draft order for restoring competitive balance. But when you consider at least 1,147 players will be released between the start of training camp and the regular season — many of them subject to waivers —that's a lot of talent from which to find a few diamonds in the rough.

A LITTLE A.P. LOVE? The Bucs like RB Adrian Peterson. As a player, who doesn't?

He had some of his best seasons under former Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, who is now Tampa Bay's defensive coordinator.

The league MVP in 2012 pleaded no contest on Nov. 4 to misdemeanor reckless injury after using a switch to discipline his 4-year-old son in May. He was suspended on Nov. 18 for the rest of the season.

Federal judge David Doty ordered the league to vacate Peterson's suspension on Feb. 26, and the league put Peterson back on the commissioner's exempt list. That allowed the Vikings to resume contact with Peterson, who has expressed reservations about returning to Minnesota.

The Bucs reportedly were among the teams Peterson would prefer to be traded to, a list that includes the Cardinals, Colts, Cowboys and Chargers. Peterson also expressed a willingness to restructure his $12.75 million for the right team.

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Peterson would give the team a highly motivated running back who would take pressure off its rookie quarterback.

Tampa Bay isn't thrilled with its running backs. Doug Martin, who rushed for 1,454 yards as a rookie, has been hampered by injuries each of the past two seasons. Rainey and Mike James are not starting-caliber in this league. Charles Sims, a third-round pick by the team a year ago, missed the first half of his rookie season with an ankle injury.

How interested are the Bucs? If the Vikings ever got to the point where they were willing to trade Peterson, the compensation in terms of draft pick(s) likely would be pretty high. On a scale of 1-10 in terms of interest level, the Bucs are probably a 5. Maybe less.

Peterson is 29. For a rebuilding 2-14 team, how much of your future do you want to mortgage for a running back (who has already had one ACL injury)?

A more playoff-ready team such as the Cowboys, Cardinals or Chargers would seem more willing to meet any trade demands than Tampa Bay.