TAMPA — Safety Mark Barron, who was traded last week to the Rams for a pair of draft picks in 2015, was the first of what may be many bad breakups for the Bucs.
The prelude to a dis came when coach Lovie Smith, offended by Barron saying upon arriving in St. Louis that the Bucs' Cover 2 scheme is passive, said, "Our safety position that we play, one of the requirements isn't for you to be passive. I will say that."
Barron, the seventh overall draft pick in 2012, had trouble tracking the ball and did not make enough splash plays in the running game for the Bucs to consider him a good fit. But more important, with the Bucs' 1-6 start illuminating how many holes remain on the team, general manager Jason Licht has decided to start stockpiling draft picks for 2015, such as the fourth- and sixth-round choices Barron fetched.
If Smith's first season as Bucs coach has taught him anything, it's that you can't put much stock in free agency. LT Anthony Collins, DE Michael Johnson and C Evan Dietrich-Smith haven't lived up to their hype or W-2s.
The only solid way to rebuild a team is through the draft. Barron is just the first of many players who will be exiled after the season. Here are a few more who may have to leave forwarding addresses.
dashon goldson, s: The things that were true about Barron — a lack of splash plays, especially in the pass game — could be said about Goldson. The difference is nobody was going to take his 2014 $9 million contract, which is guaranteed. Goldson has a salary cap hit of $8 million and counts only $3 million if he is released after this season. Unless he goes on a turnover binge, the Bucs will need two starting safeties.
JOSH MCCOWN, QB: At 35, he has failed to be productive and stay healthy, losing all three of his starts and ultimately his job to backup Mike Glennon. At $5 million per year, that's pretty high cotton for a No. 2 QB. And if the Bucs continue on their spiral in the win-loss column, they may be picking high enough in the draft to be able to choose from one of college's top passers.
MASON FOSTER, LB: Middle linebacker is a key component of Smith's defense. In addition to being its quarterback, he must be a run stuffer with athleticism to negate seam routes and cover the deep middle. Foster is thicker than most of the MLBs that Smith has in Tampa Bay and had with St. Louis as defensive coordinator from 2001-03, and he is not as nimble as former Bears Pro Bowl player Brian Urlacher. Also, his dislocated shoulder has been a huge setback in evaluating him. Look for both parties to want to find greener pastures.
adrian clayborn, de: Clayborn also has an injury that has knocked him out of the mix, a torn pectoral muscle that ended his season. Though he has a great motor, Clayborn has never displayed natural pass-rush skills to justify a big contract. He's likely already done in Tampa Bay.
logan mankins, g: The former Patriot wouldn't restructure his contract for New England, so it's unlikely he will do it for the Bucs. He is set to earn $7 million next season. The Bucs could live with that salary if they can't upgrade, but by releasing him, there is no dead money.
MICHAEL KOENEN, P: At $3.25 million, Koenen is among the league's highest-paid punters. His production has not matched his salary. Koenen ranks 30th with a 36.2-yard net average. That may be due in part to the Bucs' desire to force more fair catches. But typically, big money isn't spent on specialists, and the Bucs showed a willingness to go with a rookie placekicker this year.