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Trade? Bucs should just say no with No. 1 pick

Should the Bucs take Oregon's Marcus Mariota or Florida State's Jameis Winston? That should be the only debate at One Buc Place over the next several months, Tom Jones writes. [AP photo]
Should the Bucs take Oregon's Marcus Mariota or Florida State's Jameis Winston? That should be the only debate at One Buc Place over the next several months, Tom Jones writes. [AP photo]
Published Jan. 12, 2015

Turn off your phones. Don't check your email. Tell your secretaries to take a message.

That's my advice for Bucs general manager Jason Licht and coach Lovie Smith.

Go underground. Go incommunicado. Cut off all ties to the outside world.

Whatever you do, be sure to stay clear of every general manager, coach, owner and front-office type in the NFL. For that matter, don't even pick up a newspaper or flip on a television.

For the next few months, Licht and Lovie are going to be the most popular kids in the neighborhood. Everyone is going to want to be their buddy.

Why? Because they have something that everyone else wants: the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft. Licht and Lovie are going to get calls offering everything: draft picks, players, a combination of picks and players, the earth, the sun, the moon and maybe even the kitchen sink.

But the Bucs should not even think twice about it. So, to resist the temptation, it's time for Licht and Lovie to go into hiding. Find a cave. Climb a mountain. Or maybe go back to that basement where Smith spent his season out of football. Whatever it takes to make sure no one pries the No. 1 pick out of their hands.

Of course, that's not going to happen. The Bucs are going to listen to offers for their first overall pick. When you're 2-14 and, officially, the worst team in the NFL, it means you have holes all over the place. A way to plug many of those holes is to trade one pick for several picks.

That's not necessarily a bad plan.

The Cowboys, for example, once traded something of great value (running back Herschel Walker) and, along with a few other draft picks, turned it into a slew of players, including Emmitt Smith and Darren Woodson, which helped Dallas win three Super Bowls.

It's hard to turn your back on a plan where you can take one asset and turn it into several assets, especially when you are, at least, several pieces away from being a contender.

But the Bucs need to realize this: It is incredibly rare to be in this position, to have the first overall pick. As lousy as the Bucs have been over the years, this is first time since 1987 that they've held the top pick.

There's more: The Bucs desperately need a quarterback. And it just so happens that the top two prospects in the draft are quarterbacks.

It's the perfect scenario. You don't turn away from that, especially when the third-best quarterback in the draft is a big drop-off from the top two.

Speculation of a trade has surfaced in recent days because of something that happened 1,000 miles from One Buc Place. In Philadelphia, Eagles coach Chip Kelly won a power struggle and now has control over the personnel decisions there.

Kelly came from the University of Oregon, and the assumption is he would love to be reunited with current Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. Perhaps, he would offer a hefty package that would include a bunch of draft picks and quarterback Nick Foles for the top pick and the chance to draft Mariota.

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But let's stop right there. If Foles was so good, why would Kelly want to part with him? Yes, it's true that the Bucs would be picking up more than just Foles, but by taking Foles, you're taking a quarterback that Kelly no longer wants. Why not keep the pick and take the player — Mariota — who is so good that Kelly is willing to give up the farm to get him?

There are two types of teams in the NFL: those which have a franchise quarterback and those looking for one. It's extremely rare that a team is willing to trade you one. It's even more rare to find one in free agency because if they are so good, teams don't let them get to free agency.

Of the 12 teams in this season's playoffs, 10 have quarterbacks they either drafted or signed out of college. Of those 10, six have quarterbacks they selected in the first round.

In other words, you want a good quarterback? A really good quarterback? A quarterback who can lead you into the playoffs? Your best bet is to draft him.

Of course, there's no guarantee that taking a quarterback with the first overall pick will solve the Bucs' problems. We've seen plenty of busts at QB with the first overall pick, such as JaMarcus Russell, David Carr and Tim Couch. But you know who else was taken with the first overall pick? Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Andrew Luck, Cam Newton and, if you want to go old school, there's John Elway and Terry Bradshaw.

Some might see potential in going out and getting someone's backup, like the Redskins' Kirk Cousins or the Eagles' Mark Sanchez. Maybe someone will unexpectedly become available, such as the Bears' Jay Cutler or the Rams' Sam Bradford. Maybe there's a hidden jewel at QB in the second or third round.

So why not get one of those quarterbacks and trade the No. 1 pick to collect a bunch of quality players?

Because that formula is not nearly as successful as drafting your own quarterback.

The toughest decision for Licht and Lovie these days is not whether they are going to trade the pick, but which quarterback are they going to take?

Should they take Mariota or Florida State's Jameis Winston? That should be the only debate at One Buc Place over the next several months.

I'm assuming, of course, that both quarterbacks are going to leave college and enter the NFL draft. What happens if both decide to stay in school?

Well, maybe then, Licht and Lovie will want to turn their cell phones back on.

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