Fans can submit questions for upcoming mailbags via Twitter to @ScottSBucs (#BucsMailbag), through a message on the Buccaneers Official Facebook Page or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The One Buc Mailbag runs every Thursday and is not necessarily meant to reflect the opinions of the team's management or coaching staff.
For the second week in a row, all of our mailbag questions were generated on Twitter, where the recent feedback has been seriously appreciated. However, the other two methods listed above for submitting questions are still just as valid, so feel free to contact us via e-mail or Facebook. This week, we'll start with a question from Bucs fan Brad Middleton that just happens to be right up the author's alley.
You know why I chose your question, Brad? That happens to be a little game that I play every year with some of my buddies here at One Buccaneer Place. Now, like me, these are not buddies who happen to sit in coach or scout offices, so this shouldn't be treated as inside information as to which of the undrafted free agents were the highest priorities for the team. It's just a matter of looking at the player's past and needs on the depth chart and, frankly, making a guess. Two years ago I latched right on to
The other thing is that we usually play this game before training camp, when we've had at least had a few weeks of OTAs and a mini-camp to offer some evidence. Brad's asking me to do this one cold, but I'll give it my best shot. If you want to refresh yourself with the list of candidates, here are the first 11 players the team announced on Monday; Tuesday brought a 12th UDFA in Texas A&M linebacker
Here's a trick to keep in mind when playing this game: Never forget about special teams. Almost all of the players that fill out a roster behind the 27 or so "starters" (counting the punter and kicker and jobs such as nickel back and slot receiver) have to have some value in the kicking game. To me, this often gives the edge to linebackers, defensive backs and, to a lesser extent, receivers and running backs who are versatile enough to be kick-coverage men. Wide receiver
This trick often doesn't apply to offensive linemen, but that's another group I usually take a very close look at because most NFL O-line groups are filled out by inexperienced players on the back end. It's hard to put together a starting five and a group of three or four more linemen who are accomplished veterans. These players don't always go on to prominent roles with the team (some do), but they can stick around for a year or two and get their feet in the NFL door.
Alright, enough hemming and hawing…get to the picks already, right?
I think the team is high on the two defensive linemen,
Askew fits my first criteria and the Buccaneers do need to fill in some linebacker and special teams depth. Askew is inexperienced, having just switched from receiver to linebacker last season, but he's 6-4 and 235 pound with good speed, and that sounds like a potential special teams core guy to me. Patton is small (5-9, 180) but quick and elusive, and while he may not be a good bet as a kick-coverage guy he can alternately help out in the return game. There will be other candidates for that job, but maybe Patton can pull a Clifton Smith and make the roster solely for his return skills.
As for Patchan, any time I hear "Boston College offensive lineman" my ears prick up a little bit. I think Patchan very easily could have been a sixth or seventh-round pick, but by passing through the draft he got to choose to come home; he was formerly an Armwood High standout and a Florida Gator recruit. The Bucs could end up keeping four tackles on the roster and three active on game day, and if that's the case Patchan should see a very solid opportunity. Behind starters
In the end, I think I shy away from Askew's inexperience and Patton's chances of winning a return job and go with the local kid, Patchan.
Well, I know this much, Chad: That's one of the battles I'm really going to enjoy watching in training camp this year. I'd say it's wide open at this point, but you have to give the edge at the beginning to the rookie, Robert Herron, simply because he was drafted with that role specifically in mind. This isn't speculation; we know this because General Manager Jason Licht said in his post-draft press conference that Herron "has a chance to compete for a starting slot receiver."
That same night, Head Coach Lovie Smith spoke about having the two monstrous outside receivers in
It was a bit of a surprise that Herron was still on the board for the Bucs in the sixth round, but that can be at least partially attributed to the incredible depth in this year's class of receivers. Of course, it could also indicate that some teams saw flaws in his game, perhaps in his size and durability or his route-running. He is quick off the line, though, and good with his hands at the line of scrimmage, which are important attributes for a wide receiver. If he can prove he's got the toughness to excel in the middle of the field, he could pull a Sammie Stroughter and rise quickly from a late-round pick to a real slot option.
Wyoming WR Robert Herron was drafted specifically with the idea that he could challenge for the slot receiver job
I also think you noted one of the more obvious competitors for the slot job in
Those seem like the top three candidates to me, and you might also consider sprinter
@ScottSBucs Do you think the Bucs should still address the O-Line, even add one more receiver like Earl Bennett or Miles Austin?— Tony G (@theicchamp11) May 13, 2014
To be clear, Tony's question did come after the draft, so he's talking about further additions via the remaining free agency pool (or, less likely, via trade). I'm going to assume that he's not talking about undrafted rookie free agents, because it was almost a certainty that the Bucs would add players at both of those positions through that method (and in fact, they did). As you may have read above, I like the chances of at least one player to make it from that group and help out the offensive line, but those players are mostly unknown commodities and I think Tony is talking about veteran help.
Well, I guess it would be nice, but I wouldn't hold my breath. Yes, teams do occasionally dip back into free agency after the draft, when they've made all their picks but were unable to address a very obvious need. And you could say that the Bucs could still use help at receiver and on the line and I wouldn't put up a big argument. I'm just wondering if there's much help to be had.
In general, I don't think the team has a long history of veteran additions between the draft and training camp that made much of an impact. It was a little more common in the days when there was a second wave of cuts on June 1 to spread out the cap impact of a veteran with a lot of contract dollars remaining. That's how the Bucs got Keenan McCardell in 2002, for instance, and he was a key player in the Super Bowl run and a Pro Bowler in 2003. But that second wave no longer exists. There could be a few more cuts made now that everybody knows what they have following the draft, but to expect a helpful receiver or guard to suddenly materialize on the waiver wire is asking a bit much.
I looked at the last five seasons and the signings the Bucs made between the draft and training camp, excluding 2011 because the CBA impasse condensed all free agency work into a sudden rush in July. Here are the veterans of some note on that list: G Keydrick Vincent, DE Wallace Gilberry, TE Dallas Clark, WR Tiquan Underwood, FB Peyton Hillis, WR Derek Hagan, CB Michael Adams and T Gabe Carimi. Yes, I know that Carimi was a trade and not a signing; we'll get to that in a minute.
Overall, that group didn't provide much help, and none of them stuck around very long. Clark took over for Kellen Winslow and was decent, and Underwood was around for most of two years, albeit with a few cuts and returns in the process. Really, there are only so many players still out there who can help at this time of the year.
Who's out there now? Well, nobody has bit on former Cowboy receiver Miles Austin yet, but you have to wonder if that's due to his injury history. Earl Bennett actually just signed with Cleveland, which has recently developed a rather pressing need at wide receiver. Santonio Holmes? He's 30, has his own recent injury problems and has just 43 catches the last two years. Danario Alexander could be a good fit as Jackson/Evans insurance, given his size and skill set, but he too has had injury problems.
There might be more of an opportunity on the line. Davin Joseph hasn't signed anywhere yet; I wouldn't mind seeing him return and try to reestablish his old Pro Bowl form. Uche Nwaneri or Daryn Colledge might still have something to offer as interior depth guys.
And then there's the trade option. Playing the mix-and-match game, some analysts think the Bucs have an opportunity to turn depth at one position (say, running back) into help at another one. I suppose, but you just don't see player-for-player deals very often in the NFL. The Bucs gave up a sixth-round pick last year to see if they could get something out of Carimi, a still-young former first-rounder. It didn't work out, but it seemed like a reasonable gamble at the time. I'm sure that Jason Licht and Lovie Smith are keeping their eyes peeled for that kind of opportunity.
Overall, Tony, I would be more inclined to look for additional help on the line than at receiver, but I'm not optimistic enough to predict the Bucs will be able to find that help between now and training camp.
@ScottSBucs why do you think the Bucs didn't go after Shayne skov from Standford or take a flyer on colt leyra the te?— mac1559 (@mike_mccabe1559) May 13, 2014
Look, Mike, I don't really know why the Bucs didn't sign Stanford LB Shayne Skov or Oregon TE Colt Lyerla. So why take your question? Well, I do have a few comments.
First, how do you know the Bucs didn’t go after Skov. No, they didn't sign him, but they might have tried. There is huge competition for the most coveted undrafted free agents right after the draft, and teams sometimes win that competition by paying a bit of a premium or selling the opportunities on their depth chart or even by simple proximity. Skov didn't have to go far from Stanford to sign with the 49ers; maybe that alone was the reason he chose San Francisco.
As for Lyerla, I'm not sure that tight end was a real priority in that round of undrafted free agent signings after the team grabbed
The other issue, which you obviously allude to, is Lyerla's troubles at Oregon. I'm not going to get into them because I don't know enough about the situation to avoid potentially getting some of the facts wrong. But he's an obviously gifted football player who not only wasn't drafted but also has not been signed yet by any team. Whoever does sign him, if it happens, will be giving him the proverbial second chance. I have no idea if Buccaneers management ever even considered signing Lyerla, but if they did (or do at some point) it would obviously be an assessment of risk against reward. So the answer to your question, in regard to any team that has considered Lyerla and not signed him, is that the risk was considered larger than the potential reward.
@ScottSBucs have rookies chosen Jersey #'s yet? I saw that Evans has #13— chris_bell (@Chrisbell323) May 13, 2014
Alright, a couple easy ones to take me home!
Yes, the rookies all have their numbers now, at least the ones they'll start with. Sometimes a player will choose what he likes best from the relatively small group of numbers that are available but switch at the end of the preseason when roster cuts open more options. I don't think you'll have to worry about that happening with our new #13, Mike Evans, though.
Here's a link to the Bucs' updated roster, with each player's new number. If you don't feel like checking it out, I can give you the number for the five other 2014 draftees: #87 Austin Seferian-Jenkins; #34
@ScottSBucs when does training camp start?— Alex inkjunkie onick (@Swaggcoach305) May 13, 2014
Well, Alex, that hasn't been announced yet. Look for that news to come out some time in June, along with the whole camp schedule and the list of practices that are open to the public.
I can tell you a little trick to help you with this question every summer, however. Teams are not allowed to open their training camp more than 15 days before their first game. Because coaches are not ones to give away any opportunity for their teams to work, most teams will start exactly 15 days before the first preseason game. So once you know the preseason schedule, you can get a very good idea of the start of camp.
By the way, the Buccaneers' preseason opener is in Jacksonville on August 8.