DT Ellis Wyms has shown considerable potential but will only now get an extended opportunity to start
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had both the present and the future in mind when they traded defensive tackle Anthony McFarland to the Indianapolis Colts on Tuesday.
And by "future," we definitely mean "near future."
The immediate return for McFarland on Tuesday was a second-round pick in next April's draft. Given the Bucs' recent success in finding instant contributors on draft weekend – Michael Clayton, Cadillac Williams, Dan Buenning, Bruce Gradkowski, Davin Joseph, Jeremy Trueblood, et al. – it's reasonable to believe a second-round pick will turn into another piece of the team's new foundation.
As for the present, as in this weekend's game and the remainder of the 2006 season, McFarland's departure opens the door for sixth-year man Ellis Wyms to forge a more substantial role.
"We feel good about where Ellis Wyms is; he's really coming into his own," said Buccaneers General Manager Bruce Allen on Tuesday in discussing the deal with Indy. "We feel we are strong there. And this gives us more ammunition for the future. This gives our team the potential to get another excellent football player."
The Bucs actually worked the phone lines hard in an attempt to "buy" on the trade market, but found no sellers. That didn't stop the team from adding a very important asset at the deadline.
"Today we looked at a lot of options," said Allen. "Our goal with the trade deadline was try to improve the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in any way we could. [The Colts] did step up and give us something quite valuable."
Something as potentially valuable as Mike Alstott, Brian Kelly, Barrett Ruud, Cosey Coleman or Dewayne White, all second-round picks made by the Buccaneers over the last decade. Over the last few years the Bucs have hoarded draft picks after feeling the effects of several offseasons that were a bit slim on that commodity. The result has been a youth infusion, particularly on offense, and a salve for a once-taxed salary cap. The Bucs have succeeded in clearing up that cap situation; couple that with the impressive play of such youngsters as Gradkowski, Joseph and Williams and it's easy to see why the club is excited about the near future.
"We are comfortable this year and next year," said Allen. "All the salary cap issues are out the window."
Wyms is a seasoned veteran compared to some of those aforementioned young stars, but he still may be in the early stages of his career development. An unheralded sixth-round pick in 2001, Wyms has carved out a niche as an active defensive line sub who can fill in equally well at end or tackle. That commodity has served the Bucs well, but now the team believes it is time to give Wyms a larger piece of the defensive pie. He will move into the starting defensive tackle role vacated by McFarland.
"Ellis Wyms' progression and his production has really come on strongly," said Allen, making note of the two-sack game Wyms posted against Cincinnati on Sunday. "He had a very good game. We're not basing it on one game; we saw Ellis' production a few years ago and wanted to get him more playing time. This gives Ellis a great opportunity to step up and become a great player in the NFL."
The Bucs have long been enamored of Wyms' potential and versatility, but he has just one career start going into this weekend. Mostly, that's a product of his own injury coinciding with that of McFarland in 2004. Now, Wyms will get his shot. The Bucs tested the waters by giving Wyms a larger share of the snaps this past Sunday, and he showed them what they hoped he would. The Buccaneers feel confident that they will be fine with their depth on the interior line – for one, ends Julian Jenkins and White can also play inside – and they've got a few additional moves in store to address that issue.
"Ellis Wyms has played well," said Allen. "He got more playing time this last game than any other game and was quite productive. He had two sacks. We feel we are strong. We have some more roster moves we are going to make in the next day and we feel our team is ready for the Philadelphia Eagles."
Hopefully, the deal will work out for Wyms, the Buccaneers and McFarland, who will once again play for Tony Dungy in Indianapolis. He should see significant playing time with the 5-0 Colts given that they lost defensive tackle Corey Simon for the year to an undisclosed illness.
"Indianapolis was interested in Anthony," said Allen. "We felt this was the best opportunity, not only for the Buccaneers but a good opportunity for Anthony to go to a place where he has familiarity with the coaches. Those of you who know him know he is a tremendous person. He has always been a valuable member of our team and the community. We are going to miss him as a person and we wish him well in Indy. It does reunite him with Coach Dungy and hopefully it works out well for him."