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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Offseason Vibes | S.S. Mailbag

This week, Bucs fans have questions about what the team's offseason moves say, how likely a position switch is for Tristan Wirfs, and more


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed sixth-year quarterback Baker Mayfield to set up a competition between him and third-year holdover Kyle Trask for their starting job under center. Mayfield arrives in Tampa after four seasons with the Cleveland Browns and a 2022 campaign split between the Carolina Panthers and Los Angeles Rams. He originally entered the NFL as the very first pick in the 2018 draft.

Assuming Mayfield sees the field for the Buccaneers this fall – a solid assumption – he will become the sixth player who was taken first overall in the NFL Draft to suit up for the franchise, but just the second one who was not drafted by the team. How quickly could you name all six? Here, I'll list them in chronological order, beginning with the first college draft pick the Bucs ever made:

- 1976 – DE Lee Roy Selmon. The expansion Buccaneers started the '76 draft with the Oklahoma star, and that remains one of the most astute selections in team history. Selmon is the team's all-time leader in sacks and he was the first Tampa Bay player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

- 1977 – RB Ricky Bell. Selmon was a star from the get-go but the Bucs' expansion roster as a whole was largely devoid of talent. After the '76 squad went 0-14 it was right back in the driver's seat for the next draft. The Bucs landed Bell, who became the first 1,000-yard rusher in team history and a star in the 1979 playoffs. His career, and life, was tragically cut short by illness.

- 1987 – QB Vinny Testaverde. This was the first time the Buccaneers invested a first-overall pick in a quarterback, and they got the Miami star who would go on to have a 21-year career in which he threw for more than 46,000 yards. The first six were in Tampa.

- 2000 – WR Keyshawn Johnson. After an incredible defensive performance in the NFC Championship Game in 1999 wasn't enough to get the Bucs to their first Super Bowl, the team made a dramatic trade, sending a pair of first-round picks to the Jets for the receiver taken with the first pick of the 1996 draft. Johnson spent four seasons in Tampa, eclipsed 1,000 yards twice and was the leading pass-catcher for the 2002 Super Bowl team.

- 2015 – QB Jameis Winston. The Bucs took another shot at the quarterback position with a first-overall pick and got the Florida State star who would spend five seasons in Tampa and leave as the team's all-time leader in passing yards and touchdown passes. The Buccaneers turned to Tom Brady at the end of Winston's rookie contract, and Winston has spent the past three seasons in New Orleans.

Astute Buc fans will know the Buccaneers also selected a player first overall in a draft who would not go on to play for the team. That was Auburn running back Bo Jackson in 1986, but that's an infamous story we don't need to rehash again. In addition, the Bucs had the first-overall pick in the 1984 USFL dispersal draft and they used it on future Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young. But just in terms of first-overall picks in the NFL Draft, Mayfield will likely be the sixth ever to play for the Buccaneers.

There has, however, only been one player ever drafted second overall to play for Tampa Bay, and that didn't occur until the team's 44th season. The groundbreaking player was defensive lineman Ndamukong, originally chosen second in the 2010 draft by the Detroit Lions. The Bucs did have quarterback Ryan Leaf, famously taken second in the 1988 draft by the San Diego Chargers after Peyton Manning went first, on their roster in 2021. But he failed to impress in the preseason and was cut before the regular season.

After the Lions picked Suh second in 2010, the Buccaneers made Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy the next selection. He became the fifth player chosen third overall in the NFL Draft to play for Tampa Bay, though the first who was a Bucs draft pick. The other four were quarterback Steve Spurrier in 1976, quarterback Jack Thompson in 1983, running back Alonzo Highsmith in 1991 and 1992 and defensive end Simeon Rice from 2001-07.

Two other times the Buccaneers signed a former third-overall selection in the offseason but didn't carry him through to the regular season. The first was future Hall of Fame tackle Anthony Munoz in 1993; he came out of retirement to rejoin his former Bengals coach, Sam Wyche, in Tampa, but got hurt in the preseason and retired again. The second was another former Cincinnati pick, quarterback Akili Smith, who never worked out in the NFL. He was drafted in 1999, and in 2005 the Bucs signed him and sent him to play in NFL Europe, but that was a relatively short-lived connection.

The Bucs have also given playing time to five players who were drafted fourth overall, most recently running back Leonard Fournette (2020-22). Fournette, taken fourth by Jacksonville in 2017, was Tampa Bay's leading rusher in 2021 and 2022 and a playoff force in 2020 on the way to the Super Bowl LV championship .The Buccaneers have also used the fourth-overall pick three times, on defensive end Gaines Adams in 2007, outside linebacker Keith McCants in 1990 and tackle Paul Gruber in 1988. Gruber, who is a member of the Buccaneers' Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium, was the most accomplished off that trio by a wide margin. In addition, Marvin Powell, a five-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle taken fourth overall by the Jets in 1977, finished his career with nine games for Tampa Bay in 1986 and 1987.

And to round out the top five, we find three players originally drafted fifth overall who played in Buccaneer uniforms. Two of those were Tampa Bay selections – inside linebacker Devin White in the 2019 draft and running back Cadillac Williams in the 2005 draft – while the third was linebacker E.J. Junior, a former Cardinals pick who had a cup of coffee in Tampa in 1992. White has made a Pro Bowl and was a star during the Super Bowl LV run. Williams was the Offensive Rookie of the Year in '05 and likely would have put up far more than 4,000 rushing yards in six seasons with the Bucs if not for terrible injury misfortune.

Now on to your questions.

A reminder that you can send questions to me anytime you want on Twitter (@ScottSBucs) and they're easier to find if you include the hashtag #SSMailbagBucs. We are also now soliciting questions each week on our Instagram page; look for that story on Wednesdays. As always, if you want to get a longer question into the mailbag and would prefer to email your question, you can do so to


For many years the Bucs have kept 3 quarterbacks on the active roster (not game day) but unless the Bucs draft a development quarterback they could go into the season with just 2 quarterbacks and leave a spot on the roster for another position. Since Ryan Griffin is familiar with the team, could he spend another year on the practice squad or has he used up his availability? What are the rules for veterans on the practice squad?

- Jim Griffiths, Lenoir, NC (via email)

You are correct, Jim, that the Buccaneers have defaulted to three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster for quite a few years in a row now, even though some teams have leaned towards keeping only two ever since the "inactive third QB" rule was wiped off the books in 2011. By the way, one of the rule-change proposals that was debated at the NFL's Annual Meeting in late March was to bring back a version of that rule, but it did not pass. Therefore, the circumstances under which teams will be deciding whether to go with two or three or quarterbacks on the active roster this season (the 49ers may consider going with four or five given how their season ended) have not changed.

I think it's possible the Buccaneers would have carried only two quarterbacks the past two years in order to, as you say, save a spot on the 53-man roster for depth at another position if they had not drafted a developmental quarterback in the second round in 2021. That was Kyle Trask, and he sat behind Tom Brady for his first two seasons, with the more experienced Blaine Gabbert served as the active backup on game days. Now Brady has retired, Gabbert is an unsigned free agent and Trask is about to begin a competition with the newly-signed Baker Mayfield for the starting job (barring a high pick at the position in the upcoming draft). If Trask or some other passer wasn't being kept around to be groomed for the possible starting job in the future, the Bucs could have just kept their third quarterback on the practice squad since Trask was always inactive on game days anyway. And, yes, that quarterback probably would have been Ryan Griffin.

Griffin arrived in Tampa as a waiver claim just before the start of the regular season in 2015. He's been around ever since, serving as the third quarterback behind a variety of top-two combinations before riding on the practice squad as a fourth QB after the arrival of Trask. Prior to that, in the first four years after the dissolution of the third-QB rule, the Bucs usually rolled with just two, carrying a third on the practice squad.

So why would the Bucs go back to carrying just two now, with a third on the practice squad? Because that unit has expanded significantly and become much more flexible than it used to be. With practice-squad elevations for game day and a whopping 16 total spots, it is now much easier to use that crew as a supplement for active game day rosters. The Buccaneers haven't had to do that yet with the quarterback position, but they still found it possible to carry a fourth passer last year. If the Bucs really are holding a wide-open two-man competition for the job (which I fully believe they are), and if the Bucs get through the preseason with a decent level of confidence in both of them, I could definitely see them keeping just those two on the 53-man roster.

Now, I'm 500 words into this answer and I still haven't addressed the actual question in Jim's email. He wanted to know if Griffin is still eligible for the practice squad and what the rules in general are for veterans on that unit.

Yes, Griffin is still eligible. Basically, any player is now eligible to be on a practice squad no matter how long they've been in the league or how many accrued seasons of free agency credit they have accumulated. Remember when the Bucs signed wide receiver John Brown to their practice squad during the 2021 playoffs? He had been drafted by Bruce Arians' Cardinals in 2014 and had played 100 games in the NFL by that point. Or tight end Darren Fells earlier that season – he had played 109 games before landing on the Bucs' practice squad. Heck, the Bucs had guard Ted Larsen on their practice squad for the back end of the 2020 season, and he had started 11 games for them back in 2010.

The only limitation is how many veteran players a team can carry on its practice squad. Each team gets a total of six "veteran exceptions" among their 16 spots; the other 10 spots have to go to players who have no more than two accrued seasons. So, yes, the Bucs could carry Griffin on their practice squad again this season, if both sides wanted to do that. At the moment, Griffin is a free agent, as he was not re-signed after his practice squad contract expired at the end of the last season.

Of course, Griffin's familiarity with the team, as Jim put it, may not be as big of a selling point anymore given that the Bucs have a new offensive coordinator in Dave Canales, and he will be installing a new system. That's not to say that Griffin couldn't learn that system – he has survived through coaching changes before – but theoretically so could a number of quarterbacks who are out there as free agents. The Bucs might also end up with another rookie who could end up on the practice squad if they draft one late or sign an undrafted free agent.

Is Tristan going to move to LT?

- dylanfrettoloso (via Instagram)

It's definitely a possibility. General Manager Jason Licht acknowledged during his media session at the Combine that moving All-Pro right tackle Tristan Wirfs to the left side at some point was a topic that had been discussed internally for years. The Bucs were never on the verge of doing that while Donovan Smith was around, but they did consider it a potential option for the future. And now that future is here, with Smith's release in March following eight strong seasons as the protector of the blind sides of Tampa Bay quarterbacks.

There's no doubt that moving from one side of the offensive line to the other is more difficult than just sliding over about 10 yards and switching which foot you put forward. You have to relearn a lot of footwork and hand motions and probably a lot of other things I would know nothing about. That said, I personally have no doubt that Wirfs could handle it.

So I think the answer to your question, Dylan, could be found on draft weekend, or at least the beginning of the answer. If the Buccaneers use an early pick on an offensive tackle, they will likely end up with one who is more comfortable and more experienced at either left or right tackle. The easiest thing to do, especially in helping the unproven rookie make the difficult transition to the NFL, may be to let him stay in his natural spot and put Wirfs in the other one, whichever that is.

For instance, a lot of mock drafts have the Buccaneers going for Tennessee tackle Darnell Wright with the 19th overall pick. (Again, I'm referring to mock drafts and in no way speaking to the draft strategies of Licht and company.) Wright did play left tackle as a junior for the volunteers but went back to right tackle last season and was more effective in that role. If the Bucs prove those mock drafters right and land Wright, that could portend a move to left tackle for Wirfs. The same would be true for Ohio State's Dawand Jones, a natural right tackle (and a mountainous human).

Alternately, if the Bucs end up with the likes of Ohio State's Paris Johnson, Georgia's Broderick Jones or Oklahoma's Anton Harrison – all of whom mostly played left tackle in college – they may find it makes more sense to leave Wirfs where he has already established his dominance and put the rookie in at left tackle, like they did with Smith, the 34th overall pick in the draft in 2015.

Even if the Bucs do draft a natural right tackle like Wright, I don't think they'll come right out the next day and say Wirfs is moving to the other side. I think they will get these players on the field in the offseason, try out some combinations and see what works best.

How are you feeling about the offseason overall?

- football_lboi15

Frankly, a little bit surprised. Given the enormous salary cap overdraft the team was facing in February and the retirement of Tom Brady, I think the natural assumption was that this would be a quiet offseason and that there would some significant questions about the depth chart after some free agency losses. I'm not going to use the "r" word, I'm just saying that after three years of going all-in and pushing cap charges down the line, it was easy to see the logic that this would be a year to clean up that cap before getting aggressive again in 2024.

And, yes, there have been some departures along with Brady's retirement. Safety Mike Edwards and cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting, for instance, found new NFL homes after they completed their rookie contracts in Tampa. Scotty Miller, Rakeem Nunez-Roches and Josh Wells represent some depth losses after moving on in free agency as well. But if you asked me before free agency which were the two pending free agents I would most like to see the Bucs re-sign it would have been cornerback Jamel Dean and inside linebacker Lavonte David. Dean seemed like a particularly difficult case, given that he was widely considered the top cornerback on the market and the Bucs had just given Carlton Davis a big contract the year before.

But Licht and his staff found a way to get it done and Dean got a multi-year deal while David signed on for a 12th year in Tampa (and hopefully some more after that). The team also retained ascending outside linebacker Anthony Nelson, which greatly helps what could have been a very light edge rushing group.

Then the Buccaneers signed Mayfield to create an actual quarterback competition and to give the team a truly experienced option if Trask isn't quite ready for the number-one job. That was followed by such value signings as defensive lineman Greg Gaines, safety Ryan Neal and running back Chase Edmonds. After releasing veteran kicker Ryan Succop the Bucs landed a replacement in Chase McLaughlin who is coming off a career year and has shown the ability to consistently hit from beyond 50 yards.

Put it all together and this doesn't look like a rebuild (aargh! I said the word). I know a lot will depend on what level of play they get from whoever wins the starting quarterback job, and that's a legitimate question, but to me this looks more like a team that believes it can still make a run to the playoffs this year. They may be proved right or wrong in the end, but at least they're going for it.

Of course, the Bucs did have to take some of their medicine in terms of the cap overages, which led to the releases of Smith, Succop, Leonard Fournette and Cam Brate and the trade of Shaq Mason, and that cap situation is still tight. I think what we've seen here is a measured approach that allows for the team to remain competitive in the present without sacrificing future goals.

It's time to get serious bout winning. Why wait money just get us one legit QB……….trade for Lamar and let's win!!! GO BUCS

- Tracy Bell (via email to

But wait, I thought I just said that the Bucs were serious about winning this year… ah, it can't really be a serious effort without an MVP-level quarterback. I get it.

I gave my thoughts on whether the Buccaneers could realistically trade for Lamar Jackson in my last mailbag. I won't rehash the whole thing here, but my basic answer was that Jackson is indeed an elite option at quarterback and should definitely get a huge contract from somebody, but the Bucs' salary cap situation made a move to Tampa very unlikely. I didn't just base this on the numbers; that was also essentially what Todd Bowles said during his media session at the league meetings in March.

I think we (and I'm definitely including myself in that) may have gotten a little spoiled by the stunning acquisition of Tom Brady in 2020. Did we really just have the greatest of all time at quarterback for the last three seasons. Did that really happen? (/peaks inside Super Bowl LV ring box.) Yep, it happened.

It undeniably makes a team a more viable Super Bowl contender to have an NFL MVP at quarterback. Right now, there are three of those in the NFL: Jackson, Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers (Matt Ryan and Cam Newton are free agents). There are 32 teams. You do the math. There are, of course, other star-level quarterbacks in the league who haven't yet won an MVP, such as Josh Allen, Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert, but those aren't easy to come by, either. Every team hopes to draft and develop one of those, and the Bucs are no different.

But those opportunities aren't always available, and you have to find other ways to win. The Bucs will need good quarterback play to be a contender in 2023, obviously, but they don't necessarily have to have the 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns that Brady was throwing around. The 49ers just made it to the NFC Championship Game with Brock Purdy under center. Now, I know that Purdy has already ascended to legendary status in the eyes of Niners fans, but there is no way any of them, at this point last year, expected the last player picked in the draft to be the man to lead them to the doorstep of the Super Bowl.

Will there be another Purdy-type emergence in the NFL this year? Probably not. But there will be teams that do not have a Patrick Mahomes or Joe Burrow – or Lamar Jackson – who will find other ways to win. The Bucs hope to be one of them.

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