The Buccaneers' 53-Man roster.
Each week during the remainder of the offseason, Senior Writer/Editor Scott Smith will dip into the inbox to answer questions from Buccaneer fans. This week, we're asked to explain why Josh Norman didn't land in Tampa after the Panthers rescinded their franchise tag, and to predict a few stats from the 2016 that fans won't see coming.
- 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 email@example.com. The One Buc Mailbag runs every Thursday and is not necessarily meant to reflect the opinions of the team's management or coaching staff.
1. Hey Scott,
I was very excited to see what the Bucs did in the offseason, signing guys like J.R. Sweezy, Brent Grimes, and Robert Ayers, resigning Doug Martin and Chris Conte, and drafting Vernon Hargreaves, Noah Spence, and Roberto Aguayo.
But, I was also one of the many Bucs fans who were lobbying for the team to sign cornerback Josh Norman, who is now with Washington. I hope Tampa Bay didn't make a mistake because I believe the Bucs had the money to get him. I hope I'm wrong.
*Anthony Gironda IINew Port Richey, Florida (via email firstname.lastname@example.org)
Technically, there is no question mark anywhere in this email, but I still feel like he's seeking my opinion on the Josh Norman topic, so I'm going to treat it as such. Obviously, this is a balanced message from a fan who seems hopeful overall. Anthony likes pretty much everything the Buccaneers did in terms of adding or retaining players, he's just not sure he likes one thing the team did not do.*Of course, the Buccaneers were one of 31 teams that did not sign Josh Norman after the Panthers surprisingly removed his franchise tag, including the Panthers. The Washington Redskins were the one team that did, giving the All-Pro cornerback a five-year deal that, if it were to play out in full, would be worth $75 million. Of course, as we all are becoming increasingly aware, few of these types of deals *do play out in full (Vincent Jackson is proving to be a rare and impressive exception); Norman is guaranteed $36.5 million through the first two years of the deal and another $13.5 million in 2018 if he's on the roster on the fifth day of the new league year. So let's take the optimistic view for Norman and the Redskins and say it turns into a three-year $50 million deal. That's about $17 million per year; if the whole deal plays out it's obviously $15 million per year. Yes, that does make Norman the highest paid cornerback in the league, and last year he was indeed on the very short list for best cornerback in the league. **
Obviously, the Redskins have decided that it makes sense to devote that significant of a portion of their salary cap to a single cornerback. Just as obviously, the Panthers decided it was not. They could have had him for just this next season at about $14 million, but didn't even want to go there, apparently. If you recall, the Buccaneers made a similar decision a couple of years ago after Lovie Smith and Jason Licht inherited a roster with Darrelle Revis on it. The decision was made to let Revis go and use his very sizeable cap hit on a number of players, not just one.*I believe the Buccaneers did seriously consider the possibility of going after Norman when he became available, and I'm sure they weren't alone. And I imagine the Bucs were one of several teams that were interested only up to a certain price. With every potential signing, you have to decide what it's truly worth to your team, set a limit and stick to it. Obviously, you would take a player of Josh Norman's caliber for, say, $5 million a year (which just as obviously would never happen). And you would not do it for, say, $20 million a year. Somewhere in the middle is the limit, and the Redskins exceeded it. You say you believe the Bucs had the money to sign Norman. I think the more appropriate issue is cap space, but I get your point. The truth is, yes, if the Bucs had wanted to give Norman what the Redskins did, I'm sure they could have found a way. But this happened shortly before the draft, and the Bucs were going to have to allot cap space for the players that were selected. Almost certainly, a Norman signing would have had to be accompanied with some cuts elsewhere on the roster. *
A look at the Buccaneers' cornerback during spring workouts.
Norman's availability came after the Buccaneers had already made a number of, shall we say, more surgical strikes in free agency, including the additions of cornerbacks Brent Grimes and Josh Robinson. The team also added guard J.R. Sweezy and defensive end Robert Ayers, two players who filled very big needs on the depth chart, and had to pay pretty handsomely to keep running back Doug Martin around. These types of moves seemed like a bit of a course correction after a very aggressive attack on the top end of free agency in 2014 didn't really pay off. To pay what the Redskins did for Norman would have been swinging back in the other direction, and to be honest, Vincent Jackson notwithstanding, the big-ticket free agents have not worked out that often in Buc history.*Also, signing Norman would have had cap implications for years to come, and I'm not sure a team that has built a young core of talent that it thinks can make it a contender for a good stretch of time wants to take on that issue. Retaining flexibility as the Bucs head into the Jameis Winston era seems like a better idea to me. Look, when the Bucs sign a big-name free agent, it's pretty evident within a couple of years whether it worked out (Vincent Jackson) or didn't (Carl Nicks). Here, we're talking about a move the Bucs did *not make, and so we're never really going to know for sure if it was the right decision. If Norman continues to play like an absolute star in Washington, does that mean he definitely would have done the same in Tampa? If he proves to be a bust, or at least not as effective as he was for the Panthers, will that prove that he would have been a mistake in Tampa, too? We really can't know. If the Bucs do become contenders in the near future, we'll have to give them credit for all the decisions, in total, that got them there. If they fail to become contenders, they'll be more open to second-guessing all the moves and the non-moves. Finally, there's this: In the end, this was Josh Norman's decision as soon as the Panthers let him go. It may not have mattered how badly the Bucs or the Saints or any other team wanted him if his preferred destination was the capital. 2. Scott,
A look at the newest member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
I read last week about Danny Vitale, and I understand it might be a while before we know what he's going to do in Dirk's offense. I like all the talk about his versatility though and I'm excited about what he might do. I was thinking that if he really is that versatile he might be a really good red zone weapon. Imagine you put him as a fullback and it looks like a typical run up the gut at the goal line and then you shift him out into the slot. Maybe the defense doesn't have the right people in the game to get a good matchup on that. I could see him getting three or four touchodwns this year. I don't think people would see that coming. So that's my question for you…..give me a player and a stat that will happen in 2016 that people won't see coming. And you can't use Danny because I already gave you that one. Thanks , if you use my question. Mark Brooks, Tampa One player/stat, Mark? ONE? What would that take, three minutes. I've got to earn my salary here. I'll give you five. (Okay, the real reason I'm giving you five is that there's no way I'm going to hit on all of them. If I can hit on just one or two, I can look back at this as a triumph.) 1. Alterraun Verner intercepts four passes. Even with the additions of Grimes, Robinson and Vernon Hargreaves, I think Verner is going to make the team and get plenty of opportunities to play this season. Our own Joe Kania recently speculated that a new defensive system and a reunion with former Titans coach Brett Maxie could revitalize Verner's career, and it's reasonable to believe it could. Verner was a Pro Bowler in Tennessee and he won't turn 28 until December. I don't think his skills have vanished, even though he has just three interceptions in two years with the Bucs and was out of the starting lineup for much of last year. Verner had five picks in 2013 and I think he could get back on the board in 2016 in a more aggressive scheme under Mike Smith. *
View some of the best pictures of QB Jameis Winston at the Buccaneers' mini-camp and OTAs.
- Jameis Winston completes 65% of his passes.Winston did many, many things well in his 4,000-yard rookie season, but his completion percentage of 58.3% ranked 32nd among qualifying passers. Fifteen years ago, that would have put Winston right in the middle of the league, but last year the league average was 63.0%. That set an all-time record for the third year in a row.Winston will be a better quarterback in 2016, and his completion percentage is almost certain to go up as he gains more and more control of the offense. Still a jump from 58.3% to 65% is pretty drastic…and I still think he's going to do it. It's the next evolution in his NFL game, and he has already proved to be quite good about identifying his weaknesses and correcting them. 3. Luke Rhodes records eight special teams tackles. You didn't see this one coming because you didn't know Rhodes was going to be on the 53-man roster. As with any undrafted rookie, that's a bit of a longshot, but one or two of those guys makes it every year. I'm thinking that Rhodes could be one of them this year after watching him run with the second team at middle linebacker during mini-camp. He still has a long way to go, but there's a wide-open competition for the reserve LB spots behind the projected three starters. If Rhodes does make the team, he'll almost certainly be playing on special teams, and he might prove to be a core guy. Last year, after special teams captain Russell Shepard and his 10 kick-coverage stops, the next two guys on the list were linebackers Danny Lansanah and Bruce Carter. Lansanah and Carter have since departed, leaving a void for someone like Rhodes to step into. 4. The Bucs' starting linebackers will combine for 10 sacks. I'm talking about Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander and Daryl Smith. Last year, David and Alexander had three sacks each, and David had a seven-sack campaign back in 2013. I'm thinking that the Bucs' more aggressive approach on defense will include a wider variety of blitzes, including some designed for every member of the linebacking corps. There has even been some talk of Smith being a stand-up pass-rusher in certain packages. I'm saying five for David, three for Alexander and two for Smith for a total of 10. **
Pictures of Martin at the Buccaneers' mini-camp and OTAS.
- Doug Martin has another 200-yard game.*There have only been four 200-yard rushing games in the franchise's 40-season history, but Martin owns two of them (the top two, in fact). James Wilder and Warrick Dunn own one apiece. Martin's second one was a 235-yard outburst against Philadelphia last year in a Buccaneer blowout; the first was his team-record 251-yard day in Oakland in his 2012 rookie season. Martin has one such game in each of the two seasons in which he has enjoyed good health throughout the year. He seems to be the type of back who gets in a groove, and I think Koetter is the type of coach who will feed his back when he gets in a groove. The Bucs have four games against three of the six worst rush defenses from last year (San Francisco, San Diego and New Orleans twice), so Martin will have his chances to go off.3. Missing Insiders
Okay, to be honest, this question was easily answered in a direct response to Andrew and didn't really need to be addressed in a mailbag. However, I thought it was a good opportunity to point out to those who weren't aware that our twice-weekly Insider Live shows are available to be downloaded as podcasts on iTunes.
As it turned out, our list of podcasts had not been updated since mid-May, and thanks to Andrew's heads-up, we are correcting that. While we're going to take a hiatus from the show for a couple weeks, it will be back in full force for training camp. In fact, just like last year, we'll do our show right from the sideline and have daily guests at every practice, including key Bucs staffers and members of the local media.
Our iTunes page for Buccaneers.com podcasts can be found here. If you miss any of our shows, or the players' radio shows once the season begins, this is a great way to stay on top of what's happening with your Buccaneers.