One Buc Mailbag: Waiting Game

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Photos from the Buccaneers' final mini-camp practice of 2016.

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, our topics range from current Buc Danny Vitale to former Buc Mike Jenkins to unlikely-to-be-a-Buc Eugene Monroe.

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 tbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.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. Vitale Information Mr. Smith In reading about the OTA's and watching the videos on the Buc's website I have not read or heard anything about Dan Vitale. (I could have missed it, I am getting old). I was just wondering where the Buc's were having him practice, tight end, H Back, Full Back? And how did he look? I really liked this pick by the Buc's in the draft so am just a bit curious. As always, thank you sir for taking the time to read, reply and keep us Fans updated on all things Buccaneers. Michael Wilson Formerly of Roanoke, Alabama Now residing in The High Desert (Apple Valley, California) PS: I have been here a year and I don't think there is an Apple Tree within a hundred miles.So Apple Valley is a misleading name, huh? I hope that's also true of Roachtown, Illinois, for the sake of its residents. Or, closer to home, there's High Point, Florida – actually *two Florida towns named that, one in Hernando County and one in Palm Beach County – and we all know there are no high points in Florida.

But enough about that. You've come for Danny Vitale news, claiming that we here at Buccaneers.com have ignored the intriguing sixth-round pick out of Northwestern. Now, it could be true that I personally, as a Northwestern alum myself, have tried not to wear Vitale out with interviews so as not to appear like a fan-boy. Perhaps I've erred too much in the other direction. That said, we certainly have talked about the rookie fullback…er…tight end…er wingback?...from time to time.

In fact, I wrote a story trying to describe what type of role the Bucs had in mind for Vitale after his designation was changed on the roster from tight end to fullback. Maybe you missed it; check it out. Casey Phillips and I have discussed him several times on our Insider Lives, but you'll have to take my word for it unless you want to go back and watch them all. Just two days ago I sent out this tweet:

Mike and his people at the Mike Alstott Family Foundation happened to see that and, lo and behold, we know have a meeting set up between him and Dan next week. I'll try to be there to report how that goes.

Still, I get it. You're not really looking for information on who Vitale's football heroes are (by the way, he actually mentioned three: Alstott, Gale Sayers and Pat Tillman). As you say, you want to know where he's practicing and how he's doing.

Pictures from the Buccaneers' second mini-camp practice.

In that regard, it's hard to get too specific before training camp. As Head Coach Dirk Koetter has said a couple times this week, over the course of all these offseason practices just about every young player takes a turn having a standout day. Given that Vitale plays a position that is probably best judged after the pads go on and real blocking can take place, I don't think we've really seen his full game yet.

That said, I have seen him line up in the backfield where a tradition fullback would be. I've seen him just off the line in what looks like an H-back type of role. I can't say I've seen him split out in the slot, but I also can't say I've seen every snap of practice. For an observer who's not actively involved in running a practice, that stuff tends to blend together after a while.

If you'd like to hear Vitale himself talk about what he thinks his role might be, watch this interview. Yes, this is back from just a week after the draft, but I think he already had an idea of how the team wanted to use him.

So I guess the answer is a bit of a copout, Michael. I don't think it's possible to get a real good assessment on how Vitale is doing until camp and the preseason games begin. And even then, I wouldn't expect Dirk Koetter to really dive deep into the playbook and put everything he plans to do on tape for the Bucs' regular-season opponents to review. After today's offseason-capping mini-camp practice, the One Buc fields are going to be quiet for about six weeks. Check back with me during training camp, if you wish, and I'll try to provide you with a better answer.

  1. Cornering the Market?

To give you a very nuts-and-bolts answer, Steven, the situation for Mike Jenkins at the moment is that he remains an unrestricted free agent. He became a UFA on March 9 and from what I can tell he had a tryout with the Kansas City Chiefs in April but did not sign. There is a little-known date in May in which teams can give tender offers to any of their UFAs who have not yet signed elsewhere, but that almost never actually happens, and it didn't happen here.

So, yes, the Bucs could bring Jenkins back, but I think it's highly unlikely that they will. Generally a team works to re-sign any of the UFAs it wants to retain within the first few days or weeks of free agency (or, best-case-scenario, before they become UFAs). That's what the Bucs did with Doug Martin just hours into the open market and Chris Conte about four days later. I honestly cannot recall the last time the Buccaneers let a player became an unrestricted free agent in March and then re-signed him in June or July.

This is not specific to Mike Jenkins, a USF product and former first-round pick who has had a nice NFL career, but I don't believe the team is really looking that hard at any players that are currently available. That's not really guesswork; it's pretty much what Koetter said after practice on Thursday.

"Every team has depth at some positions and not at others," he said. "We're looking to add some pieces at a couple of spots, but you're not going to add them this time of year. Some of those things aren't going to happen until final cut-downs. Think about it, when you start going down from 90 to 53 and every team lets about 40 guys go, that's a lot of good football players on the streets and there will be some guys out there at that time. Of course we have a couple of spots, but for now our guys are our guys and we're going to coach them up and they're doing a good job of soaking it in."

In other words, the Bucs might indeed need some more depth at certain positions before the regular season starts, but they're more likely to find it from among the very large pool of players released during final cuts than from the ranks of currently-available players.

Pictures of the Buccaneers' first-round draft pick during Rookie Mini-Camp and OTAs.

Also, as long as we're on the subject, I'm not sure I would consider cornerback a position where the Buccaneers need to add depth right now. I would think that defensive tackle or even linebacker would be higher on the list. The offseason additions of Brent Grimes, Josh Robinson and Vernon Hargreaves and the continued presence of veterans Alterraun Verner, Johnthan Banks and Jude Adjei-Barimah – all of whom have had their moments this offseason in a new defense – means the competition for roster spots and playing time is already going to be pretty fierce.

Assuming that the 31-year-old Jenkins is interested in continuing his NFL career, I hope he gets another chance. I don't think it's likely that it will be in Tampa, however.

3. Monroe Doctrine

I think the Buccaneers should, and do, take a look at every veteran player who becomes available and appears to have plenty of football left. Or, more accurately, I think they already have a scouting report on him, thanks to Rob McCartney and the team's pro scouting staff, and they use that to inform a discussion on whether they should take a closer look.

Remember that the Dirk Koetter quote I used above was said on Thursday, a day after Monroe had been let go by the Ravens. Thus, Monroe would seem to be included in that group of players who are currently available. Of course, given that he was just released, he's probably the most intriguing name out there by a good margin. This is a player who has started 90 NFL games, almost all of them at right tackle and who is still on the right side of 30. On the other hand, injuries have forced him to miss 15 games over the past two seasons, and that will surely factor in to any team's decision whether or not to try to sign him. Should we consider it something of a red flag, too, that the Ravens had to release him because they could not find a trade partner?

I think Monroe will sign with a team that has an obvious need at one of their starting tackle positions. That could be in New York, where the Giants might want to move second-year man Erick Flowers to the right side, or maybe in San Francisco, where the options at right tackle don't seem very strong. San Diego or Seattle could be interested.

Pictures from the Buccaneers' first mini-camp practice.

When NFL analysts discuss the Buccaneers' offensive tackle situation, as many did leading up to the most recent draft, I feel like they often forget about Demar Dotson. Dotson lost much of last season to a preseason knee injury and didn't immediately win his starting right tackle job back from Gosder Cherilus after returning. However, in the two seasons prior to 2015, Dotson was probably the Bucs' most consistently effective offensive lineman. Right tackle was essentially the only O-Line spot the team did not try to overhaul during the 2014 and 2015 offseasons.

Dotson is back with the starting line and I personally think he's going to be a very good player in 2016. On the left side, the team clearly is going to stick with Donovan Smith, a high second-round pick in 2015 who played nearly every snap during his rookie season. Gosder Cherilus also remains – basically, he's doing what Monroe would do for the Buccaneers if he signed in Tampa. Kevin Pamphile can play both tackle and guard, adding further depth, and don't count out undrafted rookie Leonard Wester. I think the team likes his potential.

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