General Manager Bruce Allen (right) believes the Bucs have great team chemistry
Joey Galloway's a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. So are Charlie Garner, Todd Steussie and Mario Edwards. Dave Moore is back and Rickey Dudley never left. Derrick Deese, the former 49er, switched coasts to pursue another Super Bowl. Cosey Coleman signed on for another year but Warren Sapp and John Lynch found new homes.
All of these developments, and many more, took place in an intriguing and tumultuous month of March, give or take a few days. The first domino in this chain of events, however, fell on January 9.
That's the day the Buccaneers hired Bruce Allen from the Oakland Raiders to be their new general manager. The son of legendary NFL coach George Allen and a veteran of just about every aspect of the football business, he took over for the departed Rich McKay, now GM of the Atlanta Falcons. In the weeks that followed, Allen, with input from the Bucs' coaching staff and player personnel staffers, set about reworking the team's roster.
Thought to be constrained by a snug salary-cap situation, the Bucs were instead one of the most freely active players on the free agent market. In roughly five weeks, the team signed or traded for 22 players who, combined with much of the remaining core of the 2002 World Champions, are expected to make Tampa Bay a contender again.
As exciting as the month of March was at One Buccaneer Place, the almost daily roster moves naturally invited questions from the team's fans. It was natural, then, that Allen have a go-around in the 'Your Turn' hot seat.
Your Turn is a popular, ongoing interview series on Buccaneers.com that matches fans' questions with some of the most prominent players, coaches and staff members on the team. In previous years, Buc fans have been able to grill such luminaries as Jon Gruden, Derrick Brooks, Mike Alstott, Brad Johnson, Simeon Rice and many more.
For two weeks, Buccaneers.com users sent questions in for Allen, and this week, the Bucs' busy GM sat down to answer 20 of them. As usual, the names and towns of the fans submitting the questions (when that information was given) were read along with each question.
Below, you will find a full transcript of the first half of Bruce Allen's Your Turn interview, featuring the first 10 questions. To watch the video of that interview, in Windows Media Player, QuickTime or Real format, please click on one of the links in the Buccaneers Broadcast Network on the home page or in the Buccaneers.com Video Archive.
The second half of Your Turn with Bruce Allen will be posted later in the week.
Your Turn with Bruce Allen, Part One
1. Dan, Orange City, Florida: After overhauling the offensive line via free agency, what do you see as the most glaring weakness and will that be the position the Bucs go after in the draft?
Allen: "Well, Dan, I think we've filled in a lot of positions on this team to give us some depth, in order to be able to take the best available player in this draft. So I think we have a lot of flexibility in this draft."
2. Jay, Tallahassee, Florida: Thomas Jones was a young, big playmaker out of the backfield last year. After his strong finish, where he really proved himself, why did you not make a stronger effort get him resigned?
Allen: "Well, Jay, we looked at Thomas as a free agent along with the rest of the group that was available, and there was no running back that was more productive over the last four years than Charlie Garner. So we thought getting Charlie was going to have a greater impact for our team, and we'll let Thomas go to Chicago and see how he likes the cold."
3. Andrew Witherell: Do you believe the Buccaneers can draft a player in the first round who will start the 2004 season and contribute right away?
Allen: "Well, Andrew, as I've said, we've improved the team in many areas. But, yeah, we think at number 15 there could be a player who can make a significant impact into our team. But it's a little bit early – we still could be trading up or trading down in the next few weeks."
4. Tim, Nashville, Tennessee: I can't help but feel that this team is trying to change its main focus from offense to defense. After all of the free agent signings so far, most of them on offense, are the Bucs planning to address the defense this offseason, as well?
Allen: "Well, Tim, we really didn't have as much deficiency on our defense, and signing Mario Edwards away from the Dallas Cowboys, who was their starting corner the last three years…no, we're going to be a defensive football team. (Defensive Coordinator) Monte Kiffin asks me that question every day, also."
5. J. Taylor, Cape Coral, Florida: What are the Buccaneers plans for Mike Alstott? What's Mike's future with Tampa Bay?
Allen: "Well, J., and to all the Mike Alstott fans, Mike looks terrific. He's recovered from his injury. We had three days of a mini-camp this past week and he's back to that Mike Alstott form. So we have high hopes for him this season."
6. Ron M., Tampa, Florida: For years we were told that the team had to be careful not to overspend in free agency and 'mortgage the future.' Now it seems like we're signing players at will. Can you explain how this is possible, and will this approach led to cap problems in the future?
Allen: "Well, Ron, we've had bigger cap problems this year than we actually will forecast for the future. We have signed 22 players who we think can help this football team, but all 22 still make less than some of the players that have signed with other teams in this free agency (period) as just one player. The Chicago Bears signed one guy (T John Tait) and gave him more than we've given all 22."
7. Nick VandenPlas: If the Buccaneers have a chance to move up in the draft, will they?
Tim R., New Port Richey, Florida: I hear this is a very deep draft. Will the Bucs consider trading down in order to gain an extra draft pick, particularly since we don't have a second-round pick?
Allen: "Well, for both of you and everyone, you have to be careful listening to rumors around this time of the year. The NFL will be filled with misleading information, but we're open to moving up or going down in the draft. We're going to look for the best deal that will help us improve our team this year."
8. Joe Rice from Charlottesville, Virginia: Many fans, including myself, are concerned with the chemistry of the team following the loss of Warren Sapp and John Lynch. Can you give us some insight as to what your specific plan is for the future of our Buccaneers?
Allen: "Well, Joe, I think this team has a great chemistry. We kept together the core of this football team and most importantly we've kept together this great coaching staff. The leadership and the fire that Jon Gruden and this staff bring to this football team…we're going to be well-equipped for this season."
9. Chris, Orange County: My concern is at strong safety, since we lost John Lynch. Are we going to address this position in the draft?
Allen: "Well, Chris, we have a player that you got to see a little bit of last year, Jermaine Phillips, who we think is going to be an outstanding football player. You can't replace John Lynch the person, but we think Jermaine's going to do a fantastic job at the safety position."
10. Josh, Tampa, Florida: I was wondering what you though about the criticism that seemed to follow after Lynch and Sapp left. There seemed to be a lot of mixed reactions.
Allen: "Well, Josh, it's tough. I've never seen a pretty divorce in professional sports. The John Lynch situation had to be handled the way it was for John Lynch. And Warren Sapp was going to be a free agent. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers decided to sign Simeon Rice and Anthony McFarland two years ago to insure they wouldn't be free agents. We just have to wish those two gentlemen (Lynch and Sapp) well and thank them for their contributions."