Are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a piece or two away from making a Super Bowl run, or is this team still rebuilding?
Without knowing the answer to that question—Tampa Bay doesn’t know the answer yet either, thinks Martin Fennelly of the Tampa Tribune—the Buccaneers can’t make an all-in move sending a 2013 first-round draft pick to the New York Jets via trade for cornerback Darrelle Revis.
This logic makes a ton of sense. Why on earth would general manager Mark Dominik send off Tampa Bay’s first-round pick this year, and obviously strong rebuilding piece, and get back a top-notch but coming-off-an-injury cornerback in Revis?
In Fennelly’s mind the decision comes down to quarterback Josh Freeman, and it’s not as much of a stretch as you would think.
And a lot of that still goes back to 5.
Is this a Super Bowl quarterback — even a playoff quarterback? It's a question with an answer that changes with Freeman's ups and downs. We've seen him dress up as Michael Jackson. Cool. Great. Now, can he pretend to be Joe Flacco? I'm not so sure.
Freeman threw for 4,065 yards last season but was at times elite and at times futile.
During a five-week span from Week 7 to Week 11 Freeman tossed 13 touchdowns and only two interceptions while averaging 277.4 passing yards per game. Tampa Bay was 4-1 during that stretch.
The Buccaneers were 1-4 during the five-game stretch to end the season when Freeman threw just six touchdown passes and 10 interceptions and fell off to just 260 yards passing per game.
Is it a must that Dominik and head coach Greg Schiano figure out if Freeman is the quarterback of the future? Yes, 100 percent yes! But is that decision tied to pulling the trigger on a Revis deal? No so much.
Freeman’s extreme hot and cold moments are frustrating, sure. But wouldn’t adding a shutdown corner to the league’s worst pass defense account for something?
As far as I can tell, a healthy Revis (read: he needs to be healthy enough to man Revis Island) would have added four wins to the Buccaneers’ 2012 season, making them a playoff team.
I am of the opinion that Revis could have helped put a stop to the New York Giants’ 25-point fourth quarter in Week 2 and would have kept Eli Manning from putting up five bills and a 10 spot on the Buccaneers secondary. I also believe Revis would not have let a rookie quarterback in Robert Griffin III drive 56 yards in the final 1:42 of play in Week 4 to help the Washington Redskins beat Tampa Bay with a last-second field goal.
Flip around a seven-point loss to New Orleans in Week 7, a game that was a foot on the back line of the end zone from being extended anyway, that Revis’ skills would have countered and a Week 14 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles that quarterback Nick Foles won with a one-yard touchdown pass with no time on the clock, and there’s the Buccaneers’ four extra wins.
Without a doubt I’m speculating here. But I’m proving a point also that Revis as much as Freeman can make a difference.
If adding Revis can make Tampa Bay a playoff team, and that’s still a big if, couldn’t Freeman have one of the five-week magical stretches that propels the Buccaneers into the Super Bowl?
Anything is possible once a team is in the playoffs. The hottest team after Week 17 is usually the eventual champion. Getting to the playoffs is the important thing for Tampa Bay now. And with that task in mind, one fact is a certainty.
It’s too late in the game for the Buccaneers to add a playoff-caliber quarterback for a 2013 run. But Dominik could pull the trigger on a trade for Revis, who just might push Tampa Bay into the second season.
But are the Buccaneers that close?
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.