Buccaneers Rumors: Fact or Fiction with the Latest News Ahead of Free Agency
Loose lips sink ships. Even pirate ships.
Free agency looms and the rumors are flying around like cannonballs. Who will the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign? Who will they cut? Who will they trade? What will Lovie Smith's Bucs look like?
The Bucs face a number of decisions that will shape their 2014 roster and their strategy approaching the NFL draft in May. Reports of the Bucs' interest in certain free agents and disinterest in certain Bucs players are running rampant.
On the offensive side, the Bucs need to address their offensive line problems while looking at options at quarterback and wide receiver. On defense, Darrelle Revis' salary has huge implications for the entire unit.
The Bucs have approximately $18 million in cap space for 2014, according to OvertheCap.com. They have money to pick some veterans but not enough to transform the roster.
Discerning fact from fiction can be a real challenge. Once the media gets a hold of a story, it can often spiral out of control to point where the truth is lost among the scrum of sports journalism.
Here are five free-agent issues the Buccaneers are facing where fact and fiction have swirled into a near-indecipherable mess. The following slides will try to identify which rumors are fact and which are fiction.
FICTION: Darrelle Revis Will Be Traded by the Buccaneers
Buccaneers cornerback Darrelle Revis must feel like a Men's Wearhouse tuxedo. Everyone wants to take him to the big party, but he's pricey and gets passed around probably more than he should.
According to CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora, interest in Revis peaked as of late:
Teams calling the Bucs to inquire about Darrelle Revis, and some rival execs believe he is ripe to be dealt at start of league year ...— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) February 25, 2014
One important thing to note about La Canfora's report is who is calling who. It's other teams inquiring about Revis. There is no evidence the Bucs are reaching out to anyone about trading Revis.
When the story first broke, reaction from Buccaneers fans was mixed. While some were opposed to the trade, others believed that given the right price, Revis and his $16 million salary should be moved off the Bucs' payroll.
Someone probably should have asked Bucs head coach Lovie Smith what the plan for Revis is. According to The Tampa Tribune's Roy Cummings, Smith has big plans for Revis. Though he has a reputation as a Tampa-2 coach, Smith says his Bucs will "win or lose" with man coverage.
Revis is worth every penny of his $16 million salary, and it would appear that Smith knows it. Trading Revis would only demonstrate his inflexibility as a coach.
FACT: Donald Penn and Davin Joseph Will Not Be Bucs...in 2015
The Bucs' plan to assemble the best offensive line in the league has failed thus far.
Guards Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks both missed significant time and can no longer be counted on to produce consistently. Center Jeremy Zuttah looks best when he is a swing player across the line but underwhelms as a center.
Nicks' contract makes him difficult to cut this year, and at his best, he is an elite player. Zuttah's real value is in his versatility, making him an unlikely roster casualty.
Joseph is the most likely player to be cut outright. He is due $6 million in 2013, none of which is guaranteed. His play in 2013 was abysmal and showed little sign of improvement as the year progressed.
Though his talent and leadership qualities may convince the Bucs to keep him around for 2014, they have to begin planning for the future and draft a guard. Joseph has four more years left on the contract extension he signed in 2011.
Joseph's play is unlikely to improve enough to justify the $27 million he has remaining on his contract, per OvertheCap.com. Look for the Bucs to cut Joseph within the next year.
The tackle positions remain the most consistent, but that's not saying much given the baseline. Left tackle Donald Penn played like he was on the down slide of his career in 2013. On the other hand, right tackle Demar Dotson was ranked fourth in Matt Miller's list of the top 35 right tackles for B/R's NFL 1000.
Let's get one thing straight: Penn is a quality left tackle. Penn had a down year in 2013, no question. However, he's still an above-average tackle who is decent in pass protection and a mauler in the run game.
Penn will be a free agent after the 2015 season, but the Bucs could save almost $15 million over the next two years by cutting him now. The Bucs may opt to restructure his contract and slide him to right tackle while Dotson takes over at left tackle.
However, the Bucs have not restructured Penn's contract:
While rumors persist, the Buccaneers have yet to ask LT Donald Penn for a paycut. Not out of the question that he's eventually released.— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) February 25, 2014
That could be in preparation to draft a tackle like Greg Robinson or Jake Matthews in the draft. Without the restructure, the Bucs may have no choice but to groom a new starting tackle for 2015 in the next two months.
FICTION: Charles Tillman Is Definitely Signing with the Buccaneers
Lovie Smith's arrival in Tampa Bay heralded a new direction for the Buccaneers. It also teased the possibility of Smith's former players joining him in Tampa.
Tillman would be an enormous asset to the Buccaneers. He knows the way Smith likes to play defense, having played for him almost his entire career. Tillman is also a turnover machine:
CB Charles Tillman turns 33 in a few weeks, but Lovie Smith knows first-hand what "Peanut'' can do. He's the master of the forced fumble— Ira Kaufman (@IKaufmanTBO) February 11, 2014
Tillman would be an instant leader on defense and could be had for a bargain given his age. He should be a perfect fit for the Bucs.
The problem is, Tillman may not see it that way.
If Tillman were to sign with the Bucs, it would likely be as a nickel corner. He's lost only half a step, but he has lost that half-step, starting the down slide of his career.
It looks like Tillman is going to try to start a bidding war for his services. The Bucs can't afford to pay a nickel corner on the wrong side of 30 starter-caliber money.
Tillman may end up in Tampa, but at this point, it's no sure thing.
FACT: Mike Glennon Will Be the Bucs' Starting Quarterback in 2014
Somehow, Mike Glennon ended the 2013 season as the best rookie quarterback in the NFL.
That may have more to do with the quality of rookie quarterbacks on other teams, but Glennon did have his moments as the Bucs' starting quarterback. He was surprisingly accurate and played mistake-free football.
There are definitely holes in Glennon's game and an upgrade may be warranted. However, that upgrade is unlikely to affect the Bucs' 2014 season.
With the seventh overall pick in this year's draft, the Bucs have a shot to draft one of the top QBs this year.
That doesn't mean the Bucs will be drafting a starting quarterback for 2014.
It looks as though the Bucs would have to trade up to get this year's quarterback triumvirate of Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel. Given the holes in the rest of the roster and their lack of draft picks, the Bucs cannot afford to move up on draft day.
The closest chance they have to a first-round quarterback is to reach for Fresno State's Derek Carr. Though Carr is likely to be drafted on Day 1 of the draft, he is a raw prospect who will have some catching up to do with Glennon.
Though Carr is close to Bucs offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford, don't expect that relationship to make Carr better than Glennon by the start of the season. Carr has footwork and progression issues that will make his transition into the NFL challenging.
The Bucs could opt to spend a draft pick on quarterbacks later in the draft, like LSU's Zach Mettenberger, Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo or Alabama's AJ McCarron. Again, each have holes in their games that make them unlikely to match Glennon's preparation for another NFL season.
Whichever quarterback the Bucs draft, he may be better off manning a clipboard than a huddle in 2014.
FICTION: Mike Williams' Contract Makes Him Uncuttable
The offseason is always a dangerous time for NFL players. Last year, 31 NFL players were arrested for various crimes after the 2012 season ended.
Mike Williams hasn't been arrested but he definitely had his fair share of unscrupulous behavior since he was put on injured reserve in 2013. It already garnered the attention of Lovie Smith, who called Williams' behavior "disturbing."
No player wants to be introduced to a new coach with his foolish antics all over Twitter. With no real connection to Williams or investment in developing him as a player, Smith may want to rid himself of future Williams-induced headaches as soon as possible.
The two issues stopping him are Williams' contract and the state of the Bucs wide receiver corps. Williams signed a six-year contract extension last year with $15 million guaranteed.
According to Overthecap.com, cutting Williams in 2014 would cost the Bucs $4.6 million against the salary cap. After 2014, he can be cut with no detriment to the salary cap.
The Bucs are also woefully thin at wide receiver. Besides Williams, the Bucs only have Vincent Jackson and a bunch of untested backups and practice squad players.
Unfortunately for Williams, the solution to both problems may have the same remedy. There are a few quality receivers hitting the free-agent market next week, including Eric Decker, James Jones and Sidney Rice.
Decker and Jones are likely too expensive, but Rice may still have something left in the tank and would be a bargain, given his recent history.
The draft is the surest way to replace Williams without breaking the bank. This year's wide receiver class is incredibly deep. The Bucs could target the likes of Brandin Cooks, Davante Adams or Allen Robinson, depending on whether they want to replace Williams with a speedier option or another possession receiver.
Cutting Williams could serve as a notice to the rest of the locker room that Lovie Smith won't stand for any shenanigans. Not even some lost cash will stand in his way.