Best and Worst Moves the Buccaneers Made in Free Agency
Lovie Smith blew into Tampa Bay on the heady winds of change and wasted little time in transforming the team in his image.
The Buccaneers were one of one the most active teams in free agency this offseason. Smith and general manager Jason Licht moved quickly to add pieces to positions weakened by years of poor drafts and free-agent misfires.
The biggest changes were made to the Bucs offensive line. After jettisoning veterans Davin Joseph, Donald Penn and Jeremy Zuttah, the Bucs added Anthony Collins and Evan Dietrich-Smith to fill the void.
The wisdom of these moves won't be truly clear until after the 2014 season. Nonetheless, some of the moves Smith and his regime made were obvious winners, while others were not quite so hot.
These are the best and worst moves the Buccaneers made in free agency (so far).
Best: Cutting Davin Joseph
It's never easy parting with a leader, but in the case of Davin Joseph, it was absolutely necessary.
Joseph was once a mauling guard who could lay wood to any defensive lineman in his way. Following his 2012 knee injury, that Davin Joseph was gone.
Despite being elected team captain, Joseph was arguably the worst starter on the Bucs offense. He lacked the power to open running lanes and was a liability in pass protection.
Joseph's dreadful 2013 season could be attributed to his ongoing recovery from his knee injury. However, at age 30 and with his contract counting $6 million to the Bucs' salary cap, per Kevin Patra of NFL.com, Joseph had too much working against him to keep him on the roster.
Worst: Trading Jeremy Zuttah for Only a 2015 Fifth-Round Pick
Trading Jeremy Zuttah is not the problem. What the Bucs got in exchange for their former center is.
Basically, the Buccaneers just gave the Ravens a starter for the cost of a fifth-round pick in next year's draft.
Whether or not Zuttah as a player is worth more than a fifth-round pick is debatable. Zuttah obviously has value as an offensive lineman, as his extension with Baltimore would indicate. The Bucs might have gotten a bit more had they considered Zuttah would be their starter.
Zuttah's $4.5 million cap number, per The Baltimore Sun, was not outrageous, especially given the Bucs' cap space. He could have started at guard for Tampa or at least served as a bridge for a future lineman.
Now the Bucs desperately need to find a starting guard in this year's draft, as only Carl Nicks is a truly viable starter (when he's healthy). Instead of trading for a pick this year to help fill that hole, the Bucs gambled on the present for a shot much further down the line.
The Bucs misread the Ravens' value on Zuttah, endangering their prospects in 2014 for middling compensation next year.
Worst and Best: Cutting Darrelle Revis
It's hard to consider the Revis release without some bitterness.
Lovie Smith and Jason Licht cannot be blamed for Greg Schiano and Mark Dominik trading first- and fourth-round picks to the Jets for Revis last year. Obviously, Schiano had plans for Revis that didn't come to fruition on account of Schiano's inability to devise effective plans for the team as a whole.
Revis' $16 million yearly salary placed an incredible burden on the Bucs' salary cap. His compensation might not have been as much of an issue had the Bucs gathered better talent around Revis.
There is no doubt Smith would have loved to have Revis. Smith and Licht just could not ignore the other holes on the Bucs roster.
Cutting Revis paved the way for the Bucs to bring on a long overdue edge-rusher in Michael Johnson and a complementary interior pass-rusher in Clinton McDonald.
The Bucs also signed cornerback Alterraun Verner to start in place of Revis. While he cannot replace Revis per se, Verner is far less expensive and is a much better value given his skill set.
Revis will always be a "what could have been" for the Buccaneers, but his departure may be the catalyst for the Bucs to return to their winning ways.
Best: Signing Josh McCown
Josh McCown may not be the face of the franchise, but he may be the one to save the Buccaneers.
The Bucs' quarterback situation was a disaster last season. Josh Freeman imploded, forcing rookie Mike Glennon to try to pick up the pieces.
Though Glennon was arguably the best quarterback in his draft class, that's faint praise given the competition. Glennon played safe, mistake-free football, but that wasn't enough to win games.
Signing McCown gives the Bucs a veteran option to possibly transition to a franchise quarterback this year. McCown's stellar work in Chicago last season indicates the Bucs will have a reliable, productive pass offense.
Though Lovie Smith and Jason Licht have different ideas on how their starting quarterback will be selected, McCown holds the upper hand in starting the season and guiding the Bucs offense back to respectability.
Best: Re-Signing Jonathan Casillas
The return of Jonathan Casillas is an unheralded but critical development for the Bucs.
The departures of Adam Hayward and Dekoda Watson depleted the Bucs' linebacker depth and left question marks at the strong-side linebacker position in 2014. The Bucs will also need to look for more special teams help, as Hayward was the unit's captain and Watson was a special teams ace.
Though the Bucs have signed linebacker Dane Fletcher, re-signing Casillas to a one-year contract is a much bigger deal.
Casillas started four games for the Buccaneers in 2013 and was a key special teams player. His return provides starting experience and insurance for the rookie linebacker Lovie Smith is sure to draft.
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