Following last season's disastrous and equally disappointing 4-12 campaign, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers brought in head coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht to restore order and establish a new era for the franchise.
And boy, they're off to quite a start.
The Bucs have been the NFL's most active team during the current free-agency period, having added nearly a dozen-and-a-half new players and parting ways with starters Erik Lorig, Donald Penn, Darrelle Revis and Mike Williams, among many others.
The moves, while staggering at first, were necessary to ensure both financial flexibility and added depth at crucial positions.
Case in point: the money saved by releasing Revis ($16 million) allowed the team to sign three potential starters in cornerback Alterraun Verner, defensive tackle Clinton McDonald and center/guard Evan Dietrich-Smith ($15.25 million combined).
Couple that with the money they reallocated to newcomers tackle Anthony Collins ($6 million) and tight end Brandon Myers ($2.125 million) by cutting Penn and trading Williams (roughly $8.5 million).
All of which highlights how cap savvy Licht has proven himself to be thus far.
That said, the anxiety level of many Bucs fans has steadily increased as the offseason has progressed, thanks in large part to the long-term uncertainty under center. The Bucs signed quarterback Josh McCown and immediately anointed him the starter heading into camp, despite the relative success second-year QB Mike Glennon had in 2013.
And though the team has said signing McCown won't exclude them from adding another quarterback in May's draft, it isn't necessary for them to do so to consider this offseason a success.
How so, you ask?
Well for one, the Bucs clearly believe McCown is capable of providing a calming influence and veteran leadership to a relatively inexperienced group. Sure, he's far from an elite option, but given Lovie's history of questionable QB play, McCown is more than capable of being successful.
Secondly, the team has improved in other areas of weakness, notably its pass rush, by adding McDonald and defensive end Michael Johnson. When paired with Gerald McCoy and a combination of Da'Quan Bowers and Adrian Clayborn, the front four is noticeably better.
In addition, when you consider some of the other positions that need to be addressed, namely at guard and receiver, the need to spend a pick on a QB who would likely start the season behind McCown (and possibly Glennon) becomes that much less important.
However, the single biggest reason the Bucs and their fans should consider this offseason is a success has nothing to do with any player they've signed or released. Nor does it involve their snazzy new uniforms or chrome facemasks.
No, the reason this offseason is a success begins and ends with none other than Lovie Smith. After two failed coaching experiments with unproven and inexperienced coaches, the Bucs wisely chose to go with a proven commodity.
Smith has shown he's capable of success. His Chicago Bears teams averaged nearly 10 wins per season during his tenure. Lovie won three division crowns in nine seasons in Chicago and led the Bears to Super Bowl XLI with Rex Grossman under center.
Sure, adding Teddy Bridgewater or Johnny Manziel would make fans happy and ease some of their concerns. But if Coach Smith's resume has shown us anything, it's not a necessity because he's won with less-than-elite talent at quarterback before.
Give him a pass rush and a few ball hawks in the secondary and you know what you'll get?
A fighting chance.
You can reach J.J. by email at BRJJRodriguez@gmail.com
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