Believe it if you want, Buccaneer fans. One of your owners, Joel Glazer, has told you straight up: They have the money to spend, they just don't want to spend it right now.
They believe in building by the NFL draft, building a foundation, and then adding to that base down the line.
"Money will never be an issue when it comes to building this team the way we think it should be built," Joel Glazer told the Tampa Tribune .
Okay, let's just consider that point for a moment. Joel says the reason the Buccaneers aren't among the league leaders in spending is because they've drafted poorly.
Definitely, the drafts under Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen left a lot to be desired. Twenty of the 22 players starting for the Bucs at the end of the season were either Gruden draft picks or free agent acquisitions—a 3-13 football team that has holes throughout the lineup.
Joel claims that if the players Gruden drafted were worth a damn, the Bucs would be spending money on re-signing these players. Tell that to Barrett Ruud, whose 167 tackles apparently weren't enough to impress the Glazers.
Tell Donald Penn, who faced some of the best pass rushers in the business and had he been on any other contending team would have found himself in the Pro Bowl.
Granted, Penn wasn't a draft pick, but he's still a young core player.
Let's face it folks; the Bucs aren't one or two players away from becoming contenders. Buying Julius Peppers and Dunta Robinson would certainly have excited the Bucs fanbase, but would it really have translated to more victories?
It would have just added to the bottom line and kept young players from performing, so the party line goes.
Same goes for Aaron Kampman and Kyle Vandenbosch. When the Bucs get good again, they likely will be on their last legs.
"Especially this year, the market for free agency wasn't deep and the free agents available generally were older," Joel said. "Based on where we're at, that's not going to contribute to our long-term success in our view. Quite the opposite—those free agents would have suppressed the opportunity for our younger players who will be there long term for us."
It's all about the 2010 NFL draft, fans. I don't know if any franchise has ever put their eggs in one basket like the Buccaneers are doing right now. They have to get this one right or they are doomed to the dregs of the NFL for several years.
What's concerning is the guy heading up the scouting department for the Bucs, Dennis Hickey, is the same guy who has been there for the last seven years...where the Bucs draft history isn't exactly impressive.
"We have to draft well, period. We will never get back to the elite level unless we draft well. We can hover in the middle without drafting well, but that's not what we want to accomplish," Joel said. "Our fans want to know that we are competing for a championship, that year-to-year we are in the hunt to win a Super Bowl. To be just hovering around mediocrity is not what this is about. It may keep some of the criticism off you, but the goal is to win a championship."
Jon Gruden never believed in the draft philosophy. He wanted to fill holes with veterans and stay competitive enough to make the playoffs, then see what happens.
These teams are never big players in free agency yet are contenders every year. Meanwhile, the offseason championship dynasty of the Washington Redskins has remained intact until this year, yet regular season success has alluded the franchise since 2005.
Glazer's philosophy of building through the draft is a fine goal, indeed, but you have to have the ability to draft well. GM Mark Dominik and head coach Raheem Morris had a good first draft, finding quality contributors in Roy Miller and Sammie Stroughter while maybe drafting their franchise QB in Josh Freeman.
Still, Kyle Moore was a dissapointment. Xavier Fulton and EJ Biggers were injured before they could show their worth.
For a team without much talent, nonetheless depth, it can't be 50 percent on this draft and hope to compete in 2010.
Believe the spiel if you choose, fans. Ignore Manchester United across the pond and the mountain of debt that the Glazers' purchase of that franchise has put upon the family. Ignore that since 2004 (when Man U was purchased) the Buccaneers have spent less on players than any other team in the league.
It's all a coincidence, right? The Glazers still have that fire that brought Tampa Bay a Super Bowl Championship in 2002, correct?
"Our passion has not diminished one iota. In fact, in some respects I feel reinvigorated," Glazer said. "The challenges ahead are great, but we believe it's a challenge we're up to. At the end of, we believe everyone will understand what this process has been all about."
Unless the Bucs draft some marquee football players, it could very well be about the ineptness of the front office from top to bottom.
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