Re-aligning the roster for a Super Bowl run in 3 seasons
IT ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY MUST START UNDER CENTER.
Mike Glennon is a hard worker but he's a career backup. To say "he's only played three games" ignores what he did collegiately and in high school. The tools and mental acuity are just not there. He lasted till round 3 for a good reason. Rookie QBs and 2nd year QBs don't have enough experience to lead teams to a Super Bowl. Additionally if you decide to "stick with Glennon" for one more season you're potentially dooming the Ffanchise. Drafting a QB who can help you win a Super Bowl is, to some degree, about chance. Most times you're simply not in position to draft one and trading up for one can cost a franchise killing package. As bad as Schiano has been, the opportunity to get a franchise QB CANNOT be passed on.
I've trotted this out before but you really need a Tier 1,Tier 2, or Tier 3 QB to win a Super Bowl in this league. While Tier 1 QB's make it easier they are such a small percentage of the league that their acquisition cannot be planned for. Unless you're absolutely prepared to say that Mike Glennon will develop into a Tier 1 or Tier 2 guy you cannot pass on a franchise changer. (Note the below QB's are in no particular order within their tiers and does not reflect future development - its where they are "right now")
Tier 1 QBs - Capable of making a high volume of passes at a high percentage week in and week out, makes average receivers appear good, makes good receivers appear great, capable of covering up for a weak offensive line, excellent leader and consistently appears a step ahead of the defense he plays against. (NFL Quantity: 4)
Peyton Manning - 1st Overall (1998, Acquired in Free Agency by Denver)
Aaron Rodgers - 1st Round 24th Overall Pick (2005, Sat behind Brett Farve)
Tom Brady - 6th Round 199th Overall (2000, Sat 1 season behind Drew Bledsoe)
Drew Brees - 2nd Round 32nd Overall (2001, Acquired by New Orleans in Free Agency)
Tier 2 QBs - Occasionally capable of carrying a team with a high volume of passes at a high percentage but not for 16 weeks a season, can distribute the ball and get production from even average receivers, can work with a competent but not good offensive line, excellent leader and usually a step or two ahead of the defense. (NFL Quantity: 10)
Matt Ryan - 1st Round, 3rd Overall (2008, taken 2 picks after LT Jake Long)
Matthew Stafford - 1st Round 1st Overall (2009)
Andrew Luck - 1st Round 1st Overall (2012 Draft)
Ben Roethlisberger - 1st Round 11th Overall (2004 Draft)
Joe Flacco - 1st Round, 18th Overall (2008 Draft)
Philip Rivers - 1st Round 4th Overall (2004 Draft)
Eli Manning - 1st Round 1st Overall (2004 Draft)
Robert Griffin III - 1st Round 2nd Overall (2012 Draft)
Jay Cutler - 1st Round 11th Overall (2006 Draft, Traded to Denver)
Tony Romo - UDFA (2003 - Sat multiple seasons)
Tier 3 QBs - Cannot function well with a high volume of passes but can be incredibly efficient in lower quantities, needs elite weapons in order to consistently move an offense, avoids costly turnovers, capable of leading a game winning drive, can threaten the defense with his legs - or - throws a great deep ball, excellent leadership ability and can rally the team to his cause. (NFL Quantity: 3)
Andy Dalton - 2nd Round 35th Overall Pick (2011 Draft)
Russell Wilson - 3rd Round 75th Overall Pick (2012 Draft)
Alex Smith - 1st Round 1st Overall (2005 Draft)
Breaking down how they are acquired: 14 Tier 1 & 2 QBs and another three who with elite teams around them could win a Super Bowl. Everyone else in the league is either developing a "new guy" or desperately hoping to find someone they can build around soon. If you are willing to go throw out the Tier 3 QBs (they really do need ELITE teams around them to be Super Bowl contenders) we see a few trends:
11 of the TOP Quarterbacks in the League were originally drafted in the first round. (79%)
11 of the 14 are still playing for the original teams that drafted them (or UDFA sign); Manning and Brees moves due to career threatening injuries and Cutler for Josh McDaniel's total incompetence. (79%)
7 of the 14 were selected in the first five Picks(50%)
Only two in the past 15 years was selected after pick 33 (Romo & Brady)(13%)
This doesn't mean that future draft mistakes cannot happen or that a trade couldn't work. When you look at how Romo and Brady got where they were, both sat for a complete season then were developed by organizations that believed in them. If you have belief in one guy and he has the right tools he can be developed but you have to have an organizational commitment to it. Russell Wilson and Andy Dalton could develop into Tier 2 guys and their organizations clearly believe in them so that offers more hope. Whatever you think of Glennon, and I don't think much of him, he won't have the full support of a new head coach by next year - sticking with him dooms you to mediocrity and passes a chance at one of the top quarterbacks.
How do we get at least a Tier 2 QB
I wrote a long piece earlier on the Top eligible QBs for this draft and won't revise it here.
Teddy Bridgewater is really that good. He's likely to be the top overall pick. He's no Andrew Luck where he is likely to be in Tier 1 within 5 seasons but I'd say Bridgewater is as sure a prospect as you can see -- guaranteed to be a Tier 2 guy.
Brett Hundley: if he chooses to come out he should easily be a top 5 guy if his current rate of improvement continues. He should be a Tier 2 guy with some quality development.
Other options a little further in round 1 could include Marcus Mariota, Stephen Morris, Aaron Murray and Derek Carr. All of these guys will need substantial development and investment of time.
Trade: Ryan Mallett and Brock Osweiler are other options. However, if you trade for either, it cannot be a one season commitment. You have to have a head coach who is willing to commit to them as if they were their own first round pick. You have to treat them like Brady and Romo and spend the time to develop them. Both are likely to cost you a 2nd and 3rd round draft pick over 2 seasons.
Osweiler is very interesting to me because I had him as the 3rd Quarterback in the 2012 NFL draft behind only Luck and RGIII. His value was driven down because, while he has the physical tools of a franchise QB he had too few college starts to be ready day one. NFL teams these days cannot really afford to draft a QB in round 1 that cannot play from the start - at least most of them. However, Osweiler was Elway's choice for a QB of the future in case Peyton Manning was not healthy. He traded up in Round 2 of the 2012 draft to secure Osweiler, he'll have two seasons as a backup in Denver by next year and while Peyton Manning isn't exactly known for developing backup QBs, the Broncos organization is.
Ryan Mallet is much talked about and really a top 10 talent who bombed for immaturity. Keep in mind he beat out Brian Hoyer for the backup job in New England and has the physical tools. If he's learned to lead he's some team's answer at QB.
What would I need to trade for one of these guys? Someone who knows them. If Erik Studesville were our next OC and he pounds his fist on the table and says "Brock Osweiler is going to be every bit as good as Matthew Stafford" then I get ownership to buy in to make that commitment.
Immediate Roster Needs
Aside from QB this team has a couple position it will NEED immediately either through free agency or the draft. The most glaring of which is a starting TE who can block and catch. Other need positions will be based on the scheme we run. If we choose one of the Stanford guys we'll need another TE. For most other packages our 3rd WR who sees the field more than 50% of offensive snaps should be considered a starter and likely invested in. A few options present themselves in this upcoming draft at both positions and could be targeted in Round 1 or Round 2. However, we'll address most of those in Part III of this series.
Hurting on Depth: Offensive Line, Cornerbacks, Safties, Wide Receivers, Tight Ends. These need to be addressed with some deft free agent signings or draft and develop.
Aging the team
If you are going to build toward a Super Bowl in three seasons one has to consider players who might no longer be starter worth at an advanced age or who might now be with the team for cap reasons.
*Indicates are of concern - List arranged in order of concern for age.
Offensive Line: *Donald Penn will be 33 at this point and may well lose some of the lateral agility necessary for a LT. *Davin Joseph and *Carl Nicks will be 31 and 32. Age isn't the concern here, it's injury. On the other hand Jeremy Zuttah has always played better at guard than center. However, NFL centers take time to develop, there is a reason you see men playing the position and starting at nearly 40. It's the most cerebral position on the offensive line and second only to QB in terms of mental acuity needed. Taking a center who is "starter ready" is a very rare find and would require a 1st or 2nd round pick to be expended. Demar Dotson will be a low mileage 31 and either he or Penn could be the starting RT.
Wide Receiver: *Vincent Jackson will be 33 and on the downslope of his career at that point. This should be partially offset by Mike Williams (29) who should be ready to shoulder more of the load. A third and fourth receiving option need to be developed prior to this or a highly talented draft pick coming in that season to contribute.
Secondary: Dashon Goldson will be 32 and Darrelle Revis 31 both should be fine. We DO NOT want a rookie cornerback starting or in the nickel on a potential Super Bowl team, so preparing for more depth is paramount. Banks and Leonard Johnson should continue to develop but injury remains a concern. Beyond Mark Barron and Goldson we need some improved safety play.
Running Back: Doug Martin, if his carries are limited, should be quite capable. We need to continue to work in James and other backs to keep Martin's carries limited to around 300 for the season.
Backup QB: Mike Glennon will get a chance to develop some but Dan Orlovsky will be 33. Glennon could develop into a nice backup at that point.
Tight End: No one worthwhile but Tim Wright could be an interesting developmental receiving prospect.
Defensive Line: It's young, no concerns for age though see the cap situation later. However, both Gary Gibson and Derek Landri will need to be replaced right about that time.
Linebackers: Again no conern for age but cap size concerns see later.
Cap Hits & Payroll Concerns
To plan for three years (and beyond) you have to look at how we are currently structuring our payroll and realize not just what we are spending now but who will be looking for a big raise in that time frame so we can plan to make some tough choices. Releasing Freeman actually helps the Bucs a little on cap space, but it's certainly no panacea. All numbers on below charts are in millions and examines the 2016-2017 season cap numbers. We currently have 14 players under contract for that season. Another issue, it's for a whopping 70 million dollars. None of the contracts have guaranteed money at that point but if you look at which players it is you see some potential issues:
|Mike Williams||WR||$7.2M||Darrelle Revis||CB||$16M|
|Davin Joseph||G||$7M||Dashon Goldson||S||$8M|
|Vincent Jackson||WR||$12.2M||Michael Koenen||P||$3.25M|
|Carl Nicks||G||$10.1M||Johnthan Banks||CB||$1.3M|
|Demar Dotson||T||$1.75M||Akeem Spence||DT||$0.8M|
|Mike Glennon||QB||$0.99M||William Gholston||DE||$0.775M|
|Mike James||RB||$0.7M||Steven Means||DE||$0.72M|
Core players who will need a new contract before then and the estimate of fair market value. I see another 12 "core" players moving forward who will need to be resigned and my estimate of their far market value. This raises more concerns as these 10 players will require another $53 million to resign.
|Jeremy Zuttah||C/G||$4.25M||Gerald McCoy||DT||$12M|
|Doug Martin||RB||$6.7M||Mark Barron||S||$7M|
|Jeff Demps||RB||$0.59M||Lavonte David||OLB||$8M|
|Tim Wright||TE||$0.54M||Mason Foster||MLB||$5.5M|
Uh-oh Tampa We have a cap problem. By current projections the 2016-2017 NFL cap number should come in around $135 million. Tampa Bay would have just 11.234 million to sign 29 players. 29 players on 11 million is unworkable math, even if all were UDFA (assuming you cut everyone you draft between now and 2017) the salary number is $383K per player which is below the league minimum. Tampa Bay needs to find between $14 million on the low side and $27 million on the high side in cap space for that season to make those numbers work.
The easiest place to get it would be Darrelle Revis, cutting him would free 16 million and give you 27 million to sign 30 players which is actually a workable average. However given everything Tampa Bay has given up to get him, that's unlikely and wouldn't seem wise. However if "Revis Island' is not Revis Island by the end of the 2014-2015 season some renegotiation may be in order. Darrelle Revis might not like that and may walk an eventuality the team may have to prepare for if he doesn't live up to top billing. Either that or endure his cap crippling number
The "Best" option is sadly to release or renegotiate with 2 of the following five players: Carl Nicks, Davin Joseph, Dashon Goldson, Mason Foster, Adrian Clayborn.
If you've stayed with me this far thanks, please vote in the poll below. Shortly we'll conclude this blueprint series of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy with a way too early Mock Draft and conclusion on which players might be available to fill our current and future needs.