The Bucs formally introduced their first four signings of free agency to the media today. Here is a quick list of takeaways from that press conference:
Lovie, quite clearly, is going to be a big factor in attracting free agents. All four signings talked about the allure of working with Coach Smith and the wider coaching staff, with Brandon Myers in particular citing a conversation he had with Lovie as selling him on the Bucs. While Michael Johnson, for all his words, could have merely been following the money, it's the contracts of Myers, Clinton McDonald and Alterraun Verner that really show Lovie's magentism and desirability as a coach to play under. Coming off a successful season with the Super Bowl-winning Seahawks, Clinton McDonald could have potentially made more than $3 million a year, or signed for a team with a less-entrenched starter at 3-tech. Instead, McDonald chose to come to a team where he knows the only way he'll start is if Gerald McCoy is hurt. Verner, meanwhile, took a deal significantly lower than the market price that was at the time established by Sam Shields and Vontae Davis, and which has subsequently been shored up by Aqib Talib's deal last night. People don't take less money, or less desirable situations, for no reason, especially not with teams who have had just one winning season in the past five years and may potentially infect you with MRSA. That's the difference having as well-respected a coach as Lovie can make.
Speaking of McDonald, he's going to be used in all kinds of ways. Lovie said in the presser that he'll play some 1-tech, but will slide over to 3-tech in nickel packages, and could be lined up anywhere along the line. Being able to switch between your base defense and your third-down package without having to change your on-field personnel, at least as far as the DL is concerned, would be incredibly useful indeed, especially with the increasing use of the no-huddle in the NFL. McDonald's versatility makes him seem like a real steal.
Elsewhere on the defensive line, Lovie made it clear that Michael Johnson is the starting right defensive end. This means that Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers, both in their final year, will have to compete against each other (not to mention William Gholston and anyone else the Bucs bring in) for the starting left end spot in order to make a case to receive a second contract from the team. With Johnson's ability to rush the passer and play the run, McDonald's comfort at both 1-tech and 3-tech positions, and Gerald McCoy just being as beastly as he is, it appears that the premium is on defensive line players who don't need to come off the field. Expect that to be the key attribute in whoever emerges as the starting LDE.
Lovie Smith was incredibly generous in calling Brandon Myers a TE who can block as well as catch. It's a nice thought, but not really held up by the game film; still, it indicates that a true two-way-threat at TE is what Smith, or Tedford, is after. That may not bode well for Tim Wright, who despite being the best receiving threat out of the tight end spot the Bucs have had since Kellen Winslow's 2009 and 2010 campaigns, may find himself a casualty of the new scheme. We'll have to see on that one.
When talking about constructing his defense, Lovie mentioned building from the front to the back, but made special mention in the same sentence of Verner's ball skills. It's clear that Lovie Smith is really going to be placing a premium on generating turnovers (even if it was already clear since Smith stated as much in his first press conference as Buccaneer Head Coach), although to be fair it's an area where the Bucs did have some success last season. Verner will be expected to play man, zone and against the run equally well, which, to be fair, is no real surprise.
The other takeaway I had from the press conference is that Jason Licht said he didn't want the team to be 'pigeonholed' entering the draft. With Lovie Smith declaring Josh McCown the Bucs' starting QB, there aren't arguably many more holes to be filled beyond interior offensive line, so it's pretty much mission accomplished on that front for Licht & Co.
Finally, here's the list of the newest Buccaneers' jersey numbers, and the Bucs player who last wore them:
Michael Johnson, #90 (formerly worn by Derek Landri)
Alterraun Verner, #21 (formerly worn by Michael Adams)
Clinton McDonald, #98 (formerly worn by Aaron Morgan back in 2012)
Brandon Myers, #82 (formerly worn by Nate Byham)