The New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks will compete for the right to call themselves Super Bowl champions on February 1, 2015. That Super Bowl, like the eleven previous editions, will not feature any current Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But plenty of former Bucs will get to display their talents in that game -- including a few crucial players for both teams.
The Bucs have made many, many mistakes over the past few years. And that includes letting quite a few talented players leave town, leaving the Bucs with nearly nothing to show for it. And some of those players are now crucial players for Super Bowl teams.
RB Legarrette Blount, Patriots
Blount has had a strange, strange career. He went undrafted out of Oregon, in part due to an on-field fight. When the Bucs picked him up off waivers after the preseason in 2010, he promptly turned in a 1,007-yard season in just 13 games and seven starts. While Blount was never a factor in the passing game and he couldn't carry an entire running game by himself, he was a useful player for a couple of years.
Until Greg Schiano stopped using him, and then traded him to the Patriots in 2013 for Jeff Demps (never contributed) and a seventh-round pick (used to trade up for Mike James). The Pats didn't retain his services initially, but Blount found himself on the streets after walking out on his team during a game -- and the Patriots then picked him up again.
Blount's since turned into the core of the Patriots' running game, and managed 148 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries in yesterday's game.
CB Darrelle Revis, Patriots
The Bucs trading for Revis has to be one of the biggest blunders in recent memory. The Bucs gave up a first-round pick and a fourth-round pick for a player they'd play $16 million to stay in town for exactly one year. And in that one season, Revis was never used to get the most out of his talents. Revis was a fancy Italian sports used to drive back and forth to the store. One the family had to sell when they found out they couldn't afford their shiny toy and all the stuff they actually needed.
The Pats then picked him up, paid him $12 million for this season, used him to tilt coverage to the other side. Revis is a centerpiece in New England's defense, rather than an afterthought.
TE Tim Wright, Patriots
The Bucs looked to have found a steal in Tim Wright in 2013. He put up 571 yards and five touchdowns as a receiving tight end -- all as an undrafted free agent. He was largely useless as a blocker, but Wright looked to be a very useful receiving tight end going forward, the kind of player you use to create matchup problems for any defense.
So naturally, the Bucs traded him to the Patriots for an aged starting lineman in Logan Mankins, someone who they're paying $6 million per year and who is clearly nearing the end of this career. Oh, and the Bucs gave up their fourth-round pick this year to make the trade work, too. Yay.
Wright hasn't been a massive part of the Patriots' offense, especially after Gronkowski returned from his injuries, but he's still been a useful player. He has no playoff catches, though, so we may not actually see him much in the Super Bowl.
DE/DT Michael Bennett, Seahawks
Hey, remember when the Bucs had a versatile young pass-rusher who could play both inside and outside? The kind of player who got better every year? One who they'd picked up off waivers, playerd well against both the pass and the run, put up nine sacks as a full-time starter in his contract year and who should've been re-signed to a long-term deal two years earlier?
Remember when they let him walk so they could start
Da'Quan Bowers Daniel Te'o-Nesheim instead?
That guy is now starting for the Seattle Seahawks and has been one of the most important defensive linemen on that team. He plays inside and outside for Seattle, has 15.5 sacks over the past two years for them and is now heading to his second Super Bowl. I don't think he regrets leaving Tampa.
Of all the huge mistakes Mark Dominik made, letting Bennett walk was probably the most obvious one.
LB Jonathan Casillas
Slated to be the starting strongside linebacker, the Bucs traded him to the Patriots at the trade deadline for a trade up in this year's draft: from the sixth round to the fifth round. Casillas had lost his starting job to Danny Lansanah, was barely playing and the Bucs really didn't need him anymore. He's now just a special teamer in New England, so I guess this deal worked out for everyone.