On September 16th, which was week two of the NFL season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sat at 2-0 after beating the New Orleans Saints on the road and the Philadelphia Eagles at Home. It seems like a lifetime ago, but that actually happened. These Tampa Bay Buccaneers were 2-0 at one point. What an anomaly that was.
The saints haven’t lost since and the Eagles haven’t been what everyone thought they would following their super bowl victory. Nonetheless, it was still an impressive two wins for then starter Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Buccaneers, but since then Tampa Bay has shown their true colors of years past and boy oh boy is it ugly.
So where do the Buccaneers go from here? I’m glad you asked.
Well, first things first, Dirk Koetter needs to be relieved of his job. The Cleveland Browns saw no real change midway through their season and fired Hue Jackson, and the Buccaneers should do the same. What else is there to see over the final 6 games of the season? The ship isn’t going to do a 180, the Buccaneers aren’t going to win out, heck, the Buccaneers might lose out.
The team has dropped six of their last seven games and things are spiraling out of control. Someone different is calling the plays every week, whether it be Todd Monken, or Dirk Koetter. The fan base has no clue every Monday who the quarterback is going to be on Sunday. The defense is on pace to be the worst defense in NFL history. The offense is turning the ball over at an all-time rate, while the defense hasn’t forced a turnover since Week 3. Yup, that’s right, it’s been almost two full months since the Buccaneers defense has taken the ball away.
For the better part of two years now, Dirk Koetter has waisted talented football teams. Sure Jason Licht has whiffed on players here and there, but he has done more than enough to surround Dirk Koetter and this coaching staff with talent. I give Koetter a pass for that first year because he was a rookie head coach in the National Football League, that’s no easy task, but the last two years are on him, plain and simple.
Not everything is his fault, but a good majority of it is and the problems that have plagued this team for the last two years aren’t getting fixed and seem to be only getting worse and that falls directly on Koetters shoulders.
When the Buccaneers sat at 3-5, Koetter had a chance to save himself with games against the injured Redskins and a bad Giants team to get back to .500, but both resulted in losses in typical Buccaneer fashion and all but sealed Koetter’s fate as the head coach.
As I mentioned before, Koetter isn’t the only problem with this team. This defense needs a complete overhaul, and by overhaul, I mean pretty much everyone outside of 4-5 players need to go. It’s that bad. The only players, who to me are completely untouchable on the defensive side of the ball, are Jason Pierre-Paul, Carlton Davis, Lavonte David, Justin Evans and Carl Nassib. You can add Kwon Alexander into the mix, but who knows what his health will be come 2019.
The Buccaneers need to start from scratch on the defensive side of the ball. Whomever the GM is next season, I can guarantee that drastic changes will be made. The Buccaneers have the highest paid defensive line in the league and outside of Jason Pierre-Paul and Carl Nassib, every single player has under-performed. They are 19th in the league with 25 sacks, but JPP and Nassib have combined for 14 of those sacks. The defensive line has a crew full of run stoppers in a pass happy league. This, of course comes back to Mike Smith’s philosophy of stopping the run as their first priority instead of containing the high octane offenses in the NFC South.
The one consistent thing that the Buccaneers do well is manage the salary cap, which allows them to move in different directions with players, even if it’s only after one year.
As of right now, the Buccaneers have close to $16 million dollars available to spend next off-season, but that number will likely be closer to $25 million if the NFL continues to increase the salary cap.
The Buccaneers can free up extra cap space by making these five moves.
1. Cut or trade Gerald McCoy and save $13 million dollars. Look, McCoy has been a great player for this organization for many years, but it’s time to move on, for both sides. He hasn’t looked himself for the majority of the last two seasons and is turning 31 years old in February. He has even said himself that his knees are starting to bother him and that he only has a few more years left. To me, this is a no brainer and the team could spend $13 million in better places.
2. Cut Vinny Curry and save $8 million dollars. Curry has simply been a huge disappointment for Tampa Bay this season. He is battling ankle issues, but in the games where he has been healthy, I’ve hardly noticed him. He will also be 31 years old next season and an $8 million dollar cap hit for someone who doesn’t consistently get to the quarterback is far too much.
3. Cut William Gholston and save $3.75 million. No excusing Jason Licht for this one, it was a terrible move. What more can you say? In a day and age where defensive lineman need to be able to rush the passer, 1 sack in the last year and a half is simply unacceptable.
4. Cut Mitch Unrein and save $3.75 million. He has yet to play a game for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and has been in the concussion protocol since early August. You honestly have to wonder if he will ever play football again at this point, but the team can spend that money elsewhere, maybe to help their putrid offensive line.
5. Cut DeSean Jackson and save $10 million dollars. Jackson just isn’t fitting in with the Buccaneers and the experiment is turning into a disaster. It seems like everytime he is targeted the ball gets intercepted. Maybe the new regime will want to keep him and find better ways to get him the ball, but I just don’t see it. The Buccaneers have the weapons to replace Jackson’s production as a team. He will also be 32 years old next season and one has to wonder when father time will cut into his big play ability.
Those five moves would free up an additional $38.5 million dollars for Tampa Bay, which would put them at around $64.5 million dollars in available cap space. I could also see them moving on from Cameron Brate, who has been a lost cause this season. This move would free up an additional $7 million dollars.
Outside of Koetter and the defensive issues, there is another glaring issue for this football team, and that’s the offensive line. It’s simply atrocious. I get that Koetter has his vertical scheme and this offensive line is asked to do a lot, but my god every play the quarterback is under pressure way too often.
The Caleb Benenoch experiment has been a failure and he continues to prove that week by week. The Buccaneers will need to find a solution at left guard next season. Whether it be Alex Cappa, who has yet to dress for an NFL game or an outside option, a change needs to happen. Demar Dotson is a shell of his former self and has gotten beat way too many times this season, but is due a modest $4.85 million next season, so it wouldn’t shock me to see him get one more year, simply because there may not be a better option out there.
Ryan Jensen, who is the highest paid center in the NFL, is currently playing like a top 20 center, not a top 5. Ali Marpet is fantastic and the Buccaneers are fortunate to have locked him up for the long haul before he got to FA. The last remaining player is Donovan Smith, and the Buccaneers will face a tough decision on what to do with the former Nittany Lion. Smith, is in his fourth year and is having an up and down season in a contract year. Sometimes the effort is there, other times it is not and you wonder what the hell he is doing. He is still way to inconsistent, which is why it’s going to be extremely difficult to pay him the money he wants. It wouldn’t shock me to see the Buccaneers move on and look towards the draft for his replacement.
So to recap, that’s four of five positions on the offensive line that are either under-performing or are way too inconsistent. That’s simply too many and an issue that must be fixed by the new regime that takes over.
We didn’t dive deep into the Jameis Winston debate in this article, but that’s due to the fact that the next six weeks will likely decide whether or not the team picks up his fifth year option.
It is going to be an interesting next few months inside the walls of One Buc Place, but in order for this franchise to be turned around, three things must happen. Hire a competent, well rounded coaching staff that will help develop Jameis Winston and adapt to his style of play, fix the defense in nearly every way outside of a few players and retool at least two offensive line positions this off-season.
It’ll be a fun one, folks. At least we get to look forward to another off-season of changes.