It’s been a little over 24 hours since the new league year began and the Buccaneers have started building the roster for the 2018 season. With re-signing some of their own, adding kicker Chandler Catanzaro and defensive tackle Beau Allen, the team still has a very long road towards improving the roster that led them to a 5-11 record a season ago.
Many fans went to bed last night hoping to wake up to a big signing of Ryan Jensen or an out of left field move such as Suh signing, neither of which came to fruition. Jensen has since boarded a flight to Indianapolis leaving the team with a patchwork offensive line at the moment. Brent Grimes was re-signed, potentially leaving E.J. Gaines chances of being a realistic target another Buccaneer fan pipe dream. What can we say about the first 24 hours of free agency for this Buccaneer team?
For now, the word I would use is “calculated.” The team signed Beau Allen who played a role in helping lead the Eagles to the Super Bowl this past season. Allen is a run-stuffer and gap filler that given his contract, would seem to be Gerald McCoy’s running mate inside. Is Allen a game changer? Far from it, but he’s a necessary player that will hopefully outperform recently released Chris Baker who seemingly lacked the effort and ability to perform up to standards. Allen’s will to work has never been questioned which should definitely play into the Bucs favor up front.
The team also went out and signed kicker Chandler Catanzaro who is known for his big leg, knocking in long kicks of 60 and 57 yards the last two seasons. Catanzaro’s accuracy has dropped off the last two seasons after making nearly 90% of his kicks in years one and two. The Buccaneers kicking game has been abysmal, worst in the league the last several years collectively and thus needed a change. Catanzaro should see some competition in camp but given his deal, is expected to essentially be handed the job.
Let’s circle back to Ryan Jensen who is on his way to Indy as I type. This signing, or lack thereof, may be the tell tale story of the free agency period pre-draft for the Bucs. All isn’t lost if Jensen doesn’t sign with Tampa Bay, but it definitely dims the lights a good bit.
Rumors are floating about that Tampa may have interest in recently released Miami Dolphin center, Mike Pouncey. The team showing interest in Pouncey as well may tip their hand a bit as to how they ultimately feel about the overall offensive line and Ali Marpet at the center of it. Potentially targeting two good centers means the team is very open to moving Marpet back to his drafted position of guard.
This potential “plan” should bring a smile to Bucs fans as its one of the few actual signs of having a plan the team has shown recently. With the re-signing of some arguably “mediocre” players and no new faces on defense or offense outside of Allen, many fans are growing tired of the wait and see approach.
The ultimate question fans need to be asking today is this, what is the cost of winning? For myself, an avid Bucs fan, the struggle with building for the future while still suffering in the now is a tough one. Mortgaging the long term salary cap for short term on-field success (a crap-shoot) is something that the team has tried to do and thanks to some great contract work by Mike Greenberg, the team has been able to avoid any sort of salary cap struggles.
With recent issues in regards to free agent signings, shying away from big cap numbers makes sense on the surface. Below the surface is where questions should begin to rise. Gerald McCoy is not getting any younger, neither is Grimes who is back on a one year deal nor is defensive end Robert Ayers. The time may be now to solidify the offensive line by ponying up and paying Ryan Jensen. Allow Marpet to move to guard and be great. Draft defensive players and get some pass rush, get younger on that side of the ball and go to work.
The time to win is now while Winston is on his rookie deal. Win now and pay the young talent next off-season and keep on building for the future. It’s time for the front office, coaches and players to go all in on turning this team around.
The clock is ticking and without some moves, a few individuals or more will be getting thrown off the ship after this season.