As the summer approaches, we get closer and closer to kickoff for a new season of football. With that, we start to see signs of the new season popping up here and there. One of those signs came Monday morning, when Greg Auman of The Athletic tweeted that the 2018 player murals outside of Raymond James Stadium have been taken down.
Last year’s Bucs player murals at Raymond James Stadium (Evans, Brate, McCoy, David) have been taken down. What four players would you have up there this fall? Reply and we’ll tally your votes ...— Greg Auman (@gregauman) May 20, 2019
With this tweet (and follow-up tweets from Auman), I started kicking some names around for who should be represented outside of Raymond James Stadium this fall. Considering I love this kind of stuff (and my first article for Bucs Nation last July was on this topic), I figured we could dive into that conversation here. For the sake of this conversation, I’m going with one guy on each corner of the stadium, rather than having multiple guys on one side, as we’ve seen at times in the past. These are my picks for the 2019 stadium murals:
This is the most obvious pick of the four. Mike Evans is already the best receiver in franchise history, and he still has some more records to break. He’s the go-to guy on offense, leading the way for a receiving corps that can still be very good this year without DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries. On top of that, I think Evans’ work in the community is often overlooked. He does excellent work through his foundation, setting a fantastic example for the kids he works with. Simply put, Evans is a face of the franchise type. Considering he is signed with Tampa Bay through 2023, that isn’t likely to change any time soon. He should remain a staple for these stadium murals for the foreseeable future.
On the defensive side of the ball, the most obvious choice for one of the murals is Lavonte David. Especially with the release of Gerald McCoy, David is the last guy on the Tampa Bay defense that is well-established. He isn’t known to be a vocal leader, but he doesn’t have to be. The veteran linebacker leads by example, which is plenty effective. There’s a lot of youth on his side of the ball, and he’s the guy to lead the way for them going forward. Truthfully, I’d love to see a mural that includes both David and No. 5 overall pick Devin White. They could do something very cool with that. But I don’t see the franchise putting White on the stadium before he plays a professional game. So, sticking with the idea of having one guy per mural, I’m going with David. There’s no better choice to represent the Buccaneer defense.
The Bucs decided against promoting Jameis Winston at the beginning of the 2018 season due to his impending three-game suspension to start the year. He was left off the stadium murals and absent from the promotional videos. But at this point, Winston has served his suspension and, by all accounts, has stayed out of trouble off the field since. His play, while inconsistent, is still marketable for the Bucs, especially with the talented weapons at his disposal. Plus, the hiring of Bruce Arians has rejuvenated hope that Winston can be the franchise quarterback going forward. Whether he will be here for the long haul remains to be seen. I’m willing to believe he will get another contract. But regardless, for 2019, Winston is one of the stars/faces of this team. Ali Marpet, O.J. Howard or maybe even Chris Godwin could be potential picks as well, but it just makes sense to have Winston be the second offensive player on a mural in addition to Mike Evans.
This is where things get tricky. Keeping things even, I wanted to do two offensive players and two defensive guys. But there just isn’t much star power on the defense, is there? If Jason Pierre-Paul was healthy, he’d make plenty of sense as the other defensive player. In 2018, Pierre-Paul was the first Buc to reach double-digit sacks since 2005. Plus, he’s a local guy. He played his college ball in the very same stadium that the Bucs call home, having spent those years with USF. But with Pierre-Paul’s status pretty up in the air, I’m looking elsewhere for a second defensive guy. Where I’m looking is right in the middle of the defensive line — the spot occupied by Vita Vea. The 2018 first-rounder isn’t well-established, but he came on strong toward the end of his rookie year. He could very well be one of the key guys on the Tampa Bay defense in 2019 and beyond. He’s young and marketable. Vea would be my other defensive pick this year.
What do you say, Bucs fans? Let’s talk about it.