Per Pat Yasinkas of ESPN.com, whereas Tanard Jackson would find himself a free agent in the event an NFL season does occur in the 2011 normally, because of his year-long suspension, the Bucs will retain the rights to Jackson’s contract for another season. Jackson was suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policy two weeks into the season.
So far this year the Bucs have been non-committal on Jackson’s future. Raheem Morris offered his best wishes at the time of the suspension, but that sentiment seemed to be reserved for a more personal purpose and wasn’t coming from a football perspective. Mark Dominik has remained fairly tight-lipped on the situation as well. A big part of that is in all likelihood because the Bucs cannot have any contact with Jackson while he is suspended.
Last year the Bucs made due with Corey Lynch and Cody Grimm, both performed serviceably with Grimm appearing to really grow into the role before ultimately missing the rest of the year with an injury. Safety is going to be a pain for the Bucs going into the draft because of the uncertainty circling the position. It’s possible Jackson could return and perform at a high level in 2011, it’s also possible he could report out of shape and never make it on to the field. The Bucs absolutely cannot rely on having Jackson be a part of their plans in 2011, if he is it’s a nice bonus but he shouldn’t be the plan.
A large part of that is just because the Bucs can’t trust him yet, they may never be able to again. I don’t make judgment on what he’s gone through because I can’t empathize. But I have had friends deal with drug habits and addictions and it’s not something I would wish on anyone. I think it’s fairly cavalier to chalk it up to him just being of low intelligence or bad character. For a guy to make a decision to risk an NFL livelihood to abuse a substance there’s a deeper problem there.
That aside though, this is the second time this has happened so from an organizational standpoint the Bucs have to be careful. Most times teams will just cut a player upon his reinstatement. There’s no telling if the Bucs would do that, but look for them to move on a safety in the mid-rounds of the draft as a contingency for Cody Grimm (who should be healthy by training camp). Unfortunately with the Bucs other needs unless a stalwart safety falls into their laps in the draft or wants to come sign in Tampa, the Bucs will likely spend their top draft picks on help for their front seven.
This, of course, may all be moot if there isn’t a new CBA in place with in a month.