As the Bucs move towards the 2011 season (whenever that finally starts), their front four will be amongst the youngest units in the league. That’s part of why the Bucs hired two defensive line coaches (Grady Stretz and Keith Millard), it’s also why I expect the Bucs to be in the market for a veteran defensive end to mentor their young line. I’ve already opined that the Bucs need to bring back Stylez G. White, but I think they may also want to look at another veteran to come in and help the rookies as well.
Back in February the Jets released Jason Taylor along with three other veterans, at the time many expected Taylor to retire, he has instead publicly stated a desire to play one more season. Despite the fact Jason Taylor is on the decline (he is, no doubt about it), he would still be a tremendous asset to a team like the Bucs. Aside from being the active sack leader and 8th all time, Taylor can still contribute as a role player and has a well-deserved reputation amongst NFL circles as a high-character leader. Jason Taylor is the type of player who immediately commands the respect of younger players based just on his impressive Hall of Fame-worthy exploits on the field. But he’s also the type of player who likes to take the time to mentor young guys too. Case in point, he worked with Cameron Wake in his last year with Miami, teaching Wake to become a more complete player and to utilize a more diverse repertoire of moves when rushing the passer. Last season, after Taylor’s departure Cam Wake was named an All-Pro and went to his first Pro Bowl with 14 sacks as Taylor’s replacement.
Now, what was one of the biggest knocks on both Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers coming out of college? One of them was the lack of a pass rushing repertoire that consisted of more than a bull-rush and a lot of natural ability. Scouting reports on both of the Bucs two top picks said that they would need to develop actual technique in the NFL to reach their potential. Who better to help them with that than a once-undersized 6’6 former basketball player who had to develop that kind of repertoire just to see the field?
Jason Taylor doesn’t get to a quarterback by bull-rushing. He gets there because he uses his quickness and tremendous technique to literally embarrass bigger, stronger, opposing tackles. He was never a slam-dunk type of prospect. He didn’t come highly heralded. He was a third round pick out of Akron who had to work his tail off with veteran mentors of his own like Trace Armstrong to reach his potential. If anyone in the NFL is suited to mentor a couple of talented rookies on developing pass-rush moves (in addition to a superstar work ethic), it’s Jason Taylor. And from a Bucs fan’s standpoint, wouldn’t you like Bowers and Clayborn to have Hall of Fame technique taught to them by a Hall of Fame player?
I don’t think it would be a tough sell either, the Bucs are a team on the rise, something Taylor wants in a new squad. But more importantly, Taylor is a family man and wants to be close to his wife and children in Miami. Tampa, is a lot closer than New York and runs a defense more suited to Taylor’s abilities. Jason Taylor is not a 3-4 OLB, he’s a 4-3 defensive end. He’s athletic enough that he was able to play the position but the Bucs D is far better suited to Taylor’s strengths than the Jets or even his old team, the Dolphins.
He’d come cheap too. Two years ago he gave the Dolphins the hometown discount and came back to Miami for the veteran minimum. Last year he signed a two year deal, but if you read between the lines the deal was one year with a 2.5 million dollar base and a lot of incentives. The point being he’s not asking top dollar at this point in his career, he just wants to win. He’s got a wealth of information to pass on to young players. And he can still get to a quarterback in a passing situation.
Paging Jason Taylor, you’re wanted in Tampa.