What the End of the Lockout Means to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers


As we speak there are currently a group of NFL cap-ologists learning the in’s and out’s of the league’s new ten year CBA. Despite the fact teams may begin talking to free agents as early as tonight, a veritable education on the new league labor laws is required before anyone can truly begin to make competent signings. That’s a big part of why no transaction can go final until Friday, the league needs to figure out the economic specifics beforehand.

But that doesn’t mean the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ front office isn’t extremely busy tonight. That doesn’t mean Mark Dominik and crew didn’t kiss their families goodbye earlier today with the understanding that they were about to be occupied with work the point of neglect over the next few weeks. Every team has a lot to do now, the Buccaneers are no different.

The NFL lockout is over and now the time to sit around is done too. Teams are already beginning to contact undrafted rookie free agents. With room for 90 players on their camp rosters expect a complete free-for-all on undrafted players. In addition to signing undrafted players, teams have to re-sign their own guys and begin to formulate plans for unrestricted free agents as well. Then there’s the issue of staging training camp without having had OTA’s to install offensive and defensive packages before this point. The point is… the Bucs have a lot of work to do. Let’s take a look at the next few weeks…

Undrafted Players

Mark Dominik is a king when it comes to finding diamonds in the rough. Last year was a banner year for finding gems after the draft, Dominik managed to nab Preston Parker right after the final rounds and then picked Ted Larsen, LeGarrette Blount and Dezmon Briscoe off other teams’ scrap heaps.

This year look for Dominik to be just as active, though don’t look for the real diamonds to come until after camp. What gets lost so often is that Dominik, for all his ability to scout players, made his best moves after camp was concluding last season. LeGarrette Blount had a spell in Tennessee before arriving at One Buc Place, Ted Larsen was drafted by the Pats and Marvin Lewis is still irritated the Bucs signed Briscoe off the Bengals’ practice squad.

Mark Dominik will undoubtedly find some undrafted guys to come in and compete, but his real skill comes with watching the fringe players other teams have in camp and deciding who can make an impact in Tampa. Whereas most sites are busy telling you that right now, with the signing of undrafted players, is when Dominik is at his best, the truth is he find the best players after the last round of cuts.

Re-Signings

Now we finally get answers on Barrett Ruud and Davin Joseph. We’ll have a more thorough write-up on Buccaneers free agents tomorrow morning, but for now we’ll gloss over the issue. Ruud and Joseph are the two most high-profile free agents the Bucs have and both could be back, but only one seems overly likely to be.

I just don’t see the Bucs re-signing Barrett Ruud to a long-term deal. He may be back this season, with the lockout and the delays to free agency it may make the best sense career-wise for Ruud to hunker down in Tampa for another year and play for a big 2012 payday, but I don’t see the Bucs committing long-term money to the talented linebacker out of Nebraska. Ruud is a solid player who always manages to meet his responsibilities but he’s not flashy and for the money he’ll likely demand, the Bucs may be better off letting Mason Foster develop.

Davin Joseph I believe will be back, the Bucs know what they have in the guard out of Oklahoma and it’s worth hanging on to. I don’t completely agree with some of the more high-end projections on contract figures, frankly I think that we’ll be looking at 3-4 year deal worth upward of 30 mil, but I could be wrong (and often am). Either way, I see Joseph being brought back to start with Jeremy Trueblood getting a contract to return in a reserve role. I just don’t think Ruud stays long-term.

Free Agency

The Bucs will need to spend money in order to get up to the cap floor. There’s a number of ways to do this, though overpaying should not be one. Many believe that the Bucs will just toss top-dollar at a few free agents to get up to the salary threshold and just be done. The most common name linked to this argument is Nnamdi Asomugha. Don’t look for the Bucs to sign Asomugha. It just doesn’t fit, despite being elite, Nnamdi will be 30 next year and few players stay on top of their game once they get into their mid-30′s, which Asomugha would hit in Tampa.

Instead look for Tampa to spend mid-dollar amounts on second tier free agents and leave themselves room to maneuver and sign their own players long-term, down the road. I would be shocked if Tampa ends up paying anyone some exorbitant amount next season, don’t look for the Bucs to be big players, look for them to be smart players in free agency. Mark Dominik didn’t get the Bucs roster to where it is right now by being splashy, he did it by being smart and finding the right combination of talent and economics.

We’ll have a full write-up on potential free agents tomorrow. Look for it.

Training Camp

As you’ve read, training camp begins on Friday, with the Buccaneers holding several open practice dates before their first preseason game. Training camp will be more important for Tampa than almost any other team in football. Fortunately, the Bucs have very few offensive rookies so their offensive installation shouldn’t be a hugh issue to the young players, but the defense is going to need to get as much good work in as they possibly can before September.

Guys like Adrian Clayborn, DaQuan Bowers and Ahmad Black have little to go on besides some player-to-player tutelage during the Bucs unofficial players minicamp at IMG in Bradenton last month. That’s bad news for a rookie.  And while that’s still better than most rookies have, it’s behind the curve when it comes to how much work most players have already gotten at this point in their first NFL season.

The Bucs have a ton of work to do, it all starts tomorrow morning. Is anyone else in football heaven right now?

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