Earlier today word came that the Buccaneers promising young tight end, Luke Stocker, had a right hip strain and will miss at least a week of practice. That may be all the injury is, and he could be back out at practice soon and none of this will be an issue. But I trust Rick Stroud when he says the Bucs are concerned about this injury. It could be something more, the team wouldn’t have had a chance to give Stocker an MRI as of this afternoon so “right hip injury/strain” is as explicit as the team is going to be on the injury for the moment.
Either way though, the Bucs can look at the loss of Stocker (short or long-term) and realize that they could use a little more help at tight end. Aside from Stocker the team has the oft-injured Kellen Winslow, rookie Daniel Hardy and beyond that, little else to rely on. If Stocker is gone the Bucs tight ends will be about as effective as last year, which is to say beyond Winslow there will be room for improvement. Even with their rookies healthy the Bucs don’t have many proven players at the position.
The Bucs should really kick the tires on Todd Heap, who was released by Baltimore this week. Right now Heap is still in contact with the Ravens, but at 31 years old, with some good football left ahead of him, he would probably be willing to start somewhere new instead of waiting by the phone to see if the team that cut him wants him back for less. Heap would make an immediate impact in Tampa, he would improve the Bucs run game, their passing attack and give Josh Freeman another reliable target to check down to. Todd Heap would be a great fit for the Bucs.
Heap is 6’5, 247 lbs and very consistent. He doesn’t miss a ton of time with injuries, he’s underrated as a blocking tight end and he’s very effective in the passing game, and not just in the flats. In Heap, the Bucs would find a legitimate second tight end who isn’t a downgrade should Kellen Winslow miss time again this season (which unfortunately, is likely). In fact, Heap would give Winslow an opportunity to stay healthier by sparing him from some of the blocking assignments he would normally have and allowing him to focus more on his abilities as a receiver.
Imagine what teams would have to do when Tampa lines up in a two tight end set with Heap and Winslow, and then Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams on the outside. Who do you double team there? What NFL defensive coordinator wants to leave Heap or Winslow one-on-one with a linebacker? But if you move a safety over or shift coverage the Bucs can beat you outside with two talented receivers. That’s a pass-defense nightmare that could be a reality in Tampa.
Todd Heap would be an upgrade as a blocker, he would make two tight end sets more effective in the passing game and he would instantly make the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a better football team.
The Bucs should really consider taking a long look at adding Todd Heap.