Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Thrift Shop: Is One Teams’ Trash the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Come Up?


Okay, okay. I know you’ve probably heard the song a million times by now. Even Captain Fear and the Buccaneers’ PR team put together a video of the mascot “performing” it. But there might be something we can learn from this overused, overplayed, overdone song.

The song in question is of course “Thrift Shop” by Mackelmore and Ryan Lewis. In case you’re one of the lucky few to avoid the radio for the past few months, the song is about a young man who, instead of buying high priced fashion clothes, goes to the thrift store to get ready for a night out at the club. The rapper’s point is that his style is able to shine through, even if he’s wearing the cheapest of cheap clothes, and that he stands out due to his ability to wear cheap clothes other people have thrown away.

So what can the Buccaneers, and Bucs fans, take from this ridiculous song? Let’s take a couple lines from the song and apply them to this offseason.

“I’m gonna pop some tags, only got 20 dollars in my pocket.”

A lot of fans have spoken out this offseason, concerned that the Buccaneers aren’t using their large amount of salary cap space. Mark Dominik came into the offseason with one of the biggest wads of cash in his pocket, and has so far only put a dent into that by signing Dashon Goldson, while releasing Qunicy Black. So there’s plenty of money to spend, yet we see teams with less cap space making deals every day. Even the salary cap hell-dwelling Baltimore Ravens have signed multiple players this offseason. Why haven’t the Buccaneers spent any of their cap space yet? It’s because Mark Dominik isn’t subscribing to the Macklemore theory of building an NFL team.

Nov 4, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Donnie Avery (11) catches a pass against Miami Dolphins cornerback Sean Smith (24) during the game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

“They be like, ‘Oh that Gucci, that’s hella tight.’ I’m like ‘Yo, that’s fifty dollars for a t-shirt.’”

This is more like the Buccaneers’ philosophy this offseason. Other teams are signing cornerbacks with question marks for 3-4 year deals. Other teams are signing pass rushers to various contracts after they fell out with their previous teams. But as I’ve stated here before, most free agents become free agents because they’re not valuable any longer to their previous team. Many Bucs fans and Pewter Plank readers really wanted Sean Smith and Elvis Dumervil. We’ve discussed the risks of Sean Smith previously, and his scary first downs allowed numbers for 2012, and Dumervil was a much stronger fit in a 3-4 defense. These concerns weren’t enough to stop fans from wanting to drop their proverbial 50 dollars on these Gucci T-shirt free agents. Just like Gucci is a name in the fashion world, Smith and Dumervil were names in the free agent market. And with a huge stack of cash sitting around at One Buc Place, Bucs faithful assume that Mark Dominik is either afraid to spend, or under a spending limit from ownership, or just flat out ignorant. But the truth is that Mark Dominik has failed to see any players worthy of dropping a multi-million dollar contract on. This team is in the process of building up a solid core on defense, with great young players at every level who are still growing into their own. Dominik doesn’t want to simply throw cash at the problem again (He learned his lesson from Eric Wright) and will instead wait for the right opportunities to present themselves. Dashon Goldson was a player he had been pursuing for almost a year, and he got a deal done with a player he believes will have a huge impact on the franchise for years to come. But as for everyone else…

“One man’s trash, that’s another man’s come-up!”

Dec 30, 2012; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams (94) chases New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez (6) during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Bills beat the Jets 28-9. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The remaining free agents on the market this offseason were the leftovers from teams that were looking to go in another direction. Sean Smith is leaving a team that needs cornerbacks, Mike Wallace is leaving a team that needs wideouts, and Dominique-Rodgers Cromartie was leaving a team that needed a ton of help at defensive back. The names listed above are well known, and all three players are potentially going to have good careers with their new teams. But for a franchise that has spent more time at the top of the draft than the top of the standings, Mark Dominik isn’t going to just keep trying to throw cap space at the problem. Picking up the leftovers from other teams has never been a successful strategy. Many people will point to the free agents who helped the 2002 team win it all. Simeon Rice was obviously a huge addition, but we have to all agree that the keys to that run were the homegrown talents all over the defense. Free agency is supposed to be the watch that completes the outfit, not the pants and shirt to cover up what needs to remain unseen. We’ve referenced this article earlier, but Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com took a look back at the biggest free agency spenders over the past few years, and the results are startling. In case you don’t want to take a look at the article, here are the “winners” of free agency over the past two years.

  • 2012: Buffalo Bills – Signed Mario Williams, Mark Anderson, and re-signed Stevie Johnson. How did that work out? They fired their coach and are still left searching for answers on offense and defense.
  • 2011: Philadelphia Eagles – Signed “The Dream Team”. This is the perfect cautionary tale. The Eagles thought they had brought in a perfect combination of talent, but instead they had brought in players who all seemed to be on the decline at the same time. Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin and others came in to put the team over the top, but instead cost the franchise piles of cash and their long-time head coach.

Feb 3, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) after their game against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

So how are successful franchises built? By bringing in the players they need years in advance, by drafting well and developing talent in house. Consider the Ravens in 2012, who were led by Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, and Joe Flacco, who were draft picks for the organization, and Anquan Boldin who was acquired by trade. The defense was almost exclusively players drafted by the Ravens’ front office, or signed as undrafted free agents. I won’t bore you by breaking down every other Super Bowl team in recent history, but just think to yourself about the best players on the Super Bowl teams over the past few seasons. You’ll notice a trend.

This is why the Bucs are so hesitant to make a deal with the New York Jets for Darrelle Revis, because giving up draft picks could hamstring the future. Just like the draft picks given up for Keyshawn Johnson and Jon Gruden would eventually haunt the 2000′s Buccaneers, the 2010′s Bucs would be worse off by giving up too many draft picks in trades. So as the offseason wears on, Mark Dominik has some big decisions to make. But one thing is for sure…

He’s not searching through other teams’ trash to find treasure. He’s going to build the team using players he truly respects and covets. We’ll find out soon if he has an eye for talent, because he’s going all in on his ability to build through the draft. And if he does decide to trade for Revis, he’ll need to be particularly efficient in his use of the draft picks he’s left with. Otherwise, he’ll be left with a team that looks more like a thrift shop than a top-of-the-line boutique.

Tags: Free Agency Tampa Bay Buccaneers