By their normal standards, the Buccaneers front office has had a very busy offseason. It has also been abnormally aggressive. The centerpiece of the offseason was the surrender of a first-round draft pick to the New York Jets for shutdown CB Darrelle Revis. Revis should instantly upgrade the Bucs secondary that was dreadful last year, pending his fully regaining his health, which the Bucs coaches and front office are on the record as believing.
The Revis trade was not just about the Bucs’ play on the field. It was about injecting excitement into a fan base that has not had much lately. Over the past couple of seasons the Bucs’ attendance has lagged, leading to speculations that the franchise is ripe to be moved. In reality, the Bucs’ low payroll and lack of star power has kept fans out of the seats – they feel that the team is not committed to winning. The naming of Greg Schiano, a relatively unknown college coach with a mediocre record, inspired no one. The move to get Revis needs to be understood as a statement from Bucs’ management that winning matters and that stars matter.
Less splashy and lost by all but the most hardcore followers were other moves in free agency and in trades. The Bucs made an aggressive move to bring in safety Dashon Goldson from a 49ers team that had just lost the Super Bowl. They made a small play for TE Tom Crabtree from the Packers, and a bevy of other under-the-radar free agents. These were not PR moves, but football moves. They fit what has become GM Mark Dominik’s MO these days – take small chances on young players who still have a lot of years left. The latest such move, trading a sixth-round pick to the Bears for Gabe Carimi speaks volumes – the Bears lost faith in Carimi when he could not nail down the full-time starting job in the Windy City, where he had been drafted very high and paid a lot to protect Jay Cutler’s blindside. For the record, Dominik’s track record in the sixth round is horrible – only backup DB Keith Tandy is with the team after being drafted by Dominik in this position. Carimi brings almost no risk, just like WR Kevin Ogletree and DT Derek Landri and will provide depth. At this point, it is doubtful he will turn into anything more than a serviceable backup.
Are the Bucs a better football team after this offseason? It seems hard to argue that they aren’t. Revis and Goldson are major upgrades. The loss of DE Michael Bennett will hurt, but he is replaceable and is hurt anyway. Ronde Barber takes a lot with him into retirement – a locker room presence, leadership, and character that cannot be replaced. If, by some stretch, Carimi turns into a better than average starter, this offseason will probably be remembered as one of the Bucs’ best. But we won’t know for sure until the players hit the field this fall.