Bucs could target Mario Manningham


With former New York Giants wide receivers and quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan now the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator, expect the Bucs to at least show some interest in former New York Giants players. Among them will be unrestricted free agent wide receiver Mario Manningham who is now known for his game-changing catch on the left sideline in the Giants Super Bowl victory this year.

The Tampa Bay Bucs do not have the best group of receivers in the league and could definitely stand to add another weapon. Manningham outperformed every Bucs receiver last season in WPA and EPA, and he would be the No.2 receiver to Mike Williams. Preston Parker is a young player who deserves more snaps, and Dezmon Briscoe is better than most think, but neither of them are in the class of Manningham. He would be an immediate upgrade at the position and would be a useful target for Josh Freeman.

Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan would love to bring in a familiar face from New York, and Manningham’s ability to fill a hole for the Bucs is also a huge plus.

The Pro Football Focus grades players and is the best football site on the web, but they do not grade Mario Manningham favorably for his performance last season. He was given a -6.1 grade in 606 snaps, mainly because he is not the most reliable player. Eli Manning had a completion percentage of just 52.5% when throwing it at Manningham, which was the lowest total among players on the team last season. He is a well below average route runner, and Bill Belichick was correct in deciding to sacrifice coverage on Manningham to cover two far better receivers in Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. Manningham made the play, but he should not be overrated for one moment, no matter how game-changing it was.

Mario Manningham may have made many misplays, but he also goes deep on a little over 45% of his routes, which means that his catch rate is deflated. He averages about 7.2 yards per target, which would have been the third highest total on the Bucs last year. However, it should be noted that yards per target favors deep threats, and the two players who had higher YPT totals (Parker and Briscoe) went deep on significantly less snaps. Then again, that is negated, because players with more targets also receive a penalty in YPT.

On a team with an average receiving corps, Mario Manningham would ideally be a No. 3 receiver. He is capable of making a game-changing play, as seen in the Super Bowl, but he is an inconsistent player who costs his quarterback with poor route-running.

The Bucs did not attack the field deep, because Freeman became complacent and stopped targeting receivers downfield. Mike Williams is a good deep threat, but he was not utilized properly last season.

At first glance, it seems like Mario Manningham is a great fit with the Bucs, but that isn’t true. He does have a link to the team’s offensive coordinator, but Freeman needs a consistent, veteran receiver who can be a No. 2 option. Manningham wouldn’t necessarily be a bad signing, but the Bucs could definitely do a lot better with the cap space that is available to them. Mario Manningham is a mediocre receiver, but he is overrated and would digress with a younger quarterback. Freeman needs to continue to develop and will be a top quarterback, but he needs better receivers around him who can help him ease into a high-level bounce back season.

Two targets who the Tampa Bay Bucs need to take a long look at are New Orleans Saints wide receivers Marques Colston and Robert Meachem. While it is unlikely that the Bucs are able to sign Colston, his consistency and overall excellence is tantalizing. Meachem is actually better than Manningham and is more suited for the Bucs offense, because he is among the most consistent receivers in the league. He would slot in nicely behind Williams and rarely ever drops a pass. He will never be the guy to reel off 1,200 receiving yards and set the world ablaze, but he is the kind of solid 50-catch guy who doesn’t make mistakes and is a valuable safety outage for a young quarterback. If Reggie Wayne is available, then the Bucs should take a two-year flier on the consistent veteran who will provide a lot of stability for Freeman. If the Bucs want to go cheaper and get a veteran possession receiver, then expect them to call up Jerricho Cotchery and talk about a one-year contract. Although, it is more likely that Cotchery ends up re-signing with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Mario Manningham may seem like the young deep threat to go after, but he could contribute to more interceptions and mistakes for Freeman on a whole. The Bucs should go after Meachem and Wayne, because they would both be great fits next to Williams and the wild card combo of Parker and Briscoe. This offense needs stable receivers who can help out their young quarterback, because Manningham is simply far too inconsistent. He is an overpay candidate because of his exposure, and he is an overrated player overall. Manningham is a mediocre receiver at this point, and he might actually be worse on a team like the Bucs; his struggles will be magnified without Eli. Freeman is a talented quarterback, but nobody will be comparing him to Eli yet.

You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.

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