Last year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had money to spend. So, they opened up their checkbooks and made a couple big splashes, signing players like offensive tackle Anthony Collins, cornerback Alterraun Verner, quarterback Josh McCown and defensive end Michael Johnson, to some expensive deals. One year later, three of the four aforementioned guys are no longer on the team.
The Buccaneers took the “big spender” approach in 2014 and it backfired. So, why would they take a dip in that same pool for a second straight offseason? Maybe the fans think Jason Licht and Lovie Smith should’ve believed in the “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” logic, but that type of thinking can easily get a GM and head coach fired. So far, the Bucs have signed a grand total of three free agents this year, spending $9.5 million of their $30+ million in cap space.
Two of those signings, Chris Conte and Henry Melton, played for Lovie when he was with the Chicago Bears while Bruce Carter has played under Tampa 2 expert Monte Kiffin and former Bucs coach Rod Marinelli. These were safe bets. Smith and Licht know what they’re getting in those three players. They know the Tampa 2 scheme. They were cheap, with Conte and Melton signing one-year deals. Basically, it was the polar opposite of what they did last year.
Buccaneers fans were spoiled in 2014. After seeing what has become of Collins, Johnson and McCown, the fans would obviously beg to differ. But, in 2013, Tampa Bay made one big signing, not trade…signing by inking Dashon Goldson. If you are a small or mid-market team, persuading at least one big-name player to sign on the dotted line with a lucrative contract is huge news. Last year, the Bucs landed what they believed to be as many as six big-name players.
Aside from defensive tackle Clinton McDonald and Verner, the Buccaneers’ approach failed. The organization took a chance and this offseason, they’re probably still having nightmares about those bad decisions. Even though the money is there to spend, Smith and Licht cannot make the same mistake twice. Another string of bad signings and their jobs are probably in jeopardy. How do you counteract that possibility? Play it safe. That is exactly what they have done so far.
Going forward, maybe they toss a reasonably-priced contract at center/guard Stefen Wisniewski? Maybe they take a chance on low risk, high reward, tackle Jake Long? Maybe they bring back a familiar face in defensive end George Selvie? The Buccaneers will continue to look through free agency to address their needs for a pass rusher and offensive linemen, but the few remaining options are going to be on the cheap side. I’m not saying this is the wrong approach, but we should’ve at least seen this coming.
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