With the NFL’s trading deadline fast approaching, the Buccaneers have reportedly been fielding phone calls about the possibility of unloading some of their talent. At 1-5, it’s not surprising that teams are poking around the Bucs’ roster. Not that NFL teams ever really hold a fire sale like we’ve occasionally seen in other leagues, but Tampa Bay does have a lot to think about before next Tuesday …
1. Are they still in the playoff hunt? For a team that’s lost five of it’s first six games, including two by over 30-points, it’s pretty hard to believe that the answer to that question remains, “Yes.” The NFC South has been brutal this season. The Bucs are only two-games behind Carolina, and with winnable games coming up against the Vikings, Browns, Falcons and Redskins, Tampa Bay has a chance to get right back into the thick of the race over the next four weeks.
2. Do they have anything of value? Remember, the Bucs were a last-second touchdown pass in Pittsburgh away from standing shouder-to-shoulder with the Oakland Raiders as the NFL’s only winless team. Yet, when you look at the Bucs’ personnel, there are some pieces that would fetch a good return. Obviously, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy’s name comes to mind first. Why would Tampa Bay entertain the thought of moving an All-Pro in the prime of his career? Because his contract is up at the end of this season and he’ll be looking for something in the $15-20 million per season range. Are the Bucs willing to pay that when they could fill multiple holes with that kind of money? Lavonte David still doesn’t cost a whole lot – and he’s a couple of years away from a new deal – but if some team was willing to overpay for the third-year linebacker the Bucs would have to at least listen, right? He’s the least likely to go, but holds tremendous value and remember: to get something of value, you have to give up something of value. The likely suspect – and someone that has generated interest from other teams – is 31-year old wide receiver Vincent Jackson. After this season, he has two-years left on his contract that will pay him nearly $10-million per year. That’s awfully steep for a team that needs to get younger and faster. Neither of which Jackson will be by next season’s trading deadline.
3. What is Tampa Bay’s biggest need? Do they need players? The jury is still out on the Bucs’ free agent pickups this off-season, but Michael Johnson, Anthony Collins and Evan Deatrich-Smith have been less-than-outstanding, while Alterraun Verner is playing on the worst defense in the NFL. So I’m a little leary in the front office’s ability to fix personnel problems through free agency. What about cap space? No team wants to be pushed to the cap ceiling, but the Bucs are reportedly right in the middle of the league pack and currently have nearly $7-million to work with. So is it draft picks? Tampa Bay is thin at just about every position on the field. So you’d have to think that they would be asking for draft picks at every opportunity. And remember, the Bucs gave up a fourth-round pick along with Tim Wright to land Patriots guard Logan Mankins and would love to recoup that.
I don’t envy Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht. He has to decide the future of this team, while at the same time trying to keep them focused on the present. If he makes a move he’ll be scrutinized, yet if he doesn’t he’ll be second-guessed. The Bucs aren’t roadkill – yet – but the vultures are definitely circling.