Tuesday, March 06, 2007

NFL Hot Stove: What are the Bucs Doing? Edition

It's now a foregone conclusion that the NFL is the most popular sport on the planet (excluding that silly soccer of course) because this year the league's winter signing period has overshadowed spring training baseball, stretch-run NHL hockey & NBA basketball and so far even March Madness as far as headline-grabbing fan interest goes.

Of the many teams making multiple, roster-altering moves (New England, Denver, San Fran...) none have made as many mind-boggling alterations than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The sheer ridiculousness (word?) of the deals would make it appear as if the comedy act known as Chucky & Brucie is actually trying to get themselves fired so they can sit back for a year, get paid, and eye their next cushy head coach/GM gig. Because they way the Bucs braintrust have botched this free agency period has many in the Bay Area questioning not only the football business acumen of the duo, but their sanity as well.

How has Chuckie and Brucie (mis)managed to debilitate an already disastrously constructed team in just four days time? Let me count the ways:

1.) Traded for a quarterback who didn't want to play here
When word leaked out that the Bucs were trading for Jake Plummer, many in the Bay Area screamed "why? He's old, unpredictable, and has never been able to win a big game (no, I'm not counting the 2006 playoff game against New England- the Pats lost that one.) Then when Plummer announced he would retire rather than play anywhere other than Denver, everyone exhaled, thinking Tampa Bay had avoided making a big mistake.

But wait. A day later the teams announced the trade had been revised to make it a deal for Plummer's rights for a conditional draft pick, the condition being Denver would get a pick if Plummer suits up with the Bucs. Say what? Why would they even bother to trade for a guy who doesn't want to play? To trade his rights later, perhaps. But is it really worth the gamesmanship when you consider the pressing needs the team has right now, quarterback NOT being one of them?

Then, to make matters worse...

2.)...they signed a 37-year-old midget QB to compete with Chris Simms
Nothing like a little healthy QB competition, right Chucky? Way to stick with one direction, dude. I thought Simms was the man for the near future and beyond that Gradkowski was your boy, but you just dropped him for your old West Coast buddy Jeff Garcia, huh? Ah these romances never, last do they?

3.) Let defensive end Dewayne White leave
Saddled with high expectations ever since the sack king left Louisville a year early and was selected 64th by Tampa Bay in the 2003 draft, DE Dewayne White never realized his potential with the Bucs. In four seasons the speedy pass rusher amassed 111 tackles, 14 sacks and 5 forced fumbles; not exactly eye-popping stats, yet White was always stuck behind guys like Simeon Rice and Greg Spires on the depth chart, Pro Bowlers who weren't ready to cede their position to the new kid.

So when former Tampa D-line coach and current Detroit head man Rod Marinelli saw the opportunity to grab White, he did so. Now White is reunited with two of his earliest mentors, Marinelli and former Bucs linebackers coach Joe Barry, who is now Detroit's defensive coordinator, and the fit looks like a match made in heaven. White should blossom in Marinelli & Barry's defense, and Barry is thrilled to be getting a young, hungry defensive stud:

“We needed a guy – a speed guy,” said Barry. “We needed to upgrade the speed; the edge of our defense. Quite frankly, we put a premium on pass rush. To run this system, to run this scheme, we’ve got to be able to rush the passer – bottom line. We put a premium on that and Dewayne White – he brings an element of speed and pass rush to us.”

Translated: White is ready to explode with a double-digit sack season, and the Bucs will rue the day they let him slip away for monetary reasons, especially when...

4.)...they answer by signing aging veteran Kevin Carter to a 4-year deal
Don't get me wrong, Carter is one of the greatest, most durable pass rushers of the last 20 years, as his 97.5 career sacks (4th among active players) can attest to. But the 12-year vet is definitely on the downside of his career; of his 4 double-digit sack seasons, 3 of them came in a row (1998-2000) and he hasn't had one since 2002, when he had exactly 10.

But I thought the Bucs were trying to go younger, especially on the lines? Why let White go only to sign the 34-year-old Carter for nearly the same money you could've paid the 27-year-old?

That's almost as messed up as...

5.)...signing 30-year-old Luke Petitgout coming off an injury-marred season
If the 9-year vet out of Notre Dame can stay healthy then his versatility (he can play both guard and/or tackle) and leadership will be great assets to a team that is very young along the O-line. But if the injuries start to pile up following the stress-fracture in his leg last season that caused him to miss 7 games, then this signing could go down as another Derrick Deese/Todd Steussie-type debacle.

There's a few things off the top of my head that are causing local talk show callers to flip out and giving the local media fodder to speculate how a man who was perceived to be a "football genius" when he arrived can resemble a colossal clueless clown right now.

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