Bucs’ roster will look different next season

by Gary Shelton on March 13, 2019 · 4 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Jackson never clicked with the Bucs../JEFFREY S. KING

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

Rule No. 1: A bad football team should rarely fall in love with its players. If they were better, the team wouldn't be so bad.

Keep that in mind as you say goodbye to Kwon.

And to Humph.

And to Banger.

And, thankfully, to DeSean.

On the verge of the NFL's free agency season, the Bucs took a major step toward reinventing its roster Tuesday. It watched as  fan favorites Kwon

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Bucs will miss Humphries./CARMEN MANDATO

Alexander and Adam Humphries left for millions in free agency, then traded DeSean Jackson and his perpetual pout to Philadelphia for, well, the right not to have him anymore.

It was a series of decisions that are sure to be unpopular with a lot of fans.

Except for this.

The Bucs are not good. Keep repeating that to yourself.

They have won 10 games in the last two seasons. They have had two winning seasons in their last 10. They have been dead last in the NFC South seven years out of eight. They haven't had a playoff season in 11 years. They haven't had a season in which they won a playoff game in 17 seasons.

So what did you expect them to do? Keep everyone?

Look, changes are eventual in the NFL. Teams keep tweaking their rosters and throwing mega-millions at other team's players. So it's prudent for a team to let go of some of its own, including the popular players.

Start with Humphries. The world loves Humphries, and you can't blame it. He is the anti-Jackson. He squeezes every ounce of his ability out of his  body, and you felt good whenever the ball was headed his way. He caught 76 passes last year 816 yards. But $36 million over four years? That's a lot of money for a team that is stressed with its salary cap.

Then there is Alexander. He was a player who was more popular than his ability said he should be and, as such, it's hard to blame the Bucs for not paying him the $13.5 million a year that San Francisco offered. Alexander was prone to miss a lot of tackles along the way. He's a likable player, and if money had nothing to do with it, you'd like him back. But not at that coin.

(Hint: With Alexander gone, the Bucs should look harder at LSU linebacker Devin White as a draftee).

Then there is Bryan Anger, who spent a couple of years as a big weapon for the Bucs. But he was scheduled to make $3 million next year, a lofty price for a punter who was 32nd in the league (26th in net) among punters last year. Instead, the Bucs planned to sign ex-49er Bradley Pinion.

Finally, everyone should wave toward the airport as a symbol that Jackson is gone. Now, set your timers as to just how long it will be before he's fed up in Philly, too. The guy is always in a bad mood. But around here, a lot of people liked that Jackson was unhappy with Jameis Winston because, well, it's a popular stance. But as time went on, and Jackson kept whining and dropping passes, it just became stale. The Bucs basically traded him so they wouldn't have to pay him. In short, he was one of the team's most disappointing free agents ... and they've had a few.

Here's a line from Phil Domowitch of the Philadelphia Daily News: "Of all the fast guys in all the world, why did they want this guy back?"

Domo points out this, too: "Wentz and the Eagles thrive on situational football. But that’s not Jackson’s thing. He’s never been much of a third-down factor. He hasn’t had more than 11 third-down catches in a season since, well, since his last year with the Eagles in ‘13. He’s been virtually invisible in the red zone most of his career. He had zero red-zone receptions last year with the Bucs. He has just 12 career red-zone touchdowns, only four in the last five years. And we’ll have to see how much he helps the Eagles vertically. He had just eight catches of 25 or more yards last season. You know who else had eight? Nelson Agholor."

The Bucs also re-signed backup quarterback Ryan Griffin, former Arizona linebacker Deone Bucannon and former Cleveland Brown Breshad Perriman.

Oh, without Humphries and Jackson, the Bucs are suddenly thin at receiver. They'll probably pick up a guy or two in free agency.

Like all moves, this one isn't just about what you thought of the players. It's also what you thought of the coaches. If you trust Bruce Arians, you have to trust that he thought he could find another receiver (football's most replaceable part). If you trust Todd Bowles, you have to trust what he thought of Alexander's tape.

Then there is Jason Licht. Was he right to let Alexander and Humphries go and keep Gerald McCoy (reports say) and Donovan Smith? We'll see. It's his career.

But there is an old rule in football: If players play bad enough for the old coach to get fired, they aren't good enough for the new coach to break the bank for.

10 Free Agents to Forget

1. Alvin Harper, 1995: Harper was the Bucs' first dream of a big-play receiver. He had been an impact player for Dallas, averaging 20 yards a catch. But Harper was one-dimensional, if that, and averaged just 13.8 yards per reception and caught less than half of his targeted passes. Trainers cut off the tip of his finger, and he was gone after two seasons.

2. Anthony Collins, 2014: Collins was perhaps the worst mistake -- and biggest waste of cash -- in the Lovie Smith era. He signed a five-year, $30 million contract and was gone after 10 games. No one else signed him.

3. Darrell Russell, 2004: One of the major disagreements between former coach Jon Gruden and former general manager Rich McKay, Russell never played a game for Tampa Bay. Gruden recruited him in 2004, but the team cut him four months later before training camp began. He was twice suspended for drug-related offenses.

4. Chris Baker, 2017: The Bucs thought they had stolen a player from Washington when they signed the big defensive tackle. They were the ones who were robbed. Baker lasted only one year, and his teammates hated his attitude.

5. Todd Steussie, 2004: The Bucs signed Steussie at a time they couldn't find the money for Warren Sapp. The Bucs signed him to a six year contract; he lasted one.

6. Derrick Ward, 2009: Ward had gained 1,000 yards with the Giants one season earlier, but he fizzled with the Bucs. He started just one game and averaged just 3.6 yards per carry.

7. Michael Johnson, 2014: Another Lovie signee who lasted just one year. Johnson had four sacks, but most of them looked like mistakes where the quarterback ran into him.

8. DeSean Jackson, 2017: The numbers weren't as bad as it seemed. Jackson caught 91 passes in his 23 starts. But he was chronically unhappy, and it spread to a very bad locker room. Some will always suspect he tanked; he caught just one pass after Week 11 last year.

9. J.R. Sweezy, 2017: He lasted one year here, and his reputation for being a tough guy was just a rumor.

10. Anthony Munoz, 1993: Munoz may have been the best tackle ever to play in the NFL, but he flopped with the Bucs. He was signed to protect the team against a holdout by Paul Gruber. In preseason, however, his career ended with a shoulder injury.

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