It’s hard to out-guess the Bucs these days

by Gary Shelton on March 16, 2022

in general

Jensen to anchor the new Bucs' line./TIM WIRT

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

Pity the poor NFL "expert." Which is, actually, a lofty sounding title for a guy who does a lot of guessing in his three-times-a-day mock drafts.

The Bucs must be driving those clowns batty.

One day, a lot of mockers are suggesting that the Bucs might take a quarterback if they were unable to trade for Deshaun Watson. The next day, Tom Brady unretires, and job applications are no longer being considered.

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Then the Bucs have a hole at offensive guard, which leads to a lot of speculation about Zion Johnson of Boston College in the draft. Whoops. Turns out, the Bucs traded for New England guard Shaq Mason, a guy who has deserved some Pro Bowl memtions in recent years (though he's ever made it).

No to be cowed, the guessing game continued. After Antonio Brown melted down last year, there was a lot of linkage between the Bucs and Alabama draft prospect Jameson Williams. Uh, nope. The Bucx agreed to terms with Atlanta free agent Russell Gage.

So does anyone want to guess running back? Tight end? Defensive tackle? Safety?

In other words, it's hard to outguess Bucs' general manager Jason Licht, a man who believes in reloading more than rebuilding. Licht is a step ahead of the guessers. (He's also tagged Chris Godwin, re-signed Ryan Jensen, re-signed Carlton Davis and re-signed Aaron Stinnie).

In a way, you have to feel sorry for the guessers. Their job is simple. You take a guy who other guessers have suggested will go in that general area, and you find a need, and you connect the dots. Then you brag about your "research."

And a team like the Bucs keeps wrecking your game-card.

It's hard not to like both acquisitions of the Bucs. Mason graded out as the fourth-best guard in the league last year by Pro Football Focus, for whatever that matters. And his cost is mostly money; it only took a fifth-rounder to get him.

Gage? He's younger than Brown, faster than Brown, and most of all, saner than Brown. Playing with Brady gives him a shot at a 1,000-yard season this year.

This is an example of not letting the draft (or free agency) come to you. This is going out and addressing the holes in your roster. This is aggressive football on the front-office level.

Granted, the Bucs may still draft an offensive lineman in the first round. The point is they don't have to draft an offensive lineman. Or a safety or a running back or a receiver. That's the point.

Sure, there are holes. Jerome Whitehead left the Bucs Tuesday. He sold his chance to win football games to get money from the Jets. At least Alex Cappa, who is jumping to Cincinnati, is going to a team that has a shot at winning.

So the search goes on for Licht, who must:

  1. Find a tight end: Reports suggest the Bucs are close to bringing back Rob Gronkowski, which makes sense with his connection to Tom Brady. It wouldn't be surprising to see the Bucs pick a tight end in the third or fourth round.

2. Convince someone to run the ball. Both Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones are free agents, but no one seems to be beating the door down for either. Fournette was pretty good -- not great -- for the Bucs last year. He could return, or the Bucs could find a back they love in the first o second round.

3. Replace Whitehead: A lot of mockers always link the Bucs with a corner, but if they like Davis, Jemel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting better than I do, they might lean harder toward a safety..

4. Make a decision on Ndamukong Suh. The Bucs could use another defensive tackle, a position where the average player grows old in a hurry. If not, don't be shocked if that's the way the Bucs go in the draft.

5. Think about an edge rusher. True, the Bucs just drafted Joe Tryon-Shoyinka last year. But Jason Pierre-Paul is inching up in years, and's expensive if you aren't sold on his health. If his shoulder is okay, Pierre-Paul is worth betting on.

6. Draft a guard anyway. One thing Licht has done in the past is double-dip. He can bring in a free agent, yet draft a guy at the same position. That could happen again.

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