The 2015 Buccaneers season ended with plenty of questions surrounding the roster. Every player with the exception of a few have concerns whether it’s their play, contract or roster status.
TheBayCave.com will briefly look at the concerns of some of those players.
Note: This was altered to reflect the firing of head coach Lovie Smith.
RB Doug Martin – It has been reported that the team is in contract talks with Martin on staying put. That’s great news, on paper. Although he finished his (contract) year with more rushing yards (1,402) than in the previous two seasons combined, Martin has had some misfortunes due to injuries. But that is no knock on him, just some unfortunate circumstances. Their decision to challenge him by not exercising his fifth-year option worked as he seemed determined to prove the team wrong and it worked for both sides.
What they should do: Re-sign him. But not to a crazy contract.
WR Vincent Jackson – There is uncertainty regarding Jackson’s future. As he turns 33 years old next week, Jackson finished the season on injured reserve. Both offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter
and head coach Lovie Smith let it be known that they he hopes Jackson returns. The veteran receiver is due to make nearly $10-million in 2016 and many feel they should bring him back with a pay cut. But the importance of Jackson in the offense for a young quarterback and receiver was proven when he was — and wasn’t — on the field.
What they should do: Pay the man.
C Evan Smith – At 29 years old, center Evan Smith may have already played his best football. Smith — who was highly talked about by his former teammate Aaron Rodgers — always had some kind of lapses in his plays. From missing blocks to being turned around last year in Detroit and see Josh McCown get pummeled to slow shotgun snaps this season, Smith has been a forgotten man since being replaced by Joe Hawley. However, Smith saw some playing time at guard and was serviceable. The veteran linemen is signed through 2017 and if Logan Mankins goes through with his thoughts on retirement, it would be wise to keep Smith around.
What they should do: Keep him.
- Keep Cameron Brate around. Force him and Austin Seferian-Jenkins into a battle for the starting role. Brate was successful enough and deserves that chance.
- I still do not know what may happen at right tackle. Demar Dotson may have already sealed his fate not attending practices while trying to get a new deal last summer and his replacement Gosder Cherilus was good enough. Cherilus’ hustle down the field was a place but overall not very much to be excited about.
- As the roster stands, I think the wide receiver group would be good with Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans, Louis Murphy, Kenny Bell and Adam Humphries. I do see an addition or two here but ultimately these five should be just right for Winston.
DT Gerald McCoy – Look, before the McCoy mob has a fit, read this through. No I am not suggesting the Bucs go out and replace him. But something is going on. Aside from injuries and the torn rotator cuff he claimed to have but his now former coach downplayed, McCoy is not “great’ nor “elite” and there has been much debate about his caliber of play among media and the fans. This season has been an odd one. In training camp he was easily manhandled by rookie guard Ali Marpet and was one of the lowest graded players throughout the season according to the staff (defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier confirmed that during a press conference for one week). McCoy is due nearly $13-million in 2016. If he’s still not productive enough to match his salary this upcoming season, it may be time to consider options.
What they should do: Give him a year.
CB Johnthan Banks – Former head coach Lovie Smith had some kind of issue with the former second round pick that Banks rarely saw the field. The 2014 leader in interceptions appeared to be in the dog house for all of 2015. Banks has the talent to play but not in Smith’s eyes. Now with a new head coach set to come in, perhaps Banks could see the field again.
What they should do: Keep him.
DE Jacquies Smith – Smith has been inconsistently serviceable since general manager Jason Licht’s staff uncovered him off of Buffalo’s practice squad last season. Smith recorded 13.5 sacks in 18 games started for the Bucs. During McCoy’s 2014 campaign, Smith contributed greatly to McCoy’s sacks. Of McCoy’s 8.5 sacks, Smith assisted in four of them forcing the quarterback to move back up into the back right into McCoy. But injuries played a number on Smith this season and it’s hard to determine what the time is getting in him. He’s scheduled to become a free agent. (UPDATE: Spoke with Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times and he pointed out Smith is an exclusive rights free agent which I did not specify. The team can offer him the the three-year veteran minimum and he would have to take it.)
What they should do: Toss up.
- The cornerback unit is a mess. Aside from Banks (who was mishandled) and Sterling Moore, who should be brought back, no one played well enough to warrant a return to the team and that includes Alterraun Verner.
- Safety Ketih Tandy came on late and may have a shot at returning if he decides not to test free agency. Veteran Chris Conte showed up for a few game but only signed a one-year deal and he is unlikely to stick around. Bradley McDougald might return and Major Wright may join Conte on the way out.
- The team was hurting without defensive tackle Clinton McDonald. The defensive pass rush will be better with his return.
- Linebacker Bruce Carter filled in admirably for the suspended Kwon Alexander. Not sure who the coach will be next season but if they can find a way to have Carter, Alexander and Lavonte David out on the field at the same time, that would probably be best.