Don’t Draft A Quarterback
I don’t have any problem with the Bucs wanting to bring in another QB to motivate Josh Freeman. But I don’t think they should waste a draft pick on one. There’s been a lot of talk about Florida State’s EJ Manual, and how he draws comparisons to Freeman. If we’ve seen anything in the Mark Dominik era, it’s that he knows how to draft players.
Why waste what could be a potential find of a pick on a QB the Bucs really don’t need? It’s not fair to the organization, and it’s not fair to EJ Manual, who might have the opportunity to try for a starting job someplace else (crazier things have happened.) Bottom line-Josh Freeman is the quarterback of the future for this team. The front office only wants to bring in another QB to push him, and make him actually compete for his job.
Since he was drafted, Freeman knew the starting job was his, and he’s never had to fight for it. He’s gone to training camp every season knowing he was safe. Now, there is the potential this year that someone could actually be challenging him for his job (although not very likely.) But if the Bucs are going in that direction, they should sign a veteran free agent.
For starters, the veteran will have something that Freeman and a rookie QB don’t have: experience. They may not have a lot, but they’ve probably learned a thing or two holding a clipboard on the sidelines behind a good, or even great QB. Bring in a new quarterback to push Freeman. Make him feel the pressure, and maybe he’ll have a career year (a repeat of last year, minus a large chunk of those interceptions.) Just don’t waste a draft pick on someone you know you’ll be paying to sit on the bench.
Bring Back Dallas Clark
Obviously this depends on if Clark wants to come back, but if he does, the Bucs should embrace him with open arms. While not dynamic this season, (435 yards, 4 TD’s,) he was fourth on the team in receptions and third in touchdowns. But most of all, he is a veteran presence for Josh Freeman to go to. The first 9 seasons of his career he was catching passes from Peyton Manning. The guy knows a thing or two. He’s not a big play receiver, but he’s reliable. If Freeman needs to find someone to dump it off to, Clark is usually his go to guy. Who could forget the game-winning touchdown catch in overtime against the Panthers in Week 11 to seal the improbable comeback?
Reliability is often overlooked in this game in favor of the “big game” receivers. Freeman has Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, but there is nothing wrong with having a player who’s been there, done that. Especially when he’s learned from the best.
Improve The Secondary-Draft A Cornerback
Need much else be said? You thought Notre Dame’s offense looked bad in the BCS National Championship Game? That was only a small sample size of 60 minutes. What we saw with the Bucs lasted a whole season. The once promising corner Aqib Talib was traded because he spent more time on the Reserved/Suspended list than he did the active roster. The other corner, Eric Wright, looked like a good pick up in free agency. He too, was too busy breaking the rules to make an impact.
He’s probably played his last game with the Bucs. The secondary was abysmal. They allowed 30 passing touchdowns throughout the season, as opposed to only 13 via the run. They only allowed their opponents 3.5 yards per carry, but 7.9 yards per pass. Basically, teams knew that if they threw it against the Bucs, they were almost guaranteed a first down.
The defensive front looks promising. Gerald McCoy is coming off a career year. When healthy, Da’Quan Bowers and Adrian Clayborn can be a force. Michael Bennett has been a revelation. But who are we looking at in the secondary for next year? E.J. Biggers? Ahmad Black? We can always depend on the leader of the defense, Ronde Barber, but there is no guarantee he’ll be back next year. If some quality corners can be added to the roster, coupled with young, promising safeties, and a good defensive line, you’re looking at a potential Top 5 defense in a few years. The Bucs just need somebody who can defend a pass.
Don’t Give Josh Freeman A Contract Extension
I know this might sound harsh, especially since I was just singing his praises earlier. But hear me out on this one. We already know that the Bucs won’t give Freeman a contract extension until after the 2013-14 season. That has been established. While a bit insulted at first, I now don’t feel it’s such a bad idea. I’ll give you one good reason why the Bucs should make Freeman play through the end of his contract: Joe Flacco.
The Ravens made him play out the final year of his contract. He had no certainty of the future. So what did he do? He played out of his mind, and led the Ravens to a Super Bowl Championship.
No, he didn’t put up MVP numbers in the regular season, but in the playoffs, he threw for a record 11 touchdowns, with 0 interceptions. He was lights out (no pun intended). As he said, he wanted to “stick it” to the team owner for not giving him a new contract. He stuck it to him alright, and now he’s going to be rewarded with a big, fat, juicy contract, and he knows he’s safe in Baltimore. As mentioned before, the Bucs are trying to light a fire under Freeman by bringing in competition in training camp. But what better way to motivate him than to make him play with uncertainty in his future?
Maybe he’ll develop the Flacco mentality and want to stick it to the owner. Now the Super Bowl is probably not in the cards for the Bucs this season, but there’s no doubt he could put up big numbers and lead the Bucs to the playoffs. If he’s playing to save his job, and playing for pride, he’s going to play as flawlessly as he possibly can. Add a little bit of competition, and throw in job instability, and you get one big chip on the shoulder. Maybe that chip on his shoulder will soon translate to the ultimate goal: a Super Bowl Championship.