Should The Bucs Go After A Wide Receiver?

Anyone that calls themselves a Bucs fan knows that the biggest need this offseason is on the defense. But I just can’t help but look at the free agent wide receiver class that’s about to hit the market and get a little intrigued. There are definitely some quality options.

Dwayne Bowe

I feel bad for Dwayne Bowe. So much talent has gone to waste in his 6 seasons in the league. Actually, let me rephrase that. All that talent has not been utilized properly. Bowe is one great wide receiver. He just happened to fall to the Kansas City Chiefs, right when they fell into a seemingly never-ending downward slump. When he’s had guys like Damon Huard (who?) and Brady Quinn throwing him the ball, you can understand the lost potential. Bowe’s best season came in 2010-11, when he had 1,162 yards and 15 receiving touchdowns, including 7 straight games with a receiving touchdown. It was his first (and so far only) Pro Bowl season. This guy just has too much talent to let it waste away. Sorry Chiefs fans, but his potential is wasting away, at least until you find a decent quarterback. Seeing as how Bowe is a free agent, and the Chiefs aren’t looking to make an immediate jump at changing signal callers, there’s no way he sticks around. There will be plenty of suitors, and I can bet that he wants to go to a contender. The Chiefs have been rebuilding since he got there, and will be rebuilding for a while longer. That being said, Bowe would be an excellent fit in Tampa. A combination of Jackson and Bowe, plus Mike Williams, would really give Josh Freeman some serious weapons. I don’t know the type of contract he’s demanding, but the Bucs have plenty of money to spend this year. They have $30.1 million available in cap space, and no wide receiver will demand that.

Greg Jennings

Greg Jennings has been a fun player to watch during his time in the league. He’s the kind of wide receiver you root for, the “non diva” type, who keeps their mouth shut and plays the role they’re asked to play. Jennings had the luxury to break into this league with some guy named Brett Favre under center. In his time in Green Bay, Jennings has caught Favre’s 400th career touchdown pass, his 420th touchdown pass (tying him with Dan Marino for most all time), his 421st career touchdown pass, which set a new NFL record, and then would eventually catch Aaron Rodgers first career touchdown pass. He also scored two touchdowns in Super Bowl XLV. This guy has been special to the Packers, twice hauling in 12 touchdowns in a season. 2012 was what you could call a lost year, as he was bitten by the injury bug. He still managed to play in 8 games, averaging 10.2 yards per catch. The guy is a player, but he’s always had the benefit of playing with a top-notch quarterback. Like him or not, Brett Favre is one of the greatest quarterback’s ever. Aaron Rodgers is already in the elite status, and could find himself in Canton one day. Jennings has never known what it’s like to play for anything less than elite. There’s been a lot of speculation (including right here at ProFootballCentral) that he will wind up in Miami, reuniting himself with Dolphins head coach and his former offensive coordinator Joe Philbin. The Dolphins were less than spectacular this season, but finished with a respectable 7-9 record. But if Jennings does head south, he’ll be playing with a second year QB in Ryan Tannehill. While the Texas A&M product shows promise, he’s a long way from being elite. If Jennings were to join the Dolphins, you know he would be the go to receiver, making him an easy target for double coverage. The Packers wouldn’t miss him, as they seem to have a stable of receivers just hanging around, waiting for their chance. Jennings would be a nice complement to Vincent Jackson, teaming up on the outside, maybe sliding Mike Williams into the slot position, but his durability is an issue. Although many teams will be enticed by Jennings, I do believe he will wind up in Florida. I just think he’s taking his talents to South Beach.

Wes Welker

I will be the first to admit that I hate the Patriots, and everything about them. In the 6 seasons he’s been there, I haven’t been very fond of Welker either. But, I do have to admit this. He is the best slot receiver in the game. It appears he has hit a breaking point with the Patriots. They won’t give him what he wants, but there are plenty of other teams who will. Hard to believe he’s averaged over 1,100 yards since 2007, minus the 2009-10 season when he tore up his knee (although that happened in Week 15, he still had a chance to go over 1,000 yards.) Last season, he caught 118 passes for 1,354 yards and 6 touchdowns. He has great durability. Since arriving in the league in 2004, he has never played in less than 14 games, playing a full schedule 6 out of his 9 seasons. He also has plenty of postseason experience. In the 2012-13 playoffs alone, he averaged 15.5 yards per catch, on only 16 catches. On top of that, Welker is the first receiver in NFL history with at least three 110-reception seasons (all consecutive, five overall in his career.) Welker holds most Patriots receiving records, and a decent amount of NFL receiving records. But I’m going to say what we’re all thinking. Those numbers have been heavily influenced by the guy throwing him the ball. His career numbers in Miami are nothing like they were in New England, and yes, it’s okay to chalk it up to the quarterback. If Welker were to join the Bucs, his numbers would probably drop dramatically. But who’s to say that he still couldn’t manage a 1,000 yard season, while hauling in a bunch of catches? No matter who his QB is, he’s got good hands, and he’s dependable. He probably won’t break many NFL records in Tampa, but he could break a bunch of team records. The Bucs don’t have a slot receiver, per say. Welker would fit the mold, but he would command a pretty penny. Whether the Bucs want to commit that type of money on a position that they are not in dire need of, is up to them.

Mike Wallace

Mike Wallace is a big play receiver. That’s about all there is to it. He’s fast, and he can get down the field in a hurry. He’d benefit greatly from a quarterback with a big arm who could get the ball downfield to him, especially if he broke free from coverage. Josh Freeman has drawn comparisons to Ben Roethlisberger, the only QB Wallace has played for, but Freeman doesn’t quite have the arm. There’s nothing wrong with a guy who, in his career, has averaged 17.2 yards per catch. But the long ball is just not how the Bucs play ball. Sure, Freeman can let one fly every now and then, but that’s not what their offense is about. Mike Wallace, while a game changer, wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense in Tampa. He’d flourish somewhere like San Francisco, who’s looking for a big play receiver, and have a quarterback with a big arm. I don’t think the Bucs should even bother with this free agent.

As stated before, the Bucs go into this offseason with plenty of money to spend. They’re likely to cut Eric Wright, but we’ll have to wait and see how that plays out financially. Even General Manager Mark Dominik says that they have a chance to be heavily involved in free agency again this season, much like they were last season. Obviously, the number one concern is improving that defense, specifically the secondary. If Ronde Barber retires, there’s another position that needs to be filled, although the draft is coming soon. Wide receiver is not a primary concern for the Bucs, but if they have some extra money to spend, why not? There’s always room for improvement on the offense. There are even some intriguing, less expensive options out there like Danny Amendola. But, in the end, it’s up to the GM. I don’t play that role. I merely ponder and dream of things that could be.