Lavonte David Jersey

Local Tampa Bay sports show host Tom (TKras) Krasniqi ruffled some feathers this morning with what many took as an outlandish idea that something big was brewing with the Buccaneers. Fans weren’t too pleased with the comment found in the tweet below and reacted as many would expect, wildly out of control. But what if the team did contemplate a decision like this? After all, many have felt Gerald McCoy is on his way out due to a combination of age and salary. So why not David?
Lavonte David is the premier linebacker in Tampa Bay and has been so since his arrival out of Nebraska. Taking a quick look at his contract can quickly explain why such a comment from Krasniqi would seem feasible, with zero dead cap if cut, David essentially clears $ 10 million in cap space on his own if cut ($9.75m to be exact). David is nearing age 30 and if the team were going all out rebuild, his age and contract would certainly make him a potential cap casualty for a team looking to go young and accepting lesser play at the linebacker position. In Tampa Bay however, that isn’t the case as Bruce Arians and Todd Bowles are looking to come in and turn things around quickly.
David returned to form a bit this past season as a multidimensional defender. David was again getting into the opposing teams backfield, as evidenced by his 4 sacks, 3 QB hits and 3 hurries. In a defense under Todd Bowles now that will heavily favor pressuring with the blitz and moving it’s linebackers around, David is the exact weapon this staff should be looking to use behind the defensive line. David’s production and veteran presence should negate the idea of the team cutting him however the contract situation does potentially give the team some leverage to potentially pressure David and his agent into a restructured deal at a lower cost to help the team as it heads into this free agency period.

Another angle to think about is the realistic possibility that the staff has reviewed all of the film and determined that Kwon Alexander (should he be re-signed) can lead an interior linebacking group without Lavonte David. David is an undersized outside linebacker and with the team presumably moving to a 3-4 dominant scheme, David is vastly undersized by typical standards for an interior linebacker in most 3-4 base defenses. A look at the Jets roster though could potentially dispell this as a theory, especially for a team that went out and nabbed themselves a guy in Darron Lee, who like Lavonte David, was considered a bit undersized at the time. Lee of course, has paled in comparison to Lavonte David from a statistical stand point over the past few seasons.

Whatever the Buccaneers decide to do when it comes to the teams salary cap, the way they handle it will be interesting. With an exciting feel to this off-season with the hire of Arians and company, it’s quite possible that some of the veterans are willing to work around some figures to ensure they are here in Tampa Bay to help turn this ship around and set sail into the playoffs once again. It would be tough to see this team turn things around without the likes of Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David, both of whom have dealt with turmoil on defense with a slew of bad coaches and poor results. McCoy and David have earned their right to call their own future and both deserve to be here for this potential turnaround year under Bruce Arians’ guidance.

Gerald McCoy Jersey

Tampa Bay Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (93) raises his arms up to celebrate with the fans while heading towards the tunnel and off the field after the Bucs defeated the Panthers on Dec. 2. (DIRK SHADD | Times)

INDIANAPOLIS — Bruce Arians sees no reason why defensive tackle Gerald McCoy won’t return for his 10th season with the Bucs.

“You see him under contract and that’s a heck of a player they still have to game plan for, so I hope so,” Arians said.

According to Arians, even though the Bucs are going to a 3-4 scheme, McCoy should be a perfect fit for the defense under new coordinator Todd Bowles.

“Gerald has played three technique his whole life and we have a three technique in our defense,” Arians said. “And we’re penetrators. We’re not two gap. People say 3-4 they think of a two-gap (system). We’re not that at all. We’re penetrators, we’re attackers. So for him, there’s probably going to be no change.”

McCoy has had 12 sacks in the past two seasons and saw his streak of six consecutive Pro Bowl appearances snapped in 2018. His numbers weren’t overwhelming: six sacks, 28 tackles and 21 quarterback hits.

“Interior pass rushers don’t necessarily get a lot of sacks but they create havoc and he still can create havoc in the middle of the pocket and that leads to outside guys getting sacks because he can pressure the pocket,” Arians said. “He’s still a premier pass rusher. I think, like I said, he fits our defense. He’s a three down player. Stats don’t always say how good a player is, especially at that position.”

However, McCoy will earn $13 million this season in non-guaranteed salary.

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Bucs general manager Jason Licht sounded a lot less committed to McCoy returning in 2019.

“You know it’s hard to say that about any player right now,” Licht said. “We have so much between now and free agency, the draft, OTAs, the offseason, that I can just say that about anybody. I can tell you he’s a great player and ideally I’d love to have him.”

What could change that? Perhaps the draft if the Bucs use their No. 5 overall pick on a defensive tackle.

“Well, I can say we do want to have Gerald here … I just said it. He’s under contract and we want him to be back.”
Back in the saddle

Indianapolis will always be a special place for Arians, who went 9-3 as an interim coach for the Colts after taking over for Chuck Pagano and was named the NFL’s Coach of the Year in 2012.

That performance led to his first NFL head coaching job the next year with the Arizona Cardinals.

After retiring for a year, Arians was completely back Wednesday for the unofficial start of the 2019 season at the NFL Scouting Combine. He participated in a jobs in football for women forum in the morning, then held a media session around noon before interviewing prospective draft picks the rest of the day.

“Oh, it’s fantastic just knowing so many guys and then being with CBS last year, I got to see a bunch of guys. So, this is the beginning for me,’’ Arians said. “This is the beginning of a new year. This is getting the juices flowing real good. This is the beginning of next year’s football team.’’

Of course, Arians feels a special connection to the Colts, where he had two stints as an assistant coach.

“The first three (years) went great. But the last one, it was a fairy tale,’’ Arians said. “This city is part of me just for that whole season and everything that went on with Chuck down at the hospital and then coming back. And it’s very, very special. This town is every special to me. It’s fun. Just people on the street and thank you. For somebody to tell a coach thank you, I got booed too many times. I love thank you … this city is part of me.’’

Player notes: The Bucs believe Ronald Jones just needs some more confidence after a tough rookie season in which he rushed for just 44 yards on 23 carries (1.9 avg.) and a TD while adding seven receptions for 44 yards. “It seemed like every time he got the ball somebody was catching him right in the backfield,’’ Arians said. “Having seen him, knowing a little bit about him in college, he’s a very talented guy. He’s a young player and has got some room to grow maturity-wise but talent-wise, his opportunities were slim and none but he showed flashes of what he can do.’’ … Arians also loves RB Peyton Barber. “For a man that size, when you watch the tape, you don’t think he’s 230. You think he’s a 205-pound running back. He’s got great feet. When we’re building something, that’s someone I want to build around.’’ … Cornerback M.J. Stewart will move to safety next season and guard Caleb Benenoch will focus on playing right tackle … offensive lineman Alex Cappa will concentrate on guard.

Mike Evans Jersey

Mike Evans, the Bucs’ 2014 first-round draft pick, was awarded a five-year, $82.5 million contract last offseason. 

TAMPA, Fla. — With his 90 receiving yards against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 16, Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans continues to rewrite the franchise record books.

Evans has been one of the biggest glimmers of hope in an otherwise bleak 2018 season.

One mark that remains is the Bucs’ single-season record of 1,422 yards, set by Mark Carrier 29 years ago. Evans, who has 1,418 yards, is 5 yards shy of breaking that record and will likely do so in Sunday’s season finale against Atlanta Falcons (1 p.m. ET, Fox).

“I’m more upset about the loss, obviously,” Evans said after the Bucs’ 27-20 defeat to the Cowboys.

Evans, 25, has already snagged the franchise records in receiving yards, receiving touchdowns (38) and the most 100-yard games in Bucs history (20). His 5,997 receiving yards are currently sixth-most by an NFL player through his first five seasons since the 1970 NFL/AFL merger.

He is only the third player in league history to record 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first five seasons, joining Randy Moss (1998-02) and A.J. Green (2011-15).

“That’s Mike, man. He’s one of the best players to play the game,” quarterback Jameis Winston said. “He’s going to keep getting better. I’m just happy I get to throw that guy the ball.”

The Bucs are 5-10, marking the fourth time in Evans’ five seasons that the team has suffered double-digit losses. In fact, Tampa Bay has had double-digit losing seasons seven out of the past 10.

If the franchise don’t turn things around, Evans’ efforts will all have been a waste beyond personal measures. His ability to be “Mr. Dependable” for everyone from Winston to Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown and Mike Glennon will be quickly forgotten without more to show for it.

Look at Gerald McCoy, the 2010 No. 3 draft pick who made it to six consecutive Pro Bowls and is still considered one of the NFL’s better defensive tackles. He has played under four head coaches, had two winning seasons and has never been to the playoffs.

Neither has weakside linebacker Lavonte David, who is easily one of the best 4-3 linebackers in the league, even if he gets grossly overlooked in Pro Bowl balloting each year. He has been part of one winning season in Tampa.

David will be 29 next month and McCoy 31 in two months; that’s a lot of talent no one ever got to see on a national stage because the Bucs have been in such disarray. It’s not for lack of caring. One could argue the Glazer family, which owns the Bucs, has expected too much and shown too little patience with rebuilding.

The family has a right to be impatient when it comes to young stars such as Evans, a 2014 first-round draft pick who was awarded a five-year, $82.5 million contract last offseason. He has lived up to expectations, not only on the field, but off of it in the community.

But Evans won’t be able to outrun defensive backs forever, and his body won’t be able to withstand those punishing hits, either, even if he has missed only three games in his pro career.

Will he end up like Carrier, who never reached the playoffs with the Buccaneers? All six of Carrier’s seasons with Tampa Bay were filled with double-digit losses.

Evans will tell you he would rather win games than break records. It’s the same for McCoy and David, two model players whom the team tried to build around, but up until this point, has failed.

The Buccaneers need to think about all of these players as they contemplate personnel moves over the next few days. Whose playcalling will allow the Bucs to continue to maximize Evans’ talents? Could the Bucs benefit from a fifth year in coach Dirk Koetter’s offense, or have they gone as far as they can with it?

Evans’ prime years are now. The Buccaneers shouldn’t let them go to waste.

Jameis Winston Jersey

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston passes during an NFL game against the Atlanta Falcons on Dec. 30, 2018, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Will Vragovic/Getty Images)

When Tony Dungy became the Indianapolis coach in 2002, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning had a 32-32 record as a starter, a 3.6 percent interception rate and two Pro Bowl invitations in his four NFL seasons.

With Bruce Arians becoming Tampa Bay coach in 2019, Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston has a 21-33 record as a starter, a 3.0 percent interception rate and one Pro Bowl invitation in his four NFL seasons.

In Dungy’s seven seasons in Indianapolis, Manning earned seven Pro Bowl invitations, made first-team All-Pro four times and helped the Colts to an 85-27 regular-season record, seven playoff victories and a Super Bowl win. During those seasons, Manning had an interception rate of 2.2 percent.

“I remember going to Indianapolis,” Dungy told WTSP-TV in St. Petersburg, Florida, “and Peyton Manning had four up-and-down seasons before I got there — 3-13, 13-3, 10-6, 6-10. Very explosive and great talent, but feeling like, ‘I’ve got to make all these plays to carry us, to help us win.’ Really, what we came back to, what we came down to is: We still want to be explosive, we still want to make big plays, but we want to protect the ball.

“It took Peyton a little while to learn that, but pretty soon, by my second year, he’s 31 touchdowns and eight interceptions, then it’s 49 touchdowns and nine interceptions. That’s what you’re looking for. That can be done when those great talents realize taking care of the ball is important.”

Dungy, who spent six seasons as Tampa Bay’s coach before going to the Colts, said Winston could “absolutely” experience similar growth under Arians.

“He’s a talent guy,” Dungy said, “and that’s what coach Arians will teach him and preach to him. You can still be explosive. We can still have all the big plays that we want to get. And you know what? We can still take care of the football and protect it and be a low-turnover team.”

Since the Bucs selected Winston with the first choice in the 2015 NFL Draft, Tampa Bay’s offense has finished in the top nine in the NFL in yards in four seasons, but it has never finished higher than 12th in scoring.

During his career, Winston has thrown 58 interceptions and lost 18 fumbles.

Last season, Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick, who started seven games for Tampa Bay, combined to throw a league-leading 26 interceptions, and only the San Francisco 49ers had a worse turnover margin than the Buccaneers’ minus-18.

“You win in the NFL by minimizing your mistakes,” Dungy said. “Everybody has talent. The Bucs have enough talent to get the job done offensively and defensively. You’ve got to eliminate mistakes. That’s going to be the challenge. The difference between being 5-11 and 12-4 is a couple of mistakes a game. Learn that and understand that and hone in on that — that’s what wins.”

But if that’s Arians’ message for Winston, will the quarterback be receptive?

Why would that even be a question?

Because earlier this month, Winston was asked how he sought to bounce back from being benched during the 2018 season. The answer seemed to be: By tuning out the coach.

“I had to look at myself in the mirror and say, ‘Hey Jameis, what do you have to do?’” Winston said. “And that was simply, ‘Get back to playing Jameis Winston football. Be yourself. Have that swag. Don’t try to be something that a coach is trying to get you to be. You know, you got to go and be you.’”

An NFL suspension for violations of the league’s Personal Conduct Policy sidelined Winston for the first three games of the 2018 season. The Bucs changed quarterbacks at halftime of the fourth game. Winston made three starts, but he gave way to Fitzpatrick after throwing four touchdowns in a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Oct. 28.

Winston watched from the sidelines in the next two games, before returning to the field and starting the final six games of the season.