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Green Zone League Articles

A stoned look inside the maniacal brain of a roster builder.
By Anthony Fernandez
Special to gzl-football.com

Puff, Puff, Pass:: Blount Returns to Tampa
A stoned look inside the maniacally obsessed brain of a roster "builder".
Thursday, August 7th, 2017
Jim Flynn, Yahoo Sports!

Blount (#27) and Freeman (#5) embrace after 34-13 win in New Orleans.

Tampa (AP) - The Tampa Bay Buccaneers may have panicked a bit following a 24-27 loss Week 1 in Atlanta. Or at least it would have seemed that way when the team agreed to bring reigning league MVP HB LeGarrette Blount back to Tampa. The move is counter-intuitive to the approach in Tampa for many years, but perhaps the team is tired of watching former players leave and win Super Bowls in different cities. Blount has been superb since returning to Tampa, gaining over 300 yards and 3 TDs in just two games. The Bucs are also undefeated since his return, pulling them alone to the top of the NFC South Standings at (2-1). The move did cost the team valuable asset HB Knile Davis, who has literally unmatched physical tools once he's fully developed, but the Bucs did also get a 2nd Round Pick as well, which looks like it could be a relatively high 2nd with the (0-3) Seahawks spiraling.

While Knile will be missed, this is not baseball and it's time GM Anthony Fernandez stops managing the Bucs like it is baseball. Obsessed with "maximizing value" and "compiling assets", it's time for Fernandez to realize that legacies in these leagues are built by wins, but propped up by Championships. So while it's a nice claim to be the only team to NEVER miss the playoffs in GZL history, or to have double-digit win seasons 7 consecutive times, the real stat that GMs will remember is that the team has been eliminated from the playoffs SEVEN consecutive times. And the last 4 times it was to GM Tom Riddle, GM Anthony Cepparulo, and GM Matt Davis TWICE! No offense to those nice and competent GMs, but after winning 4 Super Bowls in the RZL, the bar has been set a little bit higher for "AF" than it has those folks.

So where does this go from here? It's rare that Fernandez trades FOR a player near regression AND on the final year of their contract, in fact he's made a career of sending those players the other way. Despite losing Knile, the Buccaneers appear to have the heir apparent to Blount on the roster with HB Christine Michael, who the team recently gave up a 1st Round Pick for. That is where it gets interesting, as expiring contracts seem to line up an interesting window for Fernandez and the Buccaneers. Diving deeper into the Tampa financials, we've uncovered that the team has ZERO starters expiring at the conclusion of this season, other than Blount. That lines up nice and will allow the team to re-up their new addition, but with him regressing following this season, it will likely be on a short term deal.

The Buccaneers have five RFA's (TE Dion Sims, CB Jordan Poyer, RE Corey Lemonier, FS Brad Brooks, RG Stafon Martin), so will be able to restructure TWO of those long term (likely Poyer and Martin). That will leave Sims, Lemonier, and Brooks to play on one-year tenders. The Bucs will then have options to re-sign SS Brandon Claiborne and LE Margus Hunt. The team is very high on both players, but it's no secret neither player has had a chance to develop in Tampa, and it wouldn't be a huge surprise if either were shopped near the Trade Deadline. It's also possible the team Franchise Tags Blount for one "final" year, and resigns Hunt or Claiborne straight up, allowing the other to play out the Pre-Draft Match Eligible process. With team officials high on rookie CB Bo Davis, it will be interesting to see if the Bucs put the lower tender of just a 1st Round Pick on Poyer to see if someone bites.

It's the following year when things get interesting. Notable names expiring following 2018 are MLB Moe Jackson, WR Terrance Williams, CB Morris Claiborne, LG Frankie Gerard, DT Gerald McCoy, and the previously mentioned HB Christine Michael. The Bucs are not a team that historically lets ONE player hit PDME Free Agency, let alone multiple marquee starters - so something has to give. Will Fernandez position the team to move many of those guys, or will the team approach it as they have a 2-year window to win a Super Bowl? One source inside the organization said plainly, "he's not planning on moving many - if ANY - of those guys." So baring a huge collapse at the start of NEXT season, we could have a huge feeding frenzy in PDME Free Agency following 2018. Of perhaps the Bucs struggle and Fernandez reverts to his old ways and we have that feeding frenzy at the Trade Deadline.

If that wasn't enough, there are a few other starters also expiring after next year. The Bucs have five RFA's with OLB Otis Baker, K Irv McCoy, FB Tim Riggins, CB Andre Alexander, and DT Tai Perry. GZL has been working to make it harder to retain RFAs long term unopposed, but under current rules the Bucs could lock up two of those long term. We'd suspect the team would look to lock down Baker, McCoy, and Riggins - so between now and then, the team would need to trade for another player set to become a RFA to allow the 3rd restructure, or risk one of those three playing on a 1-year tender. If Irv doesn't stop missing FGs, we'd guess it would be him. When the team drafted Irv a couple years back, it would have seemed insane to say that Gerald McCoy might be the longest lasting McCoy on the roster, but Irv could be in danger, especially if the team goes "all in" on this two-year window and decides a veteran Kicker is the way to go.

That brings us back to Gerald and the expiring’s, as he is probably the easiest to figure out. McCoy would be 32 and entering YP9 with his expiring contract. This means he is really not an option at all for the Bucs Exclusive Restructure next offseason, or their Exclusive Resign following 2018. He could be a candidate for the Franchise Tag, seeing as his pre-regression attributes will make it hard for another GM NOT to throw big money at him in PDME, even if it were only a year or two rental. Gerald is scheduled to make $15M over the final two years of his contract, so if the team decides to cut salary at any point between now and 2018, he's a prime candidate. Of course, the team would need to negotiate the waiving of his No Trade Clause, a task that could be tough since Gerald has spent his entire career in Tampa and hoped to retire here. The likeliest scenario for Gerald might be a trade after this season, or he could be destined for PDME Free Agency.

Next up is Morris Claiborne. The former #1 overall pick is living high on the hog at $13M for 2017 and $15M for 2018. Because of his inflated prices, he refuses to renegotiate in an Exclusive Restructure capacity for anything less than $17M a season. That is just not realistic, meaning the only way to get him down to a reasonable cap figure is to let his current contract EXPIRE, and negotiate with him from scratch, based on nothing but his OVR. While being 99OVR will certainly command him a large contract, his current one being tore up leads to much more reasonable figures in the $12M per season range over a long-term pact. That means Morris is a LOCK to eat up the Buccaneers one Exclusive Resign following the 2018 campaign, unless the team changes course and opts to trade him at some point. While it's possible due to the extraordinary depth they have at CB, it would take a king's ransom for the team to break up their current secondary.

Next is Frankie Gerard, a local favorite in Tampa who was drafted to play LT, but kicked inside to develop. With the team taking RT Token Price, it clouds what the Bucs will do with Gerard a bit, but the team is highly unlikely to let him go. In fact, one source within the organization told us there is only "one team" the Bucs would entertain trading him to, but would not disclose which team that was or why that was. The most realistic scenario is the team keeps Gerard at Guard, and Franchise Tags him following 2018 AND 2019. This would allow the team to garner a free Restructure in 2019 and could lock him up long term. While he'll be YP6 following the 2019 season, Offensive Lineman don't regress until YP11, which would allow them to comfortably give him a 5-7 year contract midway through his career and still get a solid return-on-investment. Also, Guard remains one of the few positions where the Franchise Tag numbers are not astronomical, which would allow the team to retain him at about $7M a season, a number much smaller than he'd garner if he hit PDME by some team with plans of moving him to OT.

As we move along, we've now decided DT Gerald McCoy likely will be dealt in 2018 or hit PDME, while OG Frankie Gerard will eat up the Franchise Tag and CB Morris Claiborne will be secured with the Exclusive Resign. That leads us to MLB Moe Jackson and WR Terrance Williams both fighting over one Exclusive Restructure at the end of the season. Both of these guys were logical trade targets, as the Bucs have secured solid replacements through high draft picks like MLB Ed Holliday and WR Jorge Lloyd, but the superior play of Moe and Terrance to start 2017 has team officials leaning towards keeping both. The team has (by far) put the most work into Moe, so he's a solid bet to get the Exclusive Restructure, but he also lacks some SPD and height, which could scare many GMs away in a PDME environment. Terrance on the other hand is a 6'3" WR with 93SPD and 93ACC, which will surely have GMs salivating on a PDME bidding stage.

Does the team trade one of them? When? And what about HB Christine Michael? The team surely didn't trade away a 1st Round Pick to rent him as a BACKUP for two seasons, did they? And in two seasons when that Michael contract expires, Blount will be 82SPD/82ACC. Knile is gone, would they leave themselves with just HB Ronny Lewis under contract? But that's the gamble, as the team will not get a real chance to look at Michael prior to that contract expiring (baring an injury), and they can't risk losing him. So if a team offered a 1st for Michael, allowing the Bucs to recoup what they paid, don't be surprised to see them re-shuffle the deck at HB. Hell, they may even stick with veteran HBs from here on out. Or maybe use one of their FIVE 2nd round picks to add their next HB? But for now, let's enjoy their CURRENT HB, ironically also their OLD HB... LeGarrette Blount. At least until 2019, because that's when the contracts of BOTH QB Josh Freeman and QB Mike Glennon expire.

"The team is not real, the team is not real, the team is not real. Online legacies are fake. They are FAKE! The Super Bowl trophies don't exist outside of the internet. Go spend time with your family."


© 2017 All Rights Reserved. GZL Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
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