The good news for injured Buccaneers middle linebacker Kwon Alexander is that his progress off of a torn ACL last October appears to be going well. The bad news is: Alexander is slated to be an unrestricted free agent and there’s no indication yet, that the team we’ll make a strong move to keep him around.
First, Alexander took to social media Tuesday night to show his progress off the knee injury– albeit in a weight room:
Yeaaaa we back forreal now let’s go! First day Squating! Week 11🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/xlMosQv03Y
— Kwon Alexander (@kwon) January 30, 2019
It’s still impressive to see the former LSU Tiger being able to work out on the injured knee after only four months and advance of when the Buccaneers will have to make a decision on re-signing him.
Alexander was injured in the week seven overtime win at home against Cleveland, suffering the torn left ACL in a first half in which he had already made seven tackles. It was such a deflating injury that day, that had Alexander in tears in the locker room at halftime urging his teammates to battle on against the Browns and for the rest of the season without him.
Alexander had blossomed in his second season for Tampa Bay with 108 solo tackles 12 of them for losses a forced fumble and interception. The following year in 2017 he had 70 more solo tackles seven for losses with three interceptions and was named to his first Pro Bowl team.
Now though comes the dark side of the NFL. The business side.
And, Alexander’s injury could not come at a worse time for his free agency value. Granted, he $1.9 million in his fourth and final year of his rookie deal as a former fourth round draft pick.
Alexander is represented by prominent flamboyant South Florida agent Drew Rosenhaus. But even as much as Rosenhaus can sell and promote his clients, he can’t almost certainly won’t be able to talk the Bucs or anyone else, into giving Alexander $10 million dollars a year.
That’s the current average of what the top 5 inside linebackers in the NFL make. Those include the Panthers Luke Kuechly at $12.3 million annually, Seattle’s Bobby Wagner $10.7 million and new Giants star Alec Ogletree $10.6 million are the top three.
Another factor is at the Bucs have a new coaching staff led by Bruce Arians and new defensive coordinator in Todd Bowles. So, therefore, there’s no specific loyalty to Alexander, who’s never played for them.
There would be sentiment to keep him from GM Jason Licht and his staff, who discovered Alexander as a middle round gem in the 20 15 draft.
The advantage for the Bucs, just like any other team trying to re-sign their own players, is that they have up until March to offer him something significant. And, they might very well look to get Alexander a large signing bonus or guarantee, in exchange for the contract not having as high an annual average.
Will he go for that? Don’t gamble that Rosenhaus will allow into accepted rather than be an unrestricted free agent and test the market.
And you have to believe the Bucs are ready for that to happen, because they’re banking that no one’s going to put huge money, including a huge annual average (like $10 million or more) in front of a guy who is coming off a serious injury. This is especially, when Alexander still has question marks about whether he would be the same linebacker or not.
In the meantime, Alexander continues to work out and hope that he remains in Tampa Bay. Time will tell how much the new staff likes him and at what price?
Injury concerns for Bucs RB Jones and WR Evans
The start of fourth week of training camp has a couple of concerns for Buccaneers offensive stars, receiver Mike Evans and running back, Ronald Jones.
Neither player participated in the Bucs latest workout Monday, and now there’s some doubt as to whether either will play in Friday night’s third preseason game with the Cleveland Browns at Raymond James Stadium?
The Bucs are not required by the NFL to give any update on injuries at this point, unless they choose to, but head coach Bruce Arians provided a brief one after practice.
“Ronald’s knee swelled up a little bit and just trying to take it day to day with him. Mike tweaked yesterday…it’s nothing serious.”
Traditionally, the third preseason game is the final time where starters for the regular season play significantly.
When asked if both would be held out Friday night, Arians briefly said:
“We’ll see how it is. We still got a few more days. I think Ronald’s gonna be ok. I’m not sure about Mike.”
First, on Evans, the Pro Bowl wide receiver from a year ago pulled up on a pass drill Sunday during practice and although the Bucs aren’t saying anything, there’s concern that he may have sustained a hamstring injury of some type. Tampa Bay is heavily counting on Evans to be their go-to weapon, especially on third down. A year ago he caught for 1,524 yards and a career high 17.7 avg with 8 TDs.
Evans previously dealt with a hamstring injury in the 2015 preseason and missed the season opener with Tennessee but returned the following week.
As for Jones, he appeared to have suffered some kind of left knee hyper-extension returning the opening kickoff on a rain-slicked turf against the Dolphins Friday night. That’s what can be seen this photo on social media from Tampa Bay sports reporter Kevin O’Donnell showing Jones knee clearly in an awkward spot when he planted.
Wondering why #Bucs runningback Ronald Jones knee is sore? This is the opening kickoff Friday night against the Dolphins. Rojo didn’t practice yesterday. Looks like a hyperextension to me. pic.twitter.com/mVmW86E96x
— Kevin ODonnell Fox13 (@ODonnellFox13) August 19, 2019
Jones did carry the ball twice for 7 yards leader in the first quarter of the game before being shut down for the night.
Jones has been one of the standouts of the Bucs offseason and training camp with glowing updates repeatedly from Arians about his progress and his chances of seeing significant playing time. Jones missed three games with a hamstring injury in a disappointing rookie year.
Now, we wait to see how long he and Evans will be out.
Positive injury update news for Bucs DT Vita Vea
Bucs coach Bruce Arians gave another positive update Sunday on one of his star defensive players he’s counting on to come back from injury. It looks like hulking defensive tackle Vita Vea is still on track to potentially play in the season opener September 8th.
After the Buccaneers Sunday morning training camp workout, Arians was asked, if there was any new news on Via resting and rehabbing the sprained ligament in his left knee? He told the media:
"Obviously, when you’re put in game-winning situations and your young players perform, you’re proud of them, and they did exactly that."
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) August 18, 2019
“He’s getting better and better everyday. No pain (in the knee). So, I’ve got my fingers crossed that he’s gonna be ready (opening day),” Arians said plainly.
The former first-round pick a year ago out of the University of Washington was injured almost two weeks ago in a one-on-one pass blocking drill, crumbling to the ground with the Bucs and their fans holding their breath. However it turns out it was only a sprain ligament that did not require surgery and Vea could still possibly play at the beginning of the regular season, including the opener with the 49ers.
Vea was seen walking on the sideline Friday night during the Bucs preseason game with the Dolphins with the aid of a heavily braced left knee.
This is the second straight training camp that Vea has been sidelined with a significant injury. Last year, he suffered a torn calf muscle on the second day of workouts and missed all of the preseason and the first three games of the regular season recovering from the injury and getting into playing shape.
When he did comeback, Vea came on strong in the second half of the season and began to show signs of promise, as to why the Bucs had picked him in the top 15 of the draft. He had a career high nine tackles in a December game in Baltimore and was all over the line of scrimmage and the backfield causing disruptions.
Then, in Dallas the following week, he was once again making plays early in the game. Although, he had a first-half sack Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott nullified by a face mask penalty, he got another one that counted by blindsiding Prescott on the final play of the first half.
Vea finished with three tackles, the sack and one tackle for loss in that game. And, in the second half of the season, he ended up with 28 tackles with three sacks and five tackles for loss in eight games.
Vea is being heavily counted on to help the interior of the Bucs defensive line in new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ 3 – 4 defense. He along with new free agent pro bowl veteran Ndamukong Suh are going to be the guys relied upon to get pressure up the middle for the defense.