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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs may be at a loss as to how to fix Vernon Hargreaves

Roy Cummings

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Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire

TAMPA – Despite what some fans have suggested they do, the Buccaneers are not going to cut struggling second-year cornerback Vernon Hargreaves.

They probably aren’t going to bench him either. After all, it’s not like replacing him with Ryan Smith is going to make matters better.

No, the Bucs are pretty much stuck with what they’ve got with Hargreaves. The problem is, they’re not quite sure what is they’ve got right now.

It’s obvious to everyone watching that Hargreaves is struggling but why he’s struggling appears to be a bit of a mystery.

Asked on Monday if he thought Hargreaves was lacking confidence, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said he didn’t think so, but added that he wasn’t “100-percent sure on that.’’

Asked later if he thought Hargreaves was struggling to understand defensive concepts, Koetter again said, “I don’t think so.’’

He then said that Hargreaves issues are definitely not the result of a lack of ability. On that point, Koetter seemed certain.

Something is clearly wrong, though, because Hargreaves continues to play at a level far below what was expected of him and the situation only seems to be getting worse.

We pointed out last week that just as he was last year, Hargreaves has once again become the most picked on and exploited cornerback in the league.

That trend continued Sunday at Arizona where, for the second straight week, Hargreaves allowed every pass thrown his way to be completed, according to Pro Football Focus.

Hargreaves has now broken up just one of the 37 passes thrown his way this year, all while allowing opposing quarterbacks to produce a passer rating of 128.7 against him.

And if you think that’s bad, the problem now appears to have extended to his play in the run game. It did against the Cardinals anyway.

Hargreaves missed three tackles in that game, according to PFF, and at times simply did not seem interested in trying to stop Adrian Peterson.

Again, that’s not the Hargreaves the Bucs signed up for. Though he’s a bit small, Hargreaves has never lacked passion, aggression or confidence.

He’s always been one of those players who plays bigger than he really is but the Bucs haven’t seen that player since training camp and Koetter admits he’s “extremely’’ concerned as to why.

“We asked Vern to be more aggressive this year and to be more aggressive with his coverage and he started out doing that,’’ Koetter said.

 “He started out doing that in OTAs and training camp, but he has not played his best football here these last three games.

 “He’s not in a very good streak of games right now … but you have to remember, if we could just snap our fingers and fix stuff it would already be done.’’

Roy Cummings is a native of Chicago, Illinois who grew up in the suburb of Lombard. He and his family later moved to Lakeland, Florida, where Roy attended high school at Kathleen High. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communications in 1983 and immediately went to work for the Tampa Tribune. After five years working in a Polk County bureau covering everything from high school sports to college football to the Orlando Magic of the NBA, Roy moved back to Tampa and became the Tribune's first beat writer for the Tampa Bay Lightning, covering the team from its inception through the first eight years on the ice. He was then moved to the Buccaneers beat, where he stayed until the paper was folded in May, 2016. A two-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year, Roy has extensive experience covering all Tampa professional sports teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Peter King- “Bridgewater to Tampa Bay makes sense”

Florida Football Insiders

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Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

It’s the start of another week, and speculation about “quarterback musical chairs” in NFL free agency continues. And a prominent NFL media member believes that current Saints backup Teddy Bridgewater might leave New Orleans and he sees a possible fit with the Buccaneers.

Peter King, now with Pro Football Talk, gave analysis on numerous quarterback situations and potential free agents to be in his Monday morning column. And, while he is not reporting that the Saints will allow Bridgewater to be a free agent and/or that the Buccaneers would be his destination, he does lay out a solid case for a marriage between the two:

Obviously, the Saints must first decide what to do with veteran Hall of Famer to be, Drew Brees, who is slated to become a free agent and cannot be franchise tagged. And, Bridgewater more than acquitted himself a year ago coming off the bench, when Brees was out with a fractured thumb. That included a four-touchdown performance in October in a a win at home against Tampa Bay.

King wrote in part, these thoughts Monday,

Teddy Bridgewater: Tampa Bay makes sense

I can hear it now: Bridgewater doesn’t have the deep arm Bruce Arians needs. I would dispute that. When Arians put Carson Palmer in the pilot’s chair in Arizona, his previous NFL yards per attempt in Cincinnati and Oakland was 7.2. Bridgewater’s career NFL yards per attempt: 7.2.

…..I noticed something with Arians this season. He defended almost every (Jameis) Winston miscue for the first three months of the season. In December, though, that changed. Tampa was 7-7 entering the last two games, both at home. In game 15, against Houston, Winston threw interceptions on two of the first five Buc snaps, and Tampa was down 10-0 after four minutes.

The Bucs lost by three. Next week: Overtime against Atlanta. First play, Winston somehow didn’t see lurker linebacker Deion Jones on tight end Cameron Brate. Pick six. “It smells as bad as it could possible smell,” Arians said after the game. The Bucs had a clear path to a redemptive 9-7 seasons, but six interceptions in the last two weeks ruined that. 

….. This is the story about Bridgewater I appreciate: After Drew Brees was lost with a hand injury in Week 2 and Bridgewater took over, Bridgewater hosted a dinner in Seattle—site of the next game—for all the offensive players, basically to say, All is not lost. We’ll be fine. Minus Brees, the Bridgewater-led Saints went 5-0.

Maybe the Bucs will think Winston deserves another chance with Arians and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich. But I won’t be surprised if they go after Bridgewater or Ryan Tannehill, the best free-agent quarterbacks on the market.”

Definitely a compelling argument, but, again, it still has to play out as to whether the Saints don’t re-sign Bridgewater and how, interested are the Bucs vs. other potential teams when the free agency mayhem begins?

As for Tampa Bay are obviously trying to decide what to do with their own free agent-to-be, Winston. As we wrote late last week, coach Bruce Arians remained non-committal on whether to bring back their starter of the last five seasons. This is mainly due to Winston’s inconsistent play, numerous interceptions and the fact the Bucs have had only had one winning season in his five years at the helm.

It this type of  “connect the dots” free agency talk will only continue to build until either Tampa Bay commits to Winston or free agency begins without the Bucs having signed Winston to a long term deal or given him the one year franchise tag. The clearest of indications that they’ve moved on and want a new QB.

And, everyone continues to wait on those decisions.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL analyst- Bucs DE Shaq Barrett top player in free agency

Florida Football Insiders

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off an amazing first season with the Bucs, defensive end Shaq Barrett is in line for a huge payday. And, a respected NFL analyst says Tampa Bay better be ready to pay, because he believes Barrett is the top free agent upcoming for the entire NFL.

Brian Baldinger, a former 12 year player and now analyst with the NFL Network, posted on social media Saturday evening what he loves about Barrett’s pass-rushing skills and then made his declaration:

There is no exaggerating that Barrett surpassed anyone’s expectations off of a one-year, modest free agent signing from the Broncos by Bucs GM Jason Licht. His four sack game in week 2 against Carolina put the entire NFL on notice.

And, Barrett continued to be a dominant pass rush force for defensive coordinator Todd Bowles the entire season. He ultimately broke Tampa Bay’s single season sack record held by Hall of Famer Warren Sapp in the final game of the season. Barrett finished with 19.5 sacks, which led the NFL.

Now, the Bucs and Licht have to decide whether they’re going to give Barrett a massive contract or perhaps, entertained putting the “franchise tag” on him to ensure that he’s one of the top five paid defensive ends in football. If Licht and the Bucs choose to do that, Barrett will be making in the neighborhood of $18-20 million per year.

One concern for the Buccaneers is that Barrett’s breakout 2019 with the 19.5 sacks is more than he had in his previous five years in Denver combined. So, naturally, there is some skepticism that he will be able to produce at that high of a level for multiple years.

Still, it’s going to take that kind average per year deal to keep him from being available via free agency for someone else to sign. And, a further benefit to the franchise tag is at the Buccaneers could always reach a long-term agreement later this off season after tagging Barrett, too.

Now, we wait to see what Tampa Bay can get done.

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