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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Gameday- Buccaneers open 2018 at Saints

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Brett Davis- USA Today Sports

Who: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (Superdome)

When: Sunday 1 p.m. Eastern

Spread: Saints by 9 1/2 (Courtesy Vegasinsider.com)

Why to watch:

Bucs open without Winston

Unless you have been in a coma or outer space, you are probably aware that Tampa Bay begins their season with franchise QB Jameis Winston suspended for the first three games of the season for violation of the NFL personal conduct policy.

That means that 14 year veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick (above) gets the start in the hostile environment against the NFC South champion Saints. The good news is that he was 2-1 as a starter last year, while Winston was nursing a sore shoulder. He also quarterbacked the second half of the Saints loss last October, which helps with familiarity with their personnel environment.

The further good news is that the Buccaneers are loaded at receiver including veterans Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. They will complimented by Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries and the Bucs may have the best pass catching tandem of tight ends in pro football in Cam Brate and O.J. Howard. So, weapons to throw to won’t be a problem.

Contain Kamara?

There is no mystery that while the Saints have a Hall of Fame QB in Drew Brees, but a large part of their success last year was predicated on Rookie of the Year running back Alvin Kamara. Kamara had a combined 1,500 yards from scrimmage and a combined 13 touchdowns rushing and receiving in 2017. He even showed versatility in the week 17 finale’ in Tampa Bay, when he ran back a kickoff 106 yards and a TD.

The Bucs will have to account for Kamara, especially on passes out the backfield, or it will be a long day for their defense.

And that leads to….

Rebuilt Bucs defensive line debuts

With the acquisitions of Jason Pierre-Paul, Vinny Curry and Beau Allen back in March, Tampa Bay has gotten perennial Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy some veteran help. While Bucs first round pick defensive tackle Vita Vea won’t play due to a calf strain, he is making progress to come back soon.

Also, the Bucs picked up Browns surprise cut, DE Carl Nassib, who started for Cleveland 15 times in the last two seasons.

Tampa Bay also has a new defensive line coach in Brentson Buckner, who has visibly motivated and energized their unit in training camp and preseason.

Now, it will be time to see what they and their teammates can do Sunday afternoon in “The Big Easy.”

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Peter King- “Bridgewater to Tampa Bay makes sense”

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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

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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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