The Buccaneers offensive line has been in flux for years, and there is already more movement coming. Tuesday afternoon, former starting center Joe Hawley confirmed via Instagram that the popular bearded Bucs center/guard will not be back in 2018. At least, Hawley won’t be back at the $2.5 million option he is owed.
First, Hawley was gracious about leaving Tampa Bay:
When I was released by the Falcons 3 seasons ago, I was devastated. It was after final cuts so most NFL rosters were set. I had no idea where or if I would have an opportunity to play the game that I loved. That was until I got a call from Dirk here in Tampa. He called me up and said they needed a swing backup center/guard. He knew I could play both from our time together in Atlanta. I knew I was a starter in this league but opportunities were slim. So they signed me as a back up and I was happy to be on a roster. The week I got there they asked me if I was healthy enough to dress for the game because I was still recovering from ACL/MCL surgery from the previous season. I said hell yeah, or course I’m ready. First drive of the second half our starter goes down with an ankle injury. I get thrown into the fire after being there for about 4 days. I didn’t even know the names of some of the guys I was playing next to. It was wild. But I went in there and played the way I knew how to, with a lot of energy, confidence and finish. I went on to start the next 30 games. I’ve had such a great experience in Tampa and just wanted to say thank you to Dirk and Jason for giving me a chance when no one else would. Thank you to Bucs nation for all the love and support over the past 3 seasons. If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this story it’s that if you trust the process of life and work your ass off to get what you want, you will end up exactly where you are meant to be. Although my time here is finished, I truly believe that what ever comes next is going to be bigger and greater than anything I can imagine. Bring it on. I can’t wait!!
And as he points out, he did a tremendous job in his first season of showing up and getting acclimated and eventually, helping the Bucs run game become #2 in the NFL in 2015.
Hawley was also the center on the 9-7 2016 team, that continued to excel with QB Jameis Winston at the helm.
However, the Buccaneers wanted to turn to young guard/center Ali Marpet, who is bigger and more athletic than Hawley, for 2017. And that basically relegated Hawley to a reserve role.
What puzzled many, including us at F.F.I., is that Hawley was often a healthy inactive on Sunday, despite his fiery personality and willingness to mix it up with opposing defenders who might be trying to pile on ball carriers, get an extra shot in on Winston, etc.
We wrote during the season, as the Bucs floundered offensively, that we believed they were missing some of that fire and attitude with Hawley on the sidelines in street clothes. Hawley eventually was active and did play some, once Marpet was out for the end of the season with a knee sprain.
Nevertheless, he’s not part of their immediate plans for 2018 and they obviously notified him that he will be a free agent come next week. Now there is a real outside shot, that if no one else makes Hawley a good enough offer he could end up back in Tampa Bay fighting for a job in training camp. But that’s remote.
Hawley departing isn’t likely the only change on the Bucs line. There is speculation that the team will let fellow guard/center Evan Smith “walk,” as well. This after his four year $14.25 million deal expired.
And it’s expected that the team will either ask veteran guard J.R. Sweezy to take a pay cut from his $5.25 million salary or may release him outright soon. Sweezy would only count $1.8 million in “dead cap” money for 2018 and $1.2 million next year.
Buccaneers cornerstone player in 2018?
(This is the first look at all three state NFL teams’ roster and identifying a player that we at F.F.I. believe is the foundation starter for their potential success in 2018)
It’s still a couple of weeks before the Buccaneers gather for training camp at One Buc Place and there’s already uncertainty everywhere. Off a disappointing showing down the stretch with a 5-11 finish in 2017, both head coach Dirk Koetter and GM Jason Licht were already feeling warmth under their seats.
Now, the perceived team leader, QB Jameis Winston, is suspended for the first three games of the season for violation of the NFL personal conduct policy. And, this has called into question whether he Winston is going to be on borrowed time himself, once he comes back.
So, who is the player that the Bucs will look to for leadership, stability and to help them get through tough times this year? Well, it’s not clear cut in Tampa Bay, but we have a strong guess.
If we are talking cornerstone player for 2018, we are talking yearly Pro Bowl DT Gerald McCoy.
The reasons are apparent.
McCoy has tenure in the Bucs locker room and has played at the high level for the past six seasons (under three different head coaches) and made the Pro Bowl in each one.
Most importantly, he provides a veteran presence to what is an uncertain situation.
And with the additions of former Eagles DE Vinny Curry in free agency, a trade for Giants Pro Bowler and Superbowl champion Jason Pierre Paul and the drafting of Washington All American DT Vita Vea in the first round, McCoy has more help than at any point in his career.
This means the former #1 pick out of Oklahoma will have a chance to excel, especially right away, this season.
Sure, the Bucs have a “franchise receiver” in Mike Evans, and gave him a huge extension in March. And they have one of the top star defenders in the NFL that few on the national level talk much about in LB LaVonte David.
However, with Winston’s future with the Buccaneers uncertain, Gerald McCoy is the guy to count on for this and the next few seasons.
Hall of Fame WR Randy mentoring Bucs QB Jameis Winston in Tampa
Controversy has followed Jameis Winston throughout his college and NFL careers and now, former controversial NFL star receiver turned ESPN analyst Randy Moss, is trying to help.
As you probably know by now, the Bucs QB is suspended for the first three games this season by the NFL for violation of the personal conduct policy after he inappropriately touched a female Uber driver in Arizona in 2016. It’s the latest in a long line of personal missteps and problems that have dogged Winston off the field, since his days at Florida State.
Meanwhile, Moss, who will be enshrined at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH, later this month, has been in Tampa recently working with and apparently trying to help mentor Winston.
Tampa TV station, Fox 13 and reporter Kevin O’Donnell, got exclusive comments from Moss on helping Winston on Tuesday:
— Kevin ODonnell Fox13 (@ODonnellFox13) July 10, 2018
“He’s doing things right,” Moss told the station. “It’s a bump in the road…Man, just continue to fight. It happens…. What he did was wrong. You know. I’m not saying right or wrong. There was a woman involved. So, I’m not going to get into all of that. What he did was wrong. He know (sic) it was wrong. So, I think it’s up to him as a man to understand what he did wrong….to live and learn from it and let it go.”
Moss had early controversies and arrests in his own college career, as he was denied entry at Notre Dame and later kicked off the FSU football team while red-shirting for arrests and probation violations that led him to being back behind bars.
He later thrived at Marshall University, was a Heisman Trophy Finalist, a first round pick by the Vikings and had a 14 year career as one of the most explosive NFL receivers of all time. Moss, who caught for 1,000 or more yards in 10 NFL seasons and is second all time with 156 TD receptions, was voted into the Hall of Fame (above) in his first time on the ballot back in January.
Winston was shown by the station running sprints and making throws to some other prospective NFL receivers at the workout Tuesday, but refused to talk on camera. He has not spoken publicly, since the NFL suspended him two weeks ago. He told the station he will talk at Bucs training camp later in July.
As for Moss, he further said Tuesday that he’s trying to give Winston and other young players advice from his own experiences and failures off the field.
“One of the things that I always told my people: ‘Don’t be scared or shy to tell me no, because I check my pride in at the door….I’ll thank you later, you know, when I’m not behind bars, or when I’m still on a football team.” Moss continued, “A lot of these guys don’t realize that they’re being watched under a microscope and they don’t realize it until it happens to them and they’re out of job.”
At this point, the fourth year Bucs QB Winston, has to realize that he is on the verge of being out of a job in Tampa. That’s if he doesn’t respond well from the suspension by staying out of trouble and performing well on the field.
New Bucs DE Jason Pierre Paul still great reminder of July 4th safety
The Buccaneers are excited to see what former USF and New York Giants star Jason Pierre-Paul can do on the field in Tampa Bay this fall. After being acquired in a trade with the G-men in March, Pierre Paul hopes to energize an almost non-existent Bucs pass rush from last year.
One thing is for sure, as much as he’s known for being a star on the field, Pierre Paul has become a reminder of “what not to do” and specifically fireworks safety on July 4th.
It was three years ago Wednesday night that Pierre Paul’s decision to celebrate and ignite amateur hand-held fireworks in South Florida led to a horrific and potentially, career threatening right hand injury.
But, out of what could have been football tragedy involving his hand, Pierre-Paul has made a comeback and is now a national PSA symbol for firework safety.
The beginning of Pierre Paul’s football story is the Deerfield Beach, as a native of Hatian immigrant parents playing as a Juco star in both California and Kansas. Then, he was brought back to Florida, by coach Jim Leavitt and staff, as USF’s dominant pass rusher in 2009. That year he attained All Big East honors with 6.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss for the Bulls.
This fast tracked Pierre Paul to the NFL after only one season in Tampa and he was drafted 15th overall by the Giants in the 2010 NFL Draft.
After a rookie year with 4.5 sacks, he burst on the pro scene in season two with 16.5 sacks for the G-men leading to a Pro Bowl selection and was part of the New York Superbowl victory over the Patriots that February.
Pierre-Paul continued to be regarded as the Giants most consistent pass rushing threat and had another double digit sack season with 12.5 in 2014.
Then came the off season of 2015, where he chose not to sign his one year Franchise Player free agent tender (the Giants still had his exclusive rights) seeking a longer term deal. And, he remained unsigned as of July 4th that year.
That night in 2015 he loaded up a van with handheld amateur fireworks and with friends and neighbors began shooting them off until one obviously malfunctioned and mangled his right hand. Pierre-Paul was hospitalized and eventually had multiple surgeries on the hand and his right index finger amputated.
The Giants stood by him, when they could have dumped him for non-football injury, and he eventually made his way back onto the field in November of 2015. Signing a “pro rated” week to week one year deal, his debut came as New York traveled to Raymond James Stadium (Pierre-Paul’s USF home for a season) and he played with a padded “club” protecting his right hand against the Bucs.
He would play in eight total games that season with one sack and then, as further proof of the Giants being in his corner, they re-signed him on a one year $10 million deal for 2016. Pierre-Paul then worked a year ago with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission on a July 4th fireworks safety video:
The gnarly image and video of Pierre-Pauls right hand is obviously the deterrent the agency is looking for with the PSA campaign about safety. He played 2016 with a special padded glove to protect the hand/fingers registering another seven sacks before being placed on I.R. with a sports hernia.
Finally, and happiest of all financial endings after the fireworks disaster, Pierre-Paul inked a four year $62 million deal with $40 million guaranteed in March of last year to stay, so he thought, in New York.
So, while it all worked out in the end, obviously, the Jason Pierre-Paul July 4th fireworks mess could have had a much different ending all the way around for he, the Giants and now, the Bucs.
It’s a reminder to stay safe Wednesday night. Leave the handheld fireworks to someone else.
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