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Three things to watch from Bucs playing Jaguars Thursday

Florida Football Insiders

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Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Buccaneers will host the Jaguars in the final preseason game for both teams Thursday night. And, there are some intriguing things to watch for both squads:

Extended playing time again for Ryan Griffin

The Bucs third string quarterback for the last couple of years is about to be thrust into the role of backup quarterback, when Jameis Winston suspension begins after this preseason game.

As we wrote earlier this week, coach Dirk Kotter made it clear that Winston will not play in this finale’ with the Jaguars. So, that means likely Griffin will play the first quarter, if not the entire first half.

He has looked good consistently in all three of Tampa Bay’s previous preseason games, including leading a touchdown Drive last Friday night to begin the second half against the Lions vs. a lot of their first-team defenders.

The Bucs need Griffin to be sharp, but most importantly stay healthy for the start of the regular season.

Dante Fowler expected to be out there some

The embattled former number 1 pick defensive end for the Jaguars has already had a headline-grabbing training camp/preseason. And, a lot of it for the wrong reasons. Fowler had been on the physically-unable-to-perform list with a shoulder injury.

He then found out he was being suspended by the NFL for the opening game of the season for his “no-contest plea” in March to assault charges from last summer.

Then, when Fowler was healthy enough to be activated for training camp, after his second practice, he got into an altercation with defensive line teammate Yannick Ngakoue that got him suspended for one week. This caused him to miss the Minnesota preseason game.

Fowler did play in the game last week with the Falcons, but he needs some reps at game speed. And we and many others are wondering if the Jaguars aren’t showcasing him for a possible trade?

Fowler is in the final year of his deal, and so far, he hasn’t done anything that warrants Jacksonville wanting to bring him back. That could change starting with a good performance tonight.

Finally, competition at wide receiver for the Bucs

It’s obvious that Tampa Bay is loaded with Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries. Rookie Justin Watson has also been impressive in this training camp and the Buccaneers have three more guys in Freddie Martino, who caught a touchdown pass last week, Speedy kickoff specialist Bernard Reedy and second-year former Florida State player Bobo Wilson to go to.

The Buccaneers simply cannot keep everybody, and there will be significant playing time for all of them in his final game. You have to believe that Watson has an edge to make the team and the other three are maybe battling for a sixth spot.

One thing is for sure, if there are one or two of these receivers are on the waiver wire, another team will probably gobble them up.

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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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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