by Douglas O’Connor
follow me on Twitter @Ren_Daxt
Now that the 2016-17 season is over for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers it’s natural for fans to start looking towards the NFL draft, but there are several dates before then that will play a big part in shaping the 2017-18 team.
January 2nd: Teams are allowed to start renegotiate or extend any rookie contracts from the 2014 NFL draft. The Bucs only have three players that qualify. WR Mike Evans, RB Charles Sims, and OL Kevin Pamphile. Look for the Buccaneers to reward Pro Bowl WR Mike Evans early. Signing Evans to a big long term contract because of his record setting first three seasons.
Charles Sims showed this season that he is best used as a receiver and out on the edges of a defense. His between the tackle running has shown to be lacking mostly because of his lack of hole commitment. Sims is a nice addition to any NFL offense but replaceable. Jason Licht can wait until after next season before making a decision on the oft injured but big play ability RB.
Kevin Pamphile is an interesting case. Slated as a backup guard before training camp, but earned the starting job almost by default when free agent addition J.R. Sweezy injured his back and never put on pads. Starting all but two games because of a concussion, Pamphile was very consistent. If the plan is to move Ali Marpet to the center position, insert Sweezy at LG and flip Pamphile to RG. Talks with Kevin’s agent should at least begin. If the Bucs sign or draft a C during the off season Pamphile’s future becomes more murky.
The 2nd is also when clubs can pick up the 5th year option on their 2014 first round draft pick(s). Mike Evans is the Bucs only candidate, but I think the Bucs go the long term contract route.
January 21st & 28th: The East-West Shrine Game followed by the more prestigious Senior Bowl are great opportunities to watch college players go up against the best in their sport. Although played for a great cause the Shrine game isn’t loaded with early round talent but it is played closed to the Buccaneers home just across the bay in St. Petersburg. Newly signed PK John Lusnford participated in last years game. The Senior Bowl is much more interesting because the entire NFL media descends on Mobile, Alabama and stays all week. I know of two Buccaneer outlets that are going to Mobile for sure and rumors of a third are swirling. The week of practice and following game is where America started to learn about 2nd overall pick Carson Wentz and our own Noah Spence last year.
February 15th: First day teams can assign Franchise or Transition tag. The Buccaneers have 17 free agents and not a one deserves a Franchise label. However a Transition tag might be in play. If a team Franchises a player their salary is an average of the top five players salaries at his position. A Transition tag allows a team to match any offer to said tagged player. Will Gholston may get the Transition moniker. The Bucs want to keep Gholston as a top notch run stopping DE but a lot of teams will want his services also. Jason Licht likes to reward home grown talent, which Will is and I think he wants to give Gholston a long term deal. Sometimes the numbers just don’t work out, having to fill other needs a big contract might not be in the works for Will. Slapping him with the Transition tag possibly gives Licht one more year to play with and maybe Gholston gets paid in 2018.
February 28th-March 6th: The NFL Combine. You know what this is. A week of world class athletes pulling up their pants after running 40 yards.
March 1st: Last day teams are allowed to put a Franchise or Transition tag on a player. If Gholston is hit with the Transition tag it has to come by the end of this day.
March 7th-9th: This is when teams can sign their own free agents. The Bucs have quite a few players I’d like to see back. Beside Gholston, CB Josh Robinson, WR Russell Shepard, RB Jacquizz Rodgers, DT Sealver Siliga, and DT Akeem Spence. Second tier on my list would include S Bradley McDougald, LB Daryl Smith, TE Brandon Myers, and DT John Hughes.
March 9th: Free agency begins. Last year Jason Licht doubled up on every FA signing by drafting the same position. Could be a big clue to where the Buccaneers look come the draft in late April.
March 26th-29th: NFL Owner’s Meeting. I put this in here because I think that the NFL is going to lay the ground work for a developmental league. I say buy the Arena League expand to 16 teams 30 players per team. Each NFL club has 15 prospects and just play 8 on 8 indoor summer football. Easy!
April 27th-29th: The NFL Draft. It’s in Philly this year Buc fans so lots of boo’s when a team takes a player Eagle fans wanted. Of course they will boo their picks too, ’cause, well it’s Philly.
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Thanks for reading and as always Go Bucs!