NFC South: Elbert MackRaheem Morris
I didn't have time to open the mailbag over the weekend while I was up in Atlanta. But I dove in this morning and there are a few hundred questions to work with. I'll start a series of team-by-team mailbags with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Brian in Oldsmar writes: Love the blog, Pat. I know the Bucs are high on Mack, but, if Barber struggles in Bates' system, what do think the chances are that the team makes a play for disgruntled Viking CB Antoine Winfield? I know he's 32, but he's showed no signs of drop-off in play and his is a good man-cover corner.
Pat Yasinskas: First off, the Bucs are truly high on Elbert Mack and Raheem Morris was his position coach last year and knows him better than anyone. I think the Bucs are planning to use him as the nickelback and he could even become a starter. I don't see them making a play for Winfield or any other older defensive back (or any older player, for that matter). When the Bucs let Derrick Brooks go, they were making a statement about getting younger. General manager Mark Dominik has stayed true to that. Dominik's a man of principle and he's not going to go out and start signing old guys because that would make him look hypocritical.
Jillian in Corvallis writes: I send a lot of questions, and they're mostly all the same. But we up here in Corvallis are all pulling for Sammie Stroughter to make the team and see significant playing time. The Bucs got a steal picking him so low, why do you think with all his talent that he slid so far? What are your thoughts on if he can even make the team?
Pat Yasinskas: I think you may turn out to be right about Stroughter. The Bucs were delighted with what he showed in their rookie minicamp and have high hopes for him. Stroughter fell to the seventh round for a couple of reasons. He had some injury issues and some personal problems. He's put all that behind him and he has potential. The Bucs also have a need for some receivers to step up. This could turn out to be a very nice fit for both sides.
REM in Tampa writes: Hey Pat, Im a die hard buccaneer fan through the highs and lows. But, do you think the bucs are ready to be a playoff team as early as this upcoming season; or should we expect a few years for the new coach, GM and players to get it going? Thanks!
Pat Yasinskas: On the surface, the Bucs sure look like a team that's in a building mode and that may take a couple of years. They got rid of a bunch of veteran players and they are starting from scratch in a lot of areas. But anything can happen in the NFL. At this time last year, a lot of people were saying the Atlanta Falcons might not win a game. They ended up winning 11 and making the playoffs. In a lot of areas, the Bucs are better off than the Falcons were at this time last year. We'll see what happens.
Ryan from Gainesville, Fla., writes: I think the Bucs are stocking up on quarterbacks so they can use a few of them for bargaining chips down the road. Its possible that some teams may loose there starting QB to injury or non performance during preseason, do you think the Bucs are stocking up some trade chips? If so, which QBs would have the most trade value? Lastly Pat, currently, who do you see leading the QB race in Tampa?
Pat Yasinskas: Yes, it's always possible other teams could be searching for quarterbacks in the preseason and the Bucs do have a surplus at the position. It's conceivable that every quarterback on Tampa Bay's roster, except for Josh Freeman, could be available at some point. But don't get too excited about this prospect. At best, Josh Johnson might get you a seventh-round pick. At best, Brian Griese might fetch a sixth. Luke McCown or Byron Leftwich? They might get you a fifth-round choice.
Ben Tampa writes: Pat, I have to here your thoughts on Derrick Brooks, the suspense is driving me crazy. What is he going to do this year?
Pat Yasinskas: It seems all quiet with Brooks right now. That tells me teams aren't lining up to sign him -- at least not for an extensive role. I think Brooks will play only if he thinks he'll get a lot of playing time. It's starting to look like retirement might be an option.