Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Dane Fletcher

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers might have the quarterback of their defense back for Sunday’s game with Baltimore.

Middle linebacker Mason Foster said Wednesday he’s optimistic about his chances of playing against the Ravens. Foster has missed the last three games with a dislocated shoulder. He said he expected to practice fully Wednesday afternoon.

“I’ll get a chance to run around and hit people in pads," Foster said. “I feel good, so it’s looking good."

Dane Fletcher has been starting in Foster’s place. But the team also used Danny Lansanah at middle linebacker in Sunday’s overtime loss to New Orleans. Lansanah had an interception return for a touchdown. Fletcher also had been calling the defensive signals, but the team switched that duty to weakside linebacker Lavonte David against the Saints.

Getting Foster back would be a huge boost for the Tampa Bay defense. He’s one of the team’s veteran leaders, and the defense has struggled without him.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have ruled out two injured starters and a key backup for Sunday’s game in New Orleans.

Receiver Mike Evans (groin), safety Dashon Goldson (ankle) and reserve defensive end Larry English (hamstring) will be sidelined, coach Lovie Smith said.

Evans was injured last week in Pittsburgh and Louis Murphy excelled in his place. Murphy, who was cut by the Bucs in free agency and later re-signed, is likely to get the start, but rookie Robert Herron also could get some playing time.

The Bucs have several options at Goldson’s free safety spot. Bradley McDougald, Major Wright and Keith Tandy all can play that position. With English out, Scott Solomon and Jacquies Smith are expected to get more time in the rotation at defensive end.

Linebacker Mason Foster (shoulder) is listed as questionable. If Foster can’t play, Dane Fletcher likely will get his third-straight start at middle linebacker.

Mason Foster to sit out for Bucs

September, 26, 2014
Sep 26
TAMPA, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ injury report is out and there are no surprises.

As expected, it looks like the Bucs will be without the quarterback of their offense and defense. Middle linebacker Mason Foster (shoulder) was declared out for Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh. Dane Fletcher is expected to start in Foster's place for the second straight week. The Bucs also are listing quarterback Josh McCown (thumb) as doubtful, but all indications are that McCown won't play and Mike Glennon will start.

Defensive end Larry English (hamstring) also was declared out. Defensive end Michael Johnson (ankle) is listed as questionable.

The rest of the injury report is pretty encouraging. Running back Doug Martin (knee), defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (hand), tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, defensive end William Gholston (shoulder) and wide receiver Vincent Jackson (wrist) are listed as probable.
TAMPA, Fla. – Buccaneers middle linebacker Mason Foster gave a ringing endorsement to the man who is likely to take his place in the starting lineup Thursday night.

Foster is expected to sit out with a dislocated shoulder. That means Dane Fletcher likely will get the start.

“Dane is a veteran,’’ Foster said. “He’s a proven player in this league. He had a great camp and he’s ready to go. He’s a great linebacker. He’s going to step in and make it happen.’’

Fletcher will call the defensive plays. That’s something he did when he stepped in for Foster during Sunday’s loss to St. Louis. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said he has confidence in Fletcher.

“When Dane got in the ball game [Sunday], he did some good things,’’ Frazier said. “It’s tough when you’re not getting as many reps in practice on some of the things you have to do in the game. But, for the most part, we were pleased with his work. With this week being a short week, he still won’t get as many reps. But he’ll be able to get some film study and prepare and I think he’ll go out and play well Thursday night.’’

Bucs promote LB Brandon Magee

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
TAMPA, Fla. -- In what could be a sign that middle linebacker Mason Foster may miss some playing time, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers added a linebacker Monday afternoon.

Brandon Magee was promoted from the practice squad. Magee appeared in eight games for the Cleveland Browns last year. To make room for Magee, the Bucs waived cornerback Rashaan Melvin with an injury settlement. Melvin had been sidelined by an ankle injury since the preseason. The Bucs filled Magee's spot on the practice squad by signing linebacker Ka'Lial Glaud, who was with the team last year and this preseason.

Foster suffered a shoulder injury in Sunday's loss to St. Louis. Dane Fletcher is the primary backup to Foster, but adding Magee gives the Bucs more depth at the position.
The next stop on our pre-camp position-by-position overview of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is linebacker.

This could be a position of strength for the Bucs. Weakside linebacker Lavonte David already is one of the best in the league and he’s just entering his prime. David’s presence alone makes the Bucs respectable at linebacker. But they could end up being much better than respectable.

One of the keys will be how Mason Foster adapts to changes at middle linebacker. Foster is going to be asked to drop in pass coverage more than he has in the past. If he can handle that role, that will be a big boost to the linebacker corps. Foster also will call the defensive signals.

Jonathan Casillas is the front runner to start on the strong side. Dane Fletcher is the top backup linebacker, and he quickly could become a candidate to start if Foster struggles. Ka'Lial Glaud and Danny Lansanah are next in line as backups, but they’ll need to contribute on special teams to secure roster spots.

Buccaneers who need big camps

July, 14, 2014
Jul 14
With the start of training camp only a little more than a week away, let’s take a look at three Buccaneers who need to have big camps to make sure they’re in the starting lineup on opening day.

Defensive end Adrian Clayborn: He will be one of the most closely watched players in camp. Clayborn’s a former first-round pick and still has upside. But his first three seasons have been nothing special. Maybe a new coaching staff can get more out of him. But Clayborn’s draft status means nothing to the current regime. The Bucs also will be looking at the likes of William Gholston, Da’Quan Bowers and Steven Means opposite free-agent pickup Charles Johnson. If one of them steps up, the starting job might not belong to Clayborn.

Middle linebacker Mason Foster: He’s the odds-on favorite to keep the starting job and call the defensive signals. But Foster first must show he can handle increased duties as a pass defender. Very quietly the team signed Dane Fletcher, who can play the middle. If Foster stumbles, Fletcher could end up starting.

Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins: Unlike Clayborn and Foster, Seferian-Jenkins is wed to the current regime. He was a second-round draft pick and that alone should make him a strong candidate to be a starter on opening day. But Seferian-Jenkins had a unique offseason, and that’s why he needs a big training camp. Thanks to NCAA and NFL rules, Seferian-Jenkins wasn’t allowed to take part in the offseason program because of a rule that keeps players from taking part until their college's semester is over. The University of Washington, where Seferian-Jenkins played, is on a quarters system, and that got in the way. Seferian-Jenkins missed out on some valuable practice time and that could put him behind Brandon Myers, Luke Stocker and Tim Wright.

Bucs are light on incentives

April, 28, 2014
Apr 28
In the NFL, “voluntary workouts’’ often are a misnomer.

In many cases, players have large incentive clauses written into their contract to make sure players attend offseason workouts. It’s not unusual for a team to pay millions of dollars in workout bonuses. The bonuses generally require players to attend the bulk of offseason workouts.

But the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are an exception. In their case, only a small handful of players have workout bonuses. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy leads the way with a $300,000 workout bonus. Linebackers Jonathan Casillas and Dane Fletcher each have a $100,000 bonus and tight end Tom Crabtree has a $25,000 bonus. Those are all the workout bonuses for this year.

The Bucs are unique because former general manager Mark Dominik largely avoided signing bonuses and workout bonuses, instead preferring to lump everything into base salary. New general manager Jason Licht has followed a similar approach.

But the lack of incentive isn’t preventing the Bucs from working out. Every player on the roster was present for last week’s minicamp, although some weren’t able to take part in drills due to injuries.

Bucs sticking with cap approach

March, 28, 2014
Mar 28
Although the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are trying to distance themselves from last year’s 4-12 season, one thing has stayed the same.

That is the way they structure contracts. New general manager Jason Licht is doing the same thing predecessor Mark Dominik did. Licht is avoiding giving out signing bonuses and is paying big money in the early years of contracts.

That prevents the Bucs from getting weighed down with big salary-cap figures in the later years of the contract. That method has become an organizational philosophy.

“I would say it’s a method that’s worked very well for us," Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer said at the recent NFL owners meeting. “It’s given us a lot of flexibility. The structures we’ve put in place are not creating problems for the future. One thing we learned from the past was that at one point we got ourselves in big trouble. One decision we made after that was that we’re going to do things in a way that won’t put us in a bad position moving forward and give us flexibility for the future. As you saw this offseason, we had the flexibility to do a lot of things. There’s no need to change structurally what is working."

Licht has given only one signing bonus while signing 12 free agents so far. That bonus was a relatively small $300,000 to linebacker Dane Fletcher.

Projecting a lineup: Defense

March, 21, 2014
Mar 21
We’ve given you projections on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offensive starters already. Now, let’s flip over to the other side and talk about the defense.

Defensive end: Michael Johnson was signed to a big contract to spice up the pass rush. He’ll start opposite Adrian Clayborn.

Defensive tackle: Gerald McCoy is an All-Pro and should thrive in coach Lovie Smith’s scheme. Free-agent pickup Clinton McDonald could end up starting next to McCoy.

Linebackers: Lavonte David is a certainty on the weak side. Beyond that, there are question marks. Mason Foster has been the starter in the middle the past couple years, but the Bucs signed free agent Dane Fletcher to provide some competition. Jonathan Casillas is the best bet on the strong side, but the Bucs might not be done with that position just yet.

Cornerbacks: Alterraun Verner instantly became the No. 1 cornerback when he was signed as a free agent. That leaves Johnthan Banks and Mike Jenkins to compete for the other starting job, with the loser taking over as the nickel back.

Safeties: This is one area where there won’t be change. The Bucs are in good shape with Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron as the returning starters.

Catching up on contract numbers

March, 19, 2014
Mar 19
It’s time to bring you up to speed on the full details of some of the more recent contracts players have signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Let’s start with center Evan Dietrich-Smith. His four-year deal is worth $14.25 million with $7.25 million guaranteed. Dietrich-Smith will earn $2.5 million in base salary and a $1 million roster bonus this year. In 2015, his salary rises to $3.75. In 2016, the base salary dips to $2.5 million. In 2017, he has a $3.5 million base salary and a $1 million roster bonus.

Linebacker Dane Fletcher received a one-year deal worth $1.2 million. But Fletcher additionally can earn up to another $975,000 if he meets certain playing-time standards.

Finally, offensive lineman Jamon Meredith, who re-signed with the team, received a two-year deal worth $2.7 million. Meredith will make $1.05 million in base salary this year and has a $350,000 roster bonus. In 2015, Meredith’s base salary is $1.3 million with a $350,000 roster bonus. Meredith can earn an additional $750,000 each year if he meets playing-time standards.

Buccaneers add more depth

March, 16, 2014
Mar 16
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers continued their free-agent frenzy Sunday by signing two players that are likely to fill roles as backups.

The Bucs signed former New England linebacker Dane Fletcher and former Cleveland guard Oniel Cousins.

Fletcher has been a backup middle linebacker and special-teams player for New England and is likely to play behind Mason Foster. Cousins was a part-time starter in Cleveland and he could factor into Tampa Bay’s overhaul of the offensive line. The Bucs previously released veterans Davin Joseph and Donald Penn and signed tackle Anthony Collins and center Evan Dietrich-Smith.

Cousins could get a chance to compete with Jamon Meredith and Jeremy Zuttah at guard.

Buccaneers have more visitors

March, 12, 2014
Mar 12
TAMPA, Fla. -- I’m out at One Buccaneer Place for a news conference later Wednesday in which the Bucs will introduce some of their free-agent acquisitions.

It’s a good thing there’s a separate entrance for the media because the main entrance seems to be getting overrun with visitors. In addition to the four players that agreed to terms Tuesday and quarterback Josh McCown, who agreed to terms Wednesday afternoon, the Bucs have confirmed five other players have made – or are in the process of making – visits.

Some of these have been reported before and some are new, so let’s run through the whole list. The free agents the Bucs confirmed as visitors are Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman, Green Bay center Evan Dietrich-Smith, New England linebacker Dane Fletcher, Cincinnati offensive lineman Anthony Collins and Carolina wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr.

Stay tuned. We’ll let you know if the Bucs agree to terms with any of those five or anyone else.