Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Darrelle Revis

TAMPA, Fla. -- Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden said Thursday that the team has had a good amount of talent in recent years but has been lacking at quarterback.

"Tampa's had [Michael] Bennett as a pass-rusher," Gruden said on Mike & Mike. "He plays pretty well for the Seahawks. LeGarrette Blount. They had Darrelle Revis. They've had a lot of quality players that didn't play well in Tampa and I think a lot of it goes back to the lack of quality quarterback play. They're not winning games. They can't keep these players. They can't understand why they're not playing great. They have to get the quarterback position right."

The Bucs will have that chance because they hold the No. 1 overall pick in the draft and they have a choice between Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. Gruden sang the praises of both quarterbacks.

He said he believes Winston has learned from past off-field incidents and is ready to be the face of a franchise.

"He's a dynamic kid," Gruden said. "You don't go to Florida State and meet many people that don't love being around Winston. He is a polarizing player for some. Some people can't agree on what he is off the field. I've got a lot of confidence that he's learned some valuable lessons and he knows he's going to be in the spotlight for the rest of his career. It's up to him to get it done."

Gruden also was high on Mariota.

"If you don't like Marcus Mariota, you don't like human beings," Gruden said.

The one common criticism of Mariota is that he spent his college career playing in a spread offense. Gruden said he's not worried about that.

"He's not the offensive coordinator," Gruden said. "It's not his fault. What they do at Oregon is very unique. That type of football is on its way to the NFL. You're seeing more and more no-huddle offenses. You see a lot of intermediate passes from 10 yards and in, which is a big part of Oregon.

"When you watch Philadelphia [which is coached by former Oregon coach Chip Kelly] play offense, you see the Oregon Ducks. The No. 1 offense in football the last two years is Philadelphia. So the system works. Mariota can play in that system. Somebody is going to see a (6-foot-4) quarterback with 4.5 speed. This guy is quick, he's smart, he's the most humble, hard-working guy maybe in this draft. I want him on my team. I'll put my system in around him. I think personally Marcus Mariota can play in any system."
TAMPA, Fla. -- There were times in Johnthan Banks' rookie season that he would rather forget.

A second-round draft pick in 2013, Banks was starting at cornerback opposite Darrelle Revis. That meant teams were throwing away from Revis and at Banks. The results weren't always pretty.

But there's one game Banks remembers fondly. That was a late November victory in Detroit. Banks sealed it for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with an interception on a pass intended for Calvin Johnson with less than a minute left in the game. Revis got banged up in that game and Banks covered Johnson in the second half, holding the All-Pro to three catches for 54 yards and no touchdowns.

"That was the highlight of my season," Banks said. "I had a lot of fun. I knew he was the best and I wasn't the best at my position at the time."

Banks will see Johnson again Sunday when the Bucs play at Detroit. The circumstances will be a bit different. Banks won't have to cover Johnson man on man because the Bucs now use a Tampa 2 scheme. But Banks is likely to have some matchups against Johnson, and that's something he's looking forward to.

"It's always fun going against the best in the league," Banks said. "I'm a young guy, still learning. Calvin's been in this league nine or 10 years, great receiver. Probably one of the best of all time. Just getting to go out there and compete with Calvin Johnson and being on the same field as Calvin Johnson, it's an honor. I'll be ready for it."

If Banks sounds confident, it's only because he is. He has good reason. Banks has three interceptions in the last five games and leads the Bucs with four picks on the season. His improved play has coincided with an overall surge by the defense in the second half of the season.

"I'm playing better," Banks said. "I've learned a lot of things. The game is slowing down for me."

That's a lot of progress for a guy who didn't seem to be high in the plans when coach Lovie Smith took over in January. The Bucs let Revis go and went out and signed cornerbacks Alterraun Verner and Mike Jenkins. The plan was for those two veterans to be the starters, and Banks was expected to have a limited role.

But Jenkins suffered a season-ending injury in training camp that elevated Banks into a starting role.

"To his credit, we had competition at the position and he has just persevered and worked to get better," defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. "We've all seen him get better as the year has gone. He didn't hang his head because there was competition at his position. It just seemed like he worked harder and that hard work is paying off."

At 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, Banks is one of the league's biggest cornerbacks. He's not the fastest, but Smith said that doesn't matter.

"Most guys with that type of size and length aren't the quickest," Smith said. "If you want really quick guys, normally you lose some inches. [You are] going the wrong direction when you do that. But I think he's a perfect combination. You look at the receivers in the league now that you have -- look at ours, the ones we're playing this week -- seems like each week there's big receivers on the other side, 6-3-plus, and you need a player like Johnthan. Even though you may not be as quick as some of the other guys, there's other things with that length that you talked about. And then, though, being able to finish and intercept the ball. To me, with the defensive back, it's about how many picks do you have and will you tackle. And he'll do all of those things."

Banks said he's come a long way from his rookie year.

"My overall game is just better," Banks said. "Everything has slowed down for me. Last year, I was always kind of nervous and just trying to get the feel of the game. Now, I feel like I belong. Everything has slowed down and I know I can do it."

That kind of confidence is a plus and Banks will need every bit of it for his second career meeting with Johnson.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made a lot of noise in free agency. But those free agents have been quiet so far.

That's a big part of the reason why the Bucs are off to a 1-6 start. Let's take a look at how the free agents are faring:

Anthony Collins: The Bucs gambled that Collins, a career backup, could be a quality starter at left tackle. So far, things haven't worked out too well. The Bucs have allowed five sacks in each of the last two games. That's not all on Collins, but he's the most important pass protector and the Bucs are struggling in that area.

Evan Dietrich-Smith: Much like Collins, Dietrich-Smith spent much of his career as a backup before becoming a starter in Green Bay last year. The Bucs viewed Dietrich-Smith as a player on the rise, but he's been pretty ordinary so far. We've already mentioned the pass blocking and the run blocking hasn't been great either. The center plays in important role in both of those areas.

Brandon Myers: He's getting playing time in two-tight-end sets, but rookie Austin Seferian-Jenkins is the main pass catcher. Myers has been all right as a role player.

Josh McCown: He was brought in as Lovie Smith's hand-picked quarterback. McCown started the first three games and the offense never got into any real rhythm. He suffered a thumb injury in the third game and couldn't throw the football for a month. McCown is healthy again, but the Bucs appear to be sticking with Mike Glennon as the starter.

Clinton McDonald: The defensive tackle was brought in mostly due to his upside as an interior pass rusher. McDonald has done a decent job -- he has 1.5 sacks and has generated pressure.

Michael Johnson: The Bucs brought this defensive end in to lead their pass rush. Johnson has been disappointing so far with only two sacks. It should be pointed out that Johnson has been playing through an ankle injury most of the season.

Alterraun Verner: The cornerback was brought in after the Bucs unloaded Darrelle Revis. Verner hasn't been spectacular, but he's been solid. He might be the best signing of this free-agent class.
The next stop on our pre-camp position-by-position analysis of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is the defensive backfield.

The new regime quickly decided that Darrelle Revis wasn’t an economic or schematic fit and released the cornerback. The Bucs are switching to the Cover 2, and Revis’ talents might have gone to waste in that system.

The Bucs signed free-agent Alterraun Verner to be their No. 1 cornerback. He came at a much better price than Revis, and he’s a natural fit in the Cover 2. The second cornerback spot still is murky. Johnthan Banks started there last year as a rookie, but the Bucs brought in Mike Jenkins to compete with him.

Logic says the loser of that battle becomes the nickelback. But coach Lovie Smith takes a different approach with nickelbacks. He treats it as an individual position and has a coach (Larry Marmie) responsible just for coaching the nickelbacks. Leonard Johnson and Danny Gorrer got work at nickelback in the offseason program.

The safety spots are a little more certain. Barring injury, Mark Barron will start on the strong side and Dashon Goldson will be at free safety. There’s solid depth behind them with Major Wright and Keith Tandy.

Fact or fiction: Defense

July, 16, 2014
As we wait for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to open training camp, let’s play a little fact or fiction on the defensive side of the ball:

1. Lavonte David will earn a Pro Bowl berth this season.

Our take: Fact.

Justify it: Let’s be brutally honest here. David should have been selected to the Pro Bowl last season. There was no question he was one of the best outside linebackers in the league, but he was hurt by the fact that Pro Bowl voters leaned toward 3-4 outside linebackers. David still made The Associated Press All-Pro team and that might have eased the snub somewhat. But David can’t be overlooked anymore. He’ll be in the Pro Bowl this season.

2. Da'Quan Bowers will start at least one game at defensive end.

Our take: Fiction.

Justify it: When Bowers was coming out of college, there was a period of time when the consensus was that he would be the first overall pick in the draft. A knee injury caused Bowers to fall out of the first round. The Bucs drafted him in the second round. Bowers will get a fresh start with a new coaching staff. But, to date, Bowers has shown no evidence he’s ready to be a contributor. He could have trouble simply hanging onto a roster spot.

3. Defensive end Michael Johnson will reach double digits in sacks.

Our take: Fact.

Justify it: The Bucs gave Johnson a five-year, $43.5 million contract to come in and give them an outside pass rush to go along with Gerald McCoy on the inside. Johnson was limited to 3.5 sacks in Cincinnati last year. But he had 11.5 in 2012. The Bucs are betting Johnson can get back to his 2012 form.

4. The secondary is better off without Darrelle Revis.

Our take: Fiction.

Justify it: The Bucs got rid of perhaps the best cornerback in the league because he had an astronomical salary and they felt they could spread the money around more efficiently. There’s no way you can subtract Revis and say the secondary will be better. But the secondary won’t be bad. The Bucs got cornerback Alterraun Verner at a reasonable price. They’re hoping either Johnthan Banks or Mike Jenkins can step up at the other cornerback spot. The Bucs will be playing a Cover 2 scheme and Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson give them a decent pair of safeties.

5. This can be a top-10 defense.

Our take: Fact.

Justify it: Heck, this could even be a top-five defense. New coach Lovie Smith is trying to build a defense similar to what the Bucs had back in their glory days. He has two of the most important parts in place in McCoy and David. They fill the roles Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks did back in the day. Some other players are going to have to step up, but Tampa Bay has the nucleus of what could be a very good defense.

Top 15 Buccaneers: No. 6

July, 4, 2014
We continue our list of the top 15 Buccaneers with No. 6:

Alterraun Verner, cornerback

What he did in 2013: Verner had a Pro Bowl season for the Tennessee Titans. He had 57 tackles and five interceptions.

Why he’s No. 6 in 2014: Verner was one of the first players the Bucs went after in free agency. At 25, he may be just entering his prime. He’s a perfect fit in coach Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2 defense. The Bucs parted ways with Darrelle Revis because he was expensive and not a great fit in the Tampa 2 scheme. Verner may not be as talented as Revis, but the Bucs believe he can be successful as their No. 1 cornerback.

Bucs well stocked at CB

June, 4, 2014
Even after parting ways with Darrelle Revis, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be better off at cornerback than they were a year ago. That's because they have strength in numbers.

“It's been very heated," defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said of the competition at cornerback. “(Mike Jenkins) has come in, he's fighting for a spot, Johnthan Banks doesn't want to relinquish the spot and Alterraun Verner coming in fighting for a spot, it's been healthy competition; it's been good for our team. Danny Gorrer, he's fighting for a spot, Rashaan (Melvin) he's fighting for a spot, we've got some depth at corner and it'll all shake itself out once we get to training camp, we get the pads on and get through the preseason, but right now it's been very heated and very good for our team.”

The reality is Verner is pretty much assured of one starting spot. That leaves Jenkins and Banks competing for the other starting spot. Logic says the loser of that battle will end up as the nickelback. But the Bucs treat that position differently than a lot of teams. Assistant coach Larry Marmie is assigned to work solely with the nickelbacks. D.J. Moore, who played for coach Lovie Smith in Chicago, and Leonard Johnson have been the two guys working at nickelback in the offseason program.

Frazier said Moore has the early lead.

"We've got some competition, but D.J. his history and his background kind of gives him a leg up right now," Frazier said. "With D.J.'s experience, he's been in this system, had a lot of success in it in Chicago. Leonard (is) learning the system, he's fighting to earn the spot and he's a very good special-teams player as well."

Buccaneers offseason wrap-up

May, 22, 2014
» NFC Wrap: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Grades

 With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple of months away, we assess the Buccaneers' offseason moves.

Best move: Signing defensive end Michael Johnson as a free agent from Cincinnati. Johnson has posted double-digit sacks before and he should be a pass-rushing force on the outside. That’s something the Bucs lacked last season. With defensive tackle Gerald McCoy on the inside and Johnson on the outside, the pass rush should be much better. That’s going to help the entire defense, particularly the secondary.

Riskiest move: The Bucs quickly signed veteran quarterback Josh McCown and named him the starter. For a team that clearly is in a win-now mode, this is a risky move. McCown has been a backup most of his career and has made only 38 starts. He played well in relief of an injured Jay Cutler in Chicago last season. But there’s nothing in McCown’s track record to suggest that he can win consistently over the long haul. Coach Lovie Smith has history with McCown and is comfortable with the veteran quarterback. But the Bucs were in a position to get a potential franchise quarterback in the draft and they passed. Smith has gone out on a limb with McCown and second-year pro Mike Glennon is the only safety net.

Most surprising move: The Bucs had perhaps the best cornerback in football in Darrelle Revis. But one of the new regime’s first moves was to unload Revis as quickly as possible. That freed up a large chunk of salary-cap space that was used to address other positions. The Bucs did a nice job of replacing Revis with Alterraun Verner. The Bucs got Verner at a reasonable price and he’s in the prime of his career. But you still have to question the decision to part ways with a player with Revis' skills.

The bigger, the better: McCown had success with an oversized receiving corps in Chicago last year and the Bucs are trying to duplicate that. They already had 6-foot-5 receiver Vincent Jackson and they used their first two draft picks on wide receiver Mike Evans (6-4) and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (6-5). That trio is going to create some major matchup problems for opposing defensive backs.

Bucs pick Charles Sims in 3rd

May, 9, 2014
TAMPA, Fla. -- The pick: Charles Sims, running back, West Virginia.

My take: This wasn't a position of need for the Buccaneers, who already have a crowded backfield with Doug Martin, Mike James, Bobby Rainey and Jeff Demps. But the team had Sims highly rated and made the move. The Bucs have said they want a backfield rotation this year, but they could end up having to part ways with a talented back or two.

Good hands: The Bucs took Sims largely because they felt he was the best receiver among the running backs. Sims spent the first three years of his career at Houston before transferring to West Virginia. He’s been productive as a runner and a receiver.

What's next: The Bucs currently don’t have a fourth-round pick (it went to the New York Jets in last year’s trade for Darrelle Revis). They’ve done a nice job filling some needs, but there still is a glaring need at guard, where there’s no clear-cut starter on the right side and there are health concerns with left guard Carl Nicks.
We conclude our pre-draft position-by-position look at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the defensive backfield.

Where things stand: The team parted ways with Darrelle Revis because his skills weren’t going to be showcased in the Cover 2 scheme and his salary could be used for a lot of other things. But the team filled Revis’ place nicely by signing Alterraun Verner. He’s a natural fit in the Cover 2 and he came at a reasonable price. Verner instantly becomes the No. 1 cornerback. Johnthan Banks and free-agent pickup Mike Jenkins will compete for the second and third spots. Safeties Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron have plenty of talent and could thrive if they can adjust to the Cover 2. The Bucs also brought in safety Major Wright, who played for coach Lovie Smith in Chicago, for depth.

What to watch for: This defensive backfield is very well stocked and it’s unlikely the team will use any early draft picks on the secondary. The Bucs could use a late-round pick on a defensive back, but depth at this position is not a huge priority.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers ranked right in the middle of the pack when it came to spending money on players in 2013. They ranked 16th in the NFL, according to the ESPN The Magazine/Sportingintelligence Global Salary Survey.

The Bucs spent a total of $107.7 million, which came to an average of $2.032 million per player, based on a 53-man roster. The three teams who spent the most were the Minnesota Vikings ($122.7 million), Seattle Seahawks ($122.1) and Chicago Bears ($118.5).

Those figures aren’t the same as salary-cap figures, because they account for actual money spent in 2013 -- including signing bonuses.

That’s why former Tampa Bay cornerback Darrelle Revis didn’t rank among the top-10 highest-paid NFL players in 2013. Although Revis made $16 million last year, other NFL players who received lofty signing bonuses ranked much higher (such as quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Tom Brady, Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan and Tony Romo).

It’s interesting to note how low all NFL teams rank on the overall list among all sports teams around the world. No NFL teams rank in the top 100 on a per-player basis (in part because their rosters are so much larger than basketball, soccer and baseball teams).

But even when it comes to total spending, no NFL teams ranked in the top 20, which was completely made up of major league baseball and international soccer teams. The top three spending teams in all sports last year were the Los Angeles Dodgers ($241.1 million), New York Yankees ($208.8) and Manchester City ($202.7).
If there was one recurring theme coming from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during last week's NFL owners meetings it was that this team isn’t looking back.

New coach Lovie Smith and co-chairman Joel Glazer both refused to dwell on the past. Glazer talked about how the team was looking forward to 2014 when asked if hiring former coach Greg Schiano was a mistake. When asked about releasing Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis, Smith kept the conversation moving forward.

“There’s a lot of tough moves you have to make, but you have to define what’s tough,’’ Smith said. “Darrelle Revis ended up going to a great organization and a great situation, so that was good for him. For us, we were able to get Alterraun Verner plus other players. I feel like both of us won. It was a tough decision, but I think it was a good decision for both parties and we're both excited about it.’’

There really is no sense in rehashing the past. It’s pretty obvious to all that hiring Schiano was a big mistake. It’s also obvious that Revis and his $16 million cap figure didn't fit in Tampa Bay's new defensive scheme.

The Bucs were 4-12 last year and they're well on their way to overhauling the roster. The best thing the Bucs can do right now is forget last year and keep moving forward.

Bucs sticking with cap approach

March, 19, 2014
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers changed general managers, but they haven’t changed their approach to the salary cap.

So far in free agency, Jason Licht has been using the same tactics as predecessor Mark Dominik. Licht has avoided using signing bonuses.

That was a Dominik trademark that ran contrary to what most of the rest of the league does. I don’t know if Licht is following orders from ownership or if he simply decided to follow Dominik’s blueprint.

Either way, it’s a smart approach. Signing bonuses can be dangerous because they spread out a cap hit through future years. If a player doesn’t work out, the team can end up with a big cap hit. That’s when you hear about “dead money’’ -- cap charges for players no longer on the roster.

Dominik preferred to pay big salaries in the early years of contracts and avoided back-loaded deals. Thanks to Dominik’s contract structures in the past, the Bucs have almost no dead money this year. The Bucs were in good cap shape throughout the Dominik years and Licht inherited a good cap situation.

The Bucs were able to release cornerback Darrelle Revis and his $16 million salary without a penny counting toward the salary cap. Licht’s been positioning the Bucs the same way with the contracts he’s been giving out. He has included a few roster bonuses, but no signing bonuses.

You can call this approach frugal. I call it smart. The Bucs are taking bigger cap hits early in contracts, but that means they won't get jammed up in later years.

Free-agency review: Buccaneers

March, 18, 2014
Most significant signing: The signing of former Cincinnati defensive end Michael Johnson has been the team's biggest move by far. The Bucs came into free agency looking to improve their pass rush and they accomplished that by signing Johnson. He had only 3.5 sacks last year, but had 11.5 in 2012. The hope is that Johnson can give the Bucs double-digit sacks.

Most significant loss: The beauty of this free-agency period is the Bucs didn't really have any significant free agents of their own. They did lose Dekoda Watson (Jacksonville) and Adam Hayward (Washington). Those losses took away some of their depth at linebacker. More significantly, Watson and Hayward were regulars on special teams, and the Bucs have to find players to fill their roles.

Biggest surprise: It was no surprise the Bucs released cornerback Darrelle Revis and his $16 million salary. But it was surprising that the Bucs replaced him with Alterraun Verner at such a reasonable rate (four years, $26.5 million). Verner is not on the same level as Revis, but he should fit very nicely in the Tampa 2 scheme.

What's next? The Bucs have made a lot of moves, but there is still more work to be done. That's what happens when you're coming off a 4-12 season. They need to add some speed at wide receiver and continue to solidify their offensive line.
TAMPA, Fla. -- In the final analysis, the trade for cornerback Darrelle Revis has to go down as one of the worst moves in the history of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a franchise with a long history of bad moves.

Revis was released Wednesday afternoon as the Bucs freed up $16 million by parting ways with a shutdown cornerback who wasn’t going to fit in a Cover 2 scheme. That comes less than a year after the Bucs gave up a first-round pick in last year’s draft and a fourth-round pick in this year’s draft to get Revis. Immediately after making the trade, the Bucs turned around and made Revis the highest-paid player in franchise history.

But Revis ended up having very little impact on this franchise. He wasn’t horrible, but Revis’ time with the Bucs was far from memorable. He began last season playing more Cover 2 than man-to-man coverage. As time went on, Revis and the Bucs admitted he wasn’t 100 percent healthy after knee surgery, and that’s why the team used him in zone defenses.

Revis’ fate was sealed when Lovie Smith, who has made a living coaching the Cover 2, was hired to coach the Buccaneers.

“We would like to thank Darrelle for his time and effort with our organization last year,” Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said. “Darrelle showed a lot of heart last year as he worked extremely hard to get himself back on the field following his knee injury sustained the previous season. We have specific ideas regarding the best way to build this defense and, while you never like to lose a good player, we believe this is in the best interests of our team moving forward. Darrelle was a true professional here in Tampa Bay and we wish him continued success in his career.”

Licht is right that Revis was a true professional. He went about his business and played well within the framework of Tampa Bay’s defense.

But Revis never did anything special -- except cost the Bucs $16 million.