Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Lavonte David

Lavonte David a well-kept secret

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
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TAMPA, Fla. -- The comparisons started among Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans as soon as Lavonte David was drafted in 2012.

It seemed far-fetched, or at least very premature, but David instantly was seen as the second coming of Derrick Brooks. These days, that doesn’t seem like quite a stretch.

“It’s very early in his career and Derrick’s a Hall of Famer, so it’s hard to say that at this point,’’ Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. “But if there’s anybody that has a chance as an outside linebacker to end up on the Derrick Brooks level, Lavonte has those qualities. His instincts, his ability to make big plays, and his ability to lift everyone up around him are similar to what Derrick had. Lavonte has those qualities. He has the chance to be one of the great players in this league.’’

As Brooks was, David is a weakside linebacker with a knack for big plays. David is coming off a 2013 season in which he had 145 tackles, seven sacks, two forced fumbles and five interceptions. Look at what Brooks did in the first two years of his career and David stacks up pretty well.

“It’s nerve-wracking being compared to that guy," David said. “He’s a Hall of Famer. All it does is motivate me to keep working hard, and maybe one day I can get to where he’s at."

Despite the brilliant start to his career, David remains one of the NFL’s best-kept secrets -- outside of Tampa Bay. David was overlooked for the Pro Bowl last season, but was named first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press. In ESPN.com's rankings of the NFL's top 100 defensive players, David came in at No. 25. He was 98th a year ago.

“[The Pro Bowl snub] didn't bother me as much as people might think," David said. “I can only control what I can control. I just go out there and play my hardest. Being voted first-team All-Pro is better than being voted to the Pro Bowl, in my opinion."

The Pro Bowls will come as long as David continues to produce, and all indications are he will. With Lovie Smith taking over as head coach, the Bucs are returning to the Tampa 2 defense that was famous back when Brooks was playing. Weakside linebacker is a crucial position in the Tampa 2 as that player is expected to go from side to side against the run and drop in coverage or blitz against the pass. Frazier said David is a perfect fit for the scheme.

“He sees things before they happen," Smith said. “He studies extremely hard. You should see him in the classroom. He’s asking questions all the time. He’s always looking for more. And then he goes on the football field and you can see that he’s applying what he’s learned. That’s not always the case. That makes him a very special talent."

How special can David be?

“The sky is the limit," Frazier said. “The way he works, as smart as he is, the talent he has -- he should go to a lot of Pro Bowls before his career is over. I’m looking forward to being a part of his evolution. He can be as good as any outside linebacker that’s played the game, in my opinion. I think he has those traits."
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Since his arrival in Tampa Bay, we’ve heard coach Lovie Smith talk a lot about “Buc Ball". But what that meant exactly never was very clear.

On Saturday, we started to get a picture of what Smith’s been talking about. His defense produced three turnovers and a touchdown in a 27-14 preseason victory against the Buffalo Bills. The offense wasn’t spectacular but it was opportunistic.

Clinton McDonald
Bill Wippert/Associated PressClinton McDonald returned a fumble for a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills on Saturday.
“I talk about a full game," Smith said. “When I say full game I’m talking about offense, defense and special teams. We talk a lot about taking the ball away. We talk about scoring on defense. It’s not a good defensive game unless we’re able to do that. I thought the defense did a great job of setting the tempo on what type of day it will be.’’

Linebacker Lavonte David forced a first-quarter fumble that was recovered by Mason Foster. That set up a quick touchdown by the offense. In the second quarter, defensive tackle Clinton McDonald scored a touchdown after picking up a fumble that was caused by an Adrian Clayborn sack and a Michael Johnson strip.

Is that what Buc Ball is all about?

“Yeah, man," All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “The defense takes the ball away and puts it back in the offense’s hands and the offense puts it in the end zone. That’s kind of what we want to do. It felt good and we want to keep that going. It felt good to actually see it come alive today and now we have to take this into next week and into the regular season.’’

It had been difficult to see any signs of Smith’s philosophy in the first two preseason games, both losses. The Bucs produced only one turnover and the offense was largely ineffective.

But the offense showed some promise against the Bills. With some of the starters playing into the third quarter, the Bucs built a 24-0 lead before the backups let the Bills back in the game. Quarterback Josh McCown completed 13 of 16 passes for 112 yards with one touchdown and an interception. Doug Martin rushed 12 times for 38 yards, Vincent Jackson had five catches and rookie Mike Evans had three receptions, including one for a touchdown.

That’s a pretty good sample of what Tampa Bay’s offense is going to look like.

“I think we had 17 rushes in the first half," Smith said. “That’s what we want to do. To be a running football team you need to have attempts as much as anything."

We haven’t seen all of Buc Ball yet because the team likely is keeping tricks up its sleeve for the regular season. But what we saw Saturday was a rough outline of the type of product Smith wants to put on the field.

Observation Deck: Buccaneers

August, 23, 2014
Aug 23
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith said earlier this week that he wanted to see more sacks and takeaways. Mission accomplished.

Tampa Bay’s first-team defense forced three turnovers in Saturday’s 27-14 victory against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Lavonte David forced a first-quarter fumble by C.J. Spiller that was recovered by Mason Foster. Tampa Bay’s offense punched the ball in for a quick touchdown. Tampa Bay’s offense was far from spectacular, but the defense more than made up for it.

The defense produced a touchdown of its own. As Adrian Clayborn sacked Buffalo quarterback EJ Manuel, Michael Johnson reached in and knocked the ball loose. Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald picked the ball up and ran it in for a touchdown with 8:21 left in the second quarter.

All of Buffalo’s points came in the second half after Tampa Bay’s starting defense had left the game. The Bucs held a 24-0 lead at halftime.

Some other observations:
  • Tampa Bay’s offense hadn’t been putting together long drives this preseason. That finally changed late in the second quarter. The Bucs had an 11-play drive that covered 82 yards and ended with a touchdown pass from Josh McCown to Mike Evans. That shows the Bucs can sustain a drive. But it’s important to remember that we’ve seen only a very small sampling of coordinator Jeff Tedford’s offense. The Bucs are saving most of that for the regular season.
  • I’ve got a feeling what we saw Saturday will be repeated a lot during the regular season. The Bucs played fantastic defense and were rather ordinary (but opportunistic) on offense. That’s not flashy, but that fits Smith’s philosophy perfectly.
  • Smith said he wanted to take an early look at recently acquired defensive end Larry English. He did, putting English into the game early. He responded with two sacks. The former first-round pick by San Diego still faces an uphill battle to make the team but might be gaining ground on Da'Quan Bowers, who missed the game with a groin injury.
  • Smith said he wanted to play his starters into the third quarter. He did play his starting offense into the second half, with one notable exception. Backup quarterback Mike Glennon replaced McCown to start the third quarter. That was a smart move. With the offensive line still a work in progress, there’s no sense in exposing McCown to possible injury before the regular season starts.
  • Linebacker Jonathan Casillas did not play for the Bucs. He was held out for a disciplinary reason, according to a team official. Danny Lansanah got the start in his place and played well. Lansanah has had a strong preseason and appears to have secured a roster spot.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith generally is positive when he’s asked about specific players.

Barron
But, so far, I haven’t heard him put as much praise on one player as he did on strong safety Mark Barron on Monday night. Smith compared Barron to one of the greatest players in Tampa Bay history.

“We’ve talked a lot about and I’ve heard (the media) talk a lot about Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy being compared to two Hall of Famers (Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp),’’ Smith said. “But we had another great safety here in John Lynch. Mark Barron looks the part.’’

I don’t think that’s much of an exaggeration. Barron was a high draft pick with lots of physical talent. He’s shown promise at times, but he should really thrive under a defensive-minded coach like Smith.

“I’m very pleased with him,’’ Smith said. “I really like what he did at Alabama. He had a good season last year, but it’s ahead of him. We need a big strong safety moving down into the box. But he went three days and had interceptions on three days. He has good hands for a big guy. We like the direction he’s going.’’
TAMPA, Fla. -- If you're looking for an under-the-radar player with a chance to make Tampa Bay's roster, you might want to consider wide receiver Tommy Streeter. But look quickly because Streeter might not be an unknown for much longer.

Streeter already is catching the eyes of his teammates and coaches.

"We kind of have a running joke, 'Man, that dude is catching the ball right and left, over and over,'" quarterback Josh McCown said after Thursday's practice. "It's like one of the better camps I've been around for a receiver. He's just got so many dang catches. And he's just doing his job. He's just a humble, hard-working guy that comes out here every day and gets after it. He catches the ball when it's thrown to him and that's all you can ask for as a player."

[+] EnlargeTampa Bay's Tommy Streeter
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsTampa Bay quarterback Josh McCown said Tommy Streeter's performance this summer is "one of the better camps I've been around for a receiver."
Streeter's talent flashed again in Thursday's practice when he made a nice catch when matched up against veteran safety Major Wright.

"He's another guy with good size, good height, good speed and he's been catching the football," coach Lovie Smith said. "You talk to him and he doesn't want a whole lot of complements, he's just 'Hey, I'm just trying to do my job, trying to get better very day,' saying all the right things, just making plays. That's all you have to do as a player. You don't have to worry about, am I going to make the roster, am I going to get enough plays. If you get one play, you do something, you'll continue to get more. We've noticed him. When we initially came to camp he's wasn't one of the guys we were talking a lot about. But he's been pretty steady every day."

Streeter seems to be putting himself in line for a roster spot in a receiving corps in which the only sure things are starters Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans.

A sixth-round draft pick by Baltimore in 2012, Streeter has been unable to make an impact in the NFL so far. But he's not a stranger to the big stage. Streeter played at the University of Miami.

"No, I'm not afraid," Streeter said. "I've been doing this since age 7. I don't see any difference at any level. It all comes down to, at this level, how much goes into the preparation before the dance."

Streeter has been preparing for the dance by paying close attention to Jackson. That's a wise choice because Streeter is the same size (6-foot-5) as Jackson.

"I talk to him every day," Streeter said. "I ask him different questions on how do you run this route based on different leverages and techniques. Basically, what little tricks and crafty moves he has that he uses to get open. I try to incorporate that in my game as well."

Streeter said he already has learned a lot from Jackson.

"His ability to drop his weight and get in and out of his cuts," Streeter said. "He comes downhill and he's aggressive to the ball. That's something I always continuously try to improve on. At the University of Miami, I was always the deep ball guy. When you come here in this offense there's a lot of route running involved. That's something I continuously work on and something I always try to get better at."

Streeter may not have the NFL pedigree, but he came out of one of the nation's top high school programs. That's Miami Northwestern.

"They used to call us the University of Northwestern," Streeter said.

Streeter's high school team also featured two other Buccaneers, linebacker Lavonte David and cornerback Anthony Gaitor. Streeter wore the same jersey (No. 5) as previously worn by Kenbrell Thompkins, who now is with the New England Patriots, and later worn by Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

"My coach, when he gave it to me, he was like 'Son, I'm going to give you No. 5. You might have to do a little history to understand the importance of this number and the guys who wore it before you and what they did,'" Streeter said. "I was kind of nervous, like 'Does the No. 5 jersey glow or something? Is everybody watching me?' But nonetheless, I thrived in that environment."

If Streeter can continue doing what he has been doing in practice, he might be able to thrive with the Buccaneers.

Buccaneers Camp Report: Day 2

July, 26, 2014
Jul 26
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TAMPA, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp:
  • The Bucs, who had their practice abbreviated by lightning Friday, got their first full workout of camp in Saturday evening and the results were predictable. There was good and bad. No series summarized that more than a couple of plays near the middle of practice. On one play, quarterback Josh McCown threw an interception to strong safety Mark Barron. On the next play, McCown bounced back and hit Vincent Jackson with a perfectly thrown ball. Coach Lovie Smith said he expects the team to be more precise when it puts on pads for the first time on Sunday.
  • Speaking of first practices, Saturday marked the true debut of rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. He missed the offseason program due to NCAA regulations and was very limited in the rookie minicamp by a foot injury. But Seferian-Jenkins said his foot is fine now and he practiced with no limitations. After missing so much time, though, Seferian-Jenkins might be a little behind the other tight ends – Brandon Myers, Tim Wright and Luke Stocker. “He’s playing catch-up,’’ Smith said. “But he’s catching up.’’
  • It’s usually tough to get players to talk about specific goals, but defensive end Michael Johnson broke that rule of thumb. Johnson set one goal for himself and one for the entire defense. He wants to get back to double-digit sacks like he had in 2012 with Cincinnati. He also said the Bucs want to have the best defense in the league. Those two goals kind of go hand in hand. There’s been a lot of talk about how defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David compare to Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks, who were the cornerstones during Tampa Bay’s glory years. But a lot of people forget the Bucs didn’t fully get over the top until they got Simeon Rice as an outside rusher. If Johnson can make an impact anywhere close to what Rice did, the Bucs could end up being a very good defense.
  • I came into camp very skeptical about Tampa Bay’s depth at wide receiver after Jackson and rookie Mike Evans. But I’m starting to warm up to this position group. No one stood out, but guys like Tommy Streeter, Solomon Patton, Russell Shepard, Louis Murphy, Robert Herron, Lavelle Hawkins, Eric Page, Skye Dawson and David Gettis each had some bright moments. I think one of those guys will step up and claim the No. 3 job. That may be all the Bucs need because I’m not anticipating a lot of four-receiver sets from this offense.
  • Read into this whatever you want, but Jamon Meredith worked as the first-team left guard and Oniel Cousins worked at right guard. After the departure of Carl Nicks, I think the Bucs still are trying to figure out what they’re going to do at guard. I wouldn’t be surprised if Patrick Omameh and rookie Kadeem Edwards get some looks with the first team.
The next stop on our pre-camp position-by-position overview of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is linebacker.

David
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.
Let’s conclude our fact-or-fiction series with coaching and special teams.

1. The arrival of coach Lovie Smith makes the Buccaneers an instant playoff team.

Our take: Fiction.

Justify it: There's little doubt Smith will be better than predecessor Greg Schiano. Smith is a proven winner in the NFL. Players like working for him and he commands respect. All that being said, Smith still faces a tough job. This team was 4-12 last season. The Bucs were very aggressive in free agency and that will help. But turning this team completely around might be more than a one-year project.

Frazier
2. Leslie Frazier is the luckiest defensive coordinator in the NFL.

Our take: Fact.

Justify it: Frazier inherits defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David. They're among the best in the league at their respective positions and they give Frazier a couple of solid building blocks. David and McCoy have been compared to Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp, who were the central figures of the defense in Tampa Bay's glory days. If Frazier can get solid production from some other role players, the Bucs could have an elite defense.

3. Jeff Tedford's offense is going to bring excitement to Tampa Bay.

Our take: Fact.

Justify it: For the most part, the Bucs have been very quiet about what Tedford's offense will look like. Several players have used the phrase "up tempo" to describe it. That would be a nice twist for an offense that's been boring in recent years. This offense has enough tools to be potent if Tedford can put things together the right way. Doug Martin gives the team a solid runner and Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans will be one of the league's biggest receiving tandems. But the real key will be quarterback Josh McCown. If he can thrive in Tedford's offense, this team suddenly can be good.

4. Smith had strong return games in Chicago, so he should bring the same thing to Tampa Bay.

Our take: Fiction.

Justify it: Smith had a strong return game in Chicago mostly because he had Devin Hester. At the moment, the Bucs don't have anyone to compare with Hester. Eric Page handled returns last season and he was ordinary. The Bucs will look at several other possible returners, including Jeff Demps and Charles Sims. Someone could emerge as a strong returner, but the Bucs don't have anyone that's proven yet.

Barth
5. Connor Barth is back, so the kicking game will be fine.

Our take: Fact.

Justify it: Barth missed all of last season with a torn Achilles tendon. He's healthy now and that's great news for the kicking game. Barth is one of the better young kickers in the NFL.

Fact or fiction: Defense

July, 16, 2014
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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.

Bowers
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.

Revis
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.

Are Bucs behind NFC South?

July, 15, 2014
Jul 15
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I did a radio interview Monday with former Carolina Panthers general manager Marty Hurney. That got me thinking back to 2003 when Hurney built a Super Bowl team.

Led by Julius Peppers and Kris Jenkins on an awesome defense, the Panthers ran the ball with Stephen Davis on offense and quarterback Jake Delhomme didn't make many mistakes. That formula took the Panthers down to the wire against the New England Patriots in a game that was a lot closer than most people remember.

Anyway, I look at that Carolina team and then I look at the plan coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht have in place for this year's Buccaneers. It's the same thing, right?

Yes, in many ways it's the exact same strategy. A defense led by defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David is going to keep the Bucs close in most of their games. In some of those games, a running game featuring Doug Martin with a little bit of passing from Josh McCown will do the trick.

But is that enough to get the Bucs anywhere close to the Super Bowl? I'm not so sure. There's no question that formula worked quite nicely for Hurney and coach John Fox back in the day, and it could do wonders for a Tampa Bay team that was 4-12 last season.

Could the Bucs turn things around and make a Super Bowl run? Amid all the optimism that came with Smith's hiring -- and I think that was a great move -- I'm more than a little skeptical.

I think the Bucs will be better than they were last year. But I'm not sure they'll be good enough to make much of an impact in the postseason. As I said before, I see a lot of similarities between this year's team and the Carolina team (and Smith's Chicago team that made a Super Bowl with Rex Grossman). I also see a lot of similarities between this year's team and the Tampa Bay teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s. But that might not be all that big a compliment.

The game has changed a lot. The NFL is more driven by quarterbacks than at any point in the past. Do a reality check here.

Look at New Orleans with Drew Brees. Look at Atlanta with Matt Ryan. And look at Carolina with Cam Newton. Those are all franchise quarterbacks.

McCown doesn't fit that mold. He is a nice game manager, at best. With this offense, the Bucs still might be behind the rest of the NFC South.
Lovie Smith’s Chicago Bears were a consistent contender because they played strong defense. The coach will try to get the same result with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the ingredients are there for that to happen.

David
McCoy
McCoy
Smith inherited some special talent in defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David. Both are just reaching their prime. Smith has compared McCoy to Warren Sapp and David to Derrick Brooks. Sapp and Brooks were the keys to the defense during Tampa Bay’s glory days. The Bucs believe McCoy and David can fill the same roles in the new generation and that a strong defense will help make the franchise relevant again.

McCoy and David are going to be good for years to come and they form a strong foundation. But the Bucs will need some complementary players to come through for this defense to be really good. Defensive end Michael Johnson was brought in as a free agent because the Bucs believe he can bring pressure from the outside. If he does, that’s only going to help McCoy and Clinton McDonald in the middle.

A strong pass rush will only help a secondary that has good potential, but hasn’t hit it yet. Alterraun Verner was brought in to be the No. 1 cornerback, but the Bucs need Johnthan Banks and Mike Jenkins to step up as the other cornerback and nickelback. Safeties Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron have talent and can form a nice tandem.

Middle linebacker Mason Foster is going to get a chance to play a more significant role than he has in the past. Foster will call the defensive plays and be asked to drop into coverage more than he did in his first three seasons.

This defense will be the key factor in determining if Smith’s regime will succeed. The offense can be average, but the defense has to be special.

Top 15 Buccaneers: No. 2

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
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We continue our list of the top 15 Buccaneers with No. 2:

Lavonte David, linebacker

What he did in 2013: David had an outstanding second season and firmly established himself as one of the league’s best young linebackers. He recorded 145 tackles, seven sacks and five interceptions.

Why he’s No. 2 in 2014: Since the day he was drafted, David has been compared to Tampa Bay great Derrick Brooks. Those comparisons seemed a little unfair at first. But now it’s looking like David really might be the second coming of Brooks. David’s first two seasons were better than Brooks’ first two. The next step for David is to continue to come up with more big plays. That seems like a good possibility. The weakside linebacker is a key spot in coach Lovie Smith’s defense. Brooks thrived at that position and there’s every reason to believe David will, too.

Buccaneers' biggest bargains

June, 20, 2014
Jun 20
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We spend a lot of time talking about which players make the most money. Let's change that up and go bargain hunting.

I just went through the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' contract numbers for 2014 with an eye out for guys that produce but aren't getting paid a lot (relatively speaking). When it comes to the Bucs and bargains, you have to start with linebacker Lavonte David.

The guy is an All-Pro, but his base salary is only $705,612 and his cap figure is $946,836. David undoubtedly will make up for it when he signs his second contract. The Bucs can't extend him until next year and you can bet they won't waste any time.

Next on my list is running back Doug Martin. He has a $1 million base salary and a $1.8 million cap figure. That's not a lot of money for a feature back -- and Martin still is the feature back, despite all the talk about using a committee of running backs.

Coming in third on my list is right tackle Demar Dotson. He has a $2 million base salary and his cap figure is the same. That's not bad for a solid starter.

In fourth place, I'm going with running back Bobby Rainey. His base salary and cap figure both are $570,000. Rainey has a chance to get some carries in the new rotation. If he can carve out a role, he'll look like a bargain.

My final bargain player is wide receiver Chris Owusu. His base salary and cap figure both are $570,000. Owusu has a chance to end up as the third receiver. If he does, he'll be a big bargain.
As his team wrapped up minicamp last week, Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht brought up a good point.

“Everyone saw what Kansas City did last season,’’ Licht said. “Why can’t it be us?’’

Last year’s Chiefs went from 2-14 to 11-5. The Bucs were 4-12 last season and a similar turnaround isn’t that hard to picture.

The Bucs already had a fair amount of individual talent with the likes of Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David and Vincent Jackson. They’ve added new players like Alterraun Verner and Michael Johnson. They also have a new coach in Lovie Smith, who has put together a strong staff of assistants.

Licht was with Arizona last season when the Cardinals went 10-6, but didn’t make the playoffs.

“We made some strides and it seemed like people wanted to throw a parade for us, but the fact of the matter is we failed because we didn’t make the playoffs,’’ Licht said. “Being 10-6 would be great for the Bucs this year, but the goal is making it to the dance. If we had any other goal, I’d be very upset.’’
We already knew the Buccaneers would have a new look on defense. They’re going with the Tampa 2 system.

But this defense also will have a new sound. That’s because someone different will be calling the defensive plays. Middle linebacker Mason Foster now will fill that role. Weakside linebacker Lavonte David wore the radio helmet and called the plays the last two season. But Foster has called the defensive plays in the past.

“I did it my rookie year and we had a lockout that year,” Foster said. “I’m used to it. It’ll be a smooth transition. Real smooth.’’

The switch is being made because coach Lovie Smith prefers to have his middle linebacker calling the plays. That likely means the Bucs are counting on Foster to be an every-down linebacker.

That could be a challenge because Foster hasn’t had to spend a lot of time in pass coverage in the past. But he’ll be asked to do that in this scheme.

Can Foster handle the increase in pass coverage? Smith must think so or else he wouldn’t be giving Foster the radio helmet.

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