Best/worst offseasons (cont.)
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
The Bad ... Where do I start? The Bucs started the offseason by firing a proven winner and Super Bowl champion in head coach Jon Gruden, as well as a general manager in Bruce Allen who single-handedly got the team from salary-cap purgatory to an enviable financial situation -- while generally fielding competitive teams in the process. Those two were replaced by a guy who has never called signals in the NFL, Raheem Morris, and an executive, Mark Dominik, whose initial financial decisions have been dubious at best. Among the duo's first transactions was the release of all-time favorites and role models for younger players like Derrick Brooks and Warrick Dunn.
Dominik's financial acumen must be called into question considering the moves he has made thus far. He gave $10.5 million in guaranteed money to wide receiver Michael Clayton, who hasn't been a legitimate receiving threat since his rookie season. I thought this was a production-oriented business. Then, he gave a contract extension totaling $20 million in guarantees to Kellen Winslow shortly after acquiring him from the Cleveland Browns. The money given to a player with known knee issues is not nearly as concerning as the fact the pact was signed even though Winslow still had two years remaining on his rookie contract. What message does that send to guys like Barrett Ruud and Donald Penn? All they've done for the past three seasons is everything asked of them by the organization, yet no new contract is in the offing for either one -- despite Ruud having only one year remaining on his rookie deal and Penn being a restricted free agent.
But ... The move to sign Derrick Ward was solid. He is a proven commodity who the Bucs didn't need to break the bank for, and he should help whomever ends up winning the starting quarterback job. Also, the trade to get Winslow for second- and fifth-round picks was fine from a draft-choice compensation perspective. The problem was giving him the new deal in front of proven pewter stalwarts like Ruud and Penn.
The Bad ... The Jay Cutler situation was a debacle no matter what you say about how Cutler and his agent, Bus Cook, handled it. The Brandon Marshall saga hasn't ended, but it's been ugly so far. The No. 1 need for the Broncos was young talent in the front seven on defense, especially in light of the move to the 3-4, and they drafted only one player who will contribute (Robert Ayers).
But ... Knowshon Moreno was the draft's most sought-after running back and could thrive under new head coach Josh McDaniels. Kyle Orton is a cerebral quarterback who McDaniels hand-picked, largely because he led the Bears to two winning seasons in the years he was the primary starter. The Broncos signed a host of quality veterans from winning teams like Jabar Gaffney and Correll Buckhalter on offense to Andre Goodman and Brian Dawkins on defense.
The Bad ... The Skins salivated over both Cutler and Mark Sanchez and came up empty twice, alienating presumptive starting quarterback Jason Campbell in the process. So much for instilling confidence in your signal caller. They also gave $41 million guaranteed to Albert Haynesworth, who had significant issues playing hard earlier in his career. What exactly is Haynesworth's motivation now? They also overpaid for DeAngelo Hall, considering there was not a large market, given his subpar performance in Oakland. Their top draft choice, Brian Orakpo, has a questionable motor and moving him to the strong-side linebacker position makes him a project as the 13th overall pick.
But ... Derrick Dockery helps inject some relative youth on the offensive line and could return to previous levels of performance now that he is back under the tutelage of Joe Bugel. If you overlook the high percentage that is guaranteed, Washington was able to secure the services of the most dominant interior defense force in the league for a reasonable $12 million a year for the next four seasons should Haynesworth play at the level of 2007-08. Orakpo has as much upside as any player taken in the draft, and now it is up to defensive coordinator Greg Blache to convert potential into production.
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