…And we're back. After taking a few days to focus on the 2013 NFL scouting combine, "Shutdown Corner" resumes our look back at each team's 2012 season and a look at what lies ahead for the 2013 offseason. We continue in the NFC South with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
2012 record: 7-9
What went wrong: Coming off a 2011 season where the Buccaneers lost 10 straight games, the Buccaneers opened the 2012 season on a bright spot, beating the Carolina Panthers and winning six of the first 10 games of the Greg Schiano era. A five-game losing streak from Nov. 25 to Dec. 23 ended any hopes the Buccaneers had of making the playoffs.
The Buccaneers signed cornerback Eric Wright to a five-year, $37.5 million contract and invested the seventh overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft on safety Mark Barron, yet still finished the 2012 season as the 32nd-ranked pass defense, allowing 297.4 passing yards per game. The Buccaneers were also at the bottom of the NFL in terms of sacking opposing quarterbacks as their 27 sacks were tied with the Kansas City Chiefs for the fourth-lowest total in the league.
Though the offense ranked in the Top 10, quarterback Josh Freeman struggled in the second half of the season. In the final seven games, Freeman completed just 53 percent of his pass attempts and had more interceptions (12) than touchdowns (nine). Another disappointing aspect of the offense was the $33.785 million on guards Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks, but the pair of Pro Bowlers would combine for just 442 of 1,049 snaps on the season. Joseph was placed on injured reserve before the start of the season due to a broken kneecap, while Nicks tried to fight his way through a toe injury before he was placed on injured reserve in Week 9.
What went right: The Buccaneers struck gold with first-round running back Doug Martin. The rookie from Boise State started all 16 games and finished in the Top 5 in the NFL with 1,454 rushing yards and was fifth in the league with 11 rushing touchdowns. Martin also caught 49 passes for 472 yards and a touchdown and was third in the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 1,926.
Another quality addition was wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who signed a five-year, $55.555 million contract in free agency and led the Buccaneers with 72 receptions for 1,384 yards. Jackson's eight touchdowns were second to Mike Williams' nine for the team lead. Williams also had a bounce-back season, catching 63 passes for 996 yards. According to Football Outsiders' opponent-adjusted receiving DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) metric, Jackson (15th) and Williams (38th) both ranked in the Top 40.
Defensively, 2010 first-round pick Gerald McCoy finally avoided those fluky injuries to anchor a defense that ranked No. 1 against the run in 2012, allowing just 82.5 yards per game and 3.5 yards play. 2012 second-round linebacker Lavonte David was sensational, posting 139 tackles, including two sacks and 20 tackles for a loss. Second-year outside linebacker Mason Foster was second on the team (behind David) with 104 tackles, adding a pair of sacks and 13 tackles for a loss.
Coaching/front office changes: Greg Schiano made five new additions for 2013, most notably the hiring of Dave Wannstedt to take over for Bob Ligashesky as the Buccaneers' special teams coach. The Bucs also added John Garrett (quarterbacks), John McNulty (receivers), Robb Smith (linebackers) and Tony Oden (defensive backs).
Estimated 2013 cap space: $30.562 million
Possible cap casualties: The Buccaneers have plenty of cap space and create a little more, and save a considerable amount of cash, with two moves. One involves linebacker Quincy Black, who sustained a serious neck injury during the 2012 season. Black is due $5.75 million in the third season of a five-year, "pay as you go" contract worth $29 million. The Buccaneers could save $5.75 million in cash and cap space by releasing Black.
The other situation involves cornerback Eric Wright, who signed five-year, $37.5 million contract as an unrestricted free agent last March. That was also a "pay as you go" deal (identifiable by the lack of a signing bonus and fully guaranteed base salaries) and Wright is due $7.75 million in fully guaranteed base salary. However, there is a belief that Wright voided those guarantees with his adventurous 2012 season that began with a July arrest for suspicion of DUI in Los Angeles and a four-game suspension for violating the league's policy against performance-enhancing drugs. If so, the Buccaneers could terminate Wright's contract, freeing up $7.75 million in cash or cap space for 2013, which could also bring about a grievance from the NFLPA.
Unrestricted free agents
Ronde Barber, S
Michael Bennett, DE
E.J. Biggers, CB
Dallas Clark, TE
Andrew Economos, LS
Brandon McDonald, CB
Roy Miller, DT
Roscoe Parrish, WR
Sammie Stroughter, WR
Jeremy Trueblood, OT
Restricted free agents
LeGarrette Blount, RB
Jacob Cutrera, LB
Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, DE
RFA tender amounts in 2013 are:
• $1.323 million for right of first refusal and/or original draft round compensation
• $2.023 for right of first refusal and second round draft selection
• $2.879 for right of first refusal and first round draft selection
Franchise Tag candidates: The Buccaneers have no intention of using the franchise tag this offseason.
"With numerous internal discussions and after looking at our team, we will not be using our franchise or transition tag this year for any of our free agents," Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik said from the scouting combine.
If the Buccaneers were going to use the franchise tag, the top candidate would be defensive end Michael Bennett. A shrewd waiver-wire claim from the Seattle Seahawks back in 2009, Bennett has been a full-time starter over the last two seasons, posting 13 sacks, including a team-high nine sacks in 2012. With the uncertain legal situation of Da'Quan Bowers, the Buccaneers could have a change of heart before the March 4 deadline to use the tag. Based on a projected league-wide cap number of around $121 million, the franchise tag for a defensive end would cost $10.993 million in 2013.
Previous installments of the "Offseason TPS Reports" series:
AFC East: New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills
AFC North: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns
AFC South: Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans
AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, Denver Broncos
NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Washington Redskins
NFC North: Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers
NFC South: Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints