Coming off a highly disappointing season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and new head coach Greg Schiano are wasting no time trying to get things turned around. Less than 24 hours into free agency, the team has agreed to terms with WR Vincent Jackson, OG Carl Nicks and CB Eric Wright. With more money to spend, and the No. 5 pick in April's draft, is Tampa a candidate to return to double-digit wins and contend in a tough NFC South?
Nice moves, but gains could take some timeThere will be some adjusting to the more stringent and demanding ways of new coach Greg Schiano. Those types of culture changes don't often happen overnight.
But certainly the Bucs are rebuilding the identity of the team. I suspect some more cuts will come with certain players who have had character issues and if they can continue to put weapons around Josh Freeman -- particularly with that top-five pick -- then perhaps things can turn quickly.
But man, that's still shaping up to be a heck of a division. If they don't get better QB play, and find a way to attack opposing QBs, the gains could take some time.
Onus for turnaround falls on Freeman, SchianoThe Bucs should be commended for acquiring talent, but the real challenge is still ahead of them. They have a solid collection of talent, but now they have to become a team.
That is Greg Schiano's charge. He's added some pieces and now has to figure out how to make this a team that can contend. It begins with quarterback Josh Freeman, who played terribly in 2011. He needs to take a "Mother may I?" step forward and play significantly better in 2012. Getting the talented Vincent Jackson should help, but it's no lock that Freeman performs at a higher level.
The 2011 Bucs played without toughness and didn't work hard. That all has to change.
No reason to think Bucs won't challenge for playoff spotIn the always-volatile NFC South, the answer is yes, but not just because the Bucs are doing themselves proud in free agency thus far. The addition of free agents who are not just talented, but also are used to winning games is a big reason to like Tampa Bay's chances in 2012.
New coach Greg Schiano is bringing a renewed emphasis on discipline and accountability. Some young talent has shown promise, but took steps backward last year. The key to the season is the return to form of QB Josh Freeman. If he plays like he did in 2010, expect the Bucs to challenge for a playoff spot. As he goes, so go the Bucs.
Adding Richardson at No. 5 would be even betterTampa Bay has attacked free agency with a sense of urgency and filled three needs immediately. If the Bucs take RB Trent Richardson with the No. 5 pick, they have given themselves a chance to be pretty good on offense. The key is still the development of QB Josh Freeman and to a lesser extent the health and play of their young defensive line.
I like what they have done in the big picture, though I'm not ready to give them 10 wins in 2012 and a playoff spot. But 2013 is another story.
Bucs win Super Bowl Of The OffseasonTampa Bay is trying to win the Super Bowl Of The Offseason, which I don't think comes with an official trophy. They got the best guard on the market and the most talented WR, as well as secondary help. But right now they remind me of the team that contended for the SBOTO last season: The Jets.
For Tampa Bay to get back to double digits in wins, it needs what New York needed last year: improvement from within and leadership. You can add all the free agents you want, but if your QB and RB can't take leaps forward you can forget about contending in a crowded NFC South. The jury is out on both Josh Freeman and LeGarrette Blount. If I ran the Bucs, I'd take Trent Richardson with the No. 5 pick.
The Bucs also went way too young with their roster last season and had no one to lead them out of a horrific start or keep them together when things fell apart down the stretch. Now it's up to a coach who's never done it at this level to help that process along. I'm not putting the Bucs in the contending category yet because of those issues. They could make all of these signings and still finish last in the South.