The Buccaneers‘ path from 2-14 back to respectability may not be that far away, writes ESPN’s Mike Sando in an insider piece (subscription required). Citing the likely arrival of Jameis Winston and the potential upgrade from Mike Glennon/Josh McCown at sports’ premier position along with new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter potentially being the best coordinator hire in the league, the Bucs’ re-emergence may not be that far away. One anonymous source is certain Winston is a better player than Marcus Mariota, once thought as the pick here.
“[Mariota] is very similar to Colin Kaepernick but probably has a little better arm because Kaep is so low with his release all the time,” a veteran NFL offensive coach told Sando. “[Mariota] has more arm angles but always throws it flat. Winston will throw it perfectly with enough arc and zip to get it up and down before the safety arrives. He has a real natural feel. He is the guy who can pick up any ball and play any sport and beat you.”
In other matters …
- Vikings GM Rick Spielman offered praise for Adrian Peterson despite the trouble that could mark his exit from Minnesota, the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Sid Hartman reported. The soon-to-be 30-year-old runner recently returned to the commissioner’s exempt list after this week’s ruling to overturn his suspension.”Everybody talks about the 30-year-old back, but he didn’t have any hits on his body last year and he is different,” Spielman said of the 2012 MVP. “Just very unique from a physical stature standpoint and just he has unique traits that you don’t see very often come through the NFL. I suspect Adrian is going to have a great year next year.”
- NFC West free agent departures could include Mike Iupati, Frank Gore, Dan Williams and Byron Maxwell, and USA Today’s Nate Davis examines each team’s scenario. Among the takeaways, the 49ers allowing both Iupati and Michael Crabtree to leave are advised, as is the Cardinals finding a way to keep improving nose tackle Dan Williams.
- Dallas Morning News columnist Rick Gosselin charts running backs’ career swoons — as well as the long-term deals that gave the Cowboys cap trouble in recent years — around age 29 to illustrate why the Cowboys need to separate from DeMarco Murray despite his monstrous contract-year campaign. Murray will be 27 next season and is the top running back on the market.