Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rumors & News

Buccaneers Re-Sign Da’Quan Bowers

After spending several months on the free agent market, defensive end Da’Quan Bowers is returning to the team with whom he spent the first four years of his NFL career. The Buccaneers have re-signed Bowers to a one-year contract, the team announced today in a press release.

The 51st overall pick in the 2011 draft, Bowers played 50 games for the Buccaneers from 2011 to 2014, compiling just 66 total tackles and seven total sacks. The 25-year-old, a Clemson product, never developed into the sort of productive defensive player the Bucs were hoping for, starting just 10 of those 50 games with the club.

While terms of his new deal weren’t disclosed, Bowers will likely be earning the minimum salary, and probably didn’t receive any guarantees, so he’ll have to compete for a roster spot and for playing time. If he makes the regular-season roster, Bowers figures to be a depth piece on the defensive line.

Earlier in the offseason, Bowers reportedly met with the Saints and drew interest from the Lions and Dolphins.

Extra Points: Rice, Peterson, Bell, Miller

Ray Rice is exhausting his NFL contacts in an effort to secure a chance at reviving his career, Ed Werder of ESPN.com reports.

The embattled running back and his former coach at Rutgers, Greg Schiano, among others, are making contact with teams in hopes of the 28-year-old runner resuming his once-promising tenure in the league. Werder reported one team was seriously interested in offering a deal to Rice but balked due to the potential backlash after video of his domestic assault on his then-fiancee/now-wife emerged last September.

Money is not motivating the former Pro Bowler here, according to Werder, with Rice having earned in excess of $20MM in his career.

Rice seeks the same second chance his 2014 suspended compatriots Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy have. Of course, those two players have more recent track records of success than Rice, whose position is arguably the easiest non-specialty role to replace. Per Werder, NFL GMs view Rice as a declining player at a young man’s position. His yards per carry, which had hovered above four per tote in each of his first four seasons, dipped to 3.1 in 2013.

Here are some other news items from the league on the final Saturday without eventful NFL action for nearly seven months.

  • Despite staunch holdout threats this offseason before finally agreeing to rejoin the Vikings, Peterson said would have played out the season on his previously nonguaranteed contract, reports Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “I’m definitely happy,’’ Peterson told media at Vikings training camp in Mankato, Minn. “If (this week’s restructuring didn’t occur), I’d would have just been like, you know what, I’ll just play this year out and not redo the contract. I’m happy to be a Viking.” It’s doubtful the 30-year-old running back iterated that stance to Vikings management, but the team will have its star running back in a more content state this season after he missed almost all of the last. Peterson’s new deal guarantees him $13MM this season and $7MM against injury in 2016.
  • Le’Veon Bell is still awaiting an appeal date for his marijuana-induced suspension, reports Dan Hanzus of NFL.com. The Steelers‘ breakout backfield star is set to miss three games.
  • Ohio State standout Braxton Miller‘s switch to H-back may help his NFL draft status. The top-10 Heisman Trophy finalist in 2012 and 2013 has been playing at his new spot for three months after missing the 2014 season, reports Pete Thamel of SI.com. According to one NFL scout interviewed by CBS Sports’ Dane Brugler, this will enhance the senior’s earning potential come 2016. “We currently have two grades on him, one as an ‘athlete’ and one as a quarterback,” an NFC scout told Brugler. “The grade of him as an athlete is much…better. Because that’s when he’s at his best – with the ball in his hand.
  • Cowboys executive VP Stephen Jones isn’t exactly pleased with the progress made by the league this offseason in terms of rectifying the catch process, according to Dallasnews.com. In a lengthy analysis, Jones said there is still “some work to do” on avoiding controversial ruling like the one involving Dez Bryant that essentially eliminated the Cowboys from the playoffs in January.
  • Jameis Winston‘s trial in a sexual battery lawsuit won’t occur until May 2017, according to a Tampa Bay Times report. The alleged incident occurred in December 2012. The Buccaneers‘ No. 1 overall pick was not charged or arrested for this reported incident.

Minor NFL Transactions: 7/24/15

Today’s minor moves…

  • The Texans signed offensive tackle Aaron Adams, per Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun (via Twitter). Green Bay cut Adams with a failed physical designation in April. He tore his ACL and MCL in training camp last year and missed all of the 2014 season.
  • The Packers waived cornerback Bernard Blake with the non-football illness designation, Howard Balzer reports (Twitter link). Green Bay signed Blake as an undrafted free agent out of Colorado State in May.
  • The Steelers signed offensive tackle Kevin Palmer and waived safety Jordan Dangerfield, Balzer tweeted.
  • The Browns’ Tory Slater passed his physical, according to Balzer (Twitter link), and the team will remove him from its PUP list. Cleveland claimed Slater off waivers in May, when the Seahawks waived him with the injured designation.
  • The Buccaneers have waived linebacker Jared Koster, Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune reports (Twitter link). Koster signed with the Bucs as an undrafted free agent out of UCLA in May. His release gives Tampa 88 active players.
  • The Ravens placed injured safety Terrence Brooks on the physically unable to perform list, according to Wilson (via Twitter). Brooks, who appeared in 11 games and made 19 tackles as a rookie in 2014, is still recovering from a knee injury he suffered last December.
  • The Jaguars signed wide receiver/returner Greg Jenkins, per the Florida Times-Union’s Ryan O’Halloran. The 25-year-old Jenkins has appeared in six games, all with Oakland in 2013, and returned 10 kicks for 221 yards.

NFC Notes: Eli, Mathis, Wagner, Wilson

Two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Eli Manning is entering a contract year, which means his 12th season with the Giants could be his last with the team. Adding fuel to the fire is that Manning and the Giants haven’t yet engaged in “meaningful, substantive contract talks,” Rand Getlin of NFL.com reports (Twitter link). However, Getlin noted in a separate tweet that the two sides do want to get a new contract done. Manning, who threw for 4,400-plus yards and 30 touchdowns against just 14 interceptions last year, has a $17MM base salary this season and will count $19.75MM against the Giants’ cap.

Here’s more on the Giants and a couple of their NFC counterparts:

  • Don’t expect the Giants to land free agent guard and ex-Eagle Evan Mathis, per ESPN’s Dan Graziano – who tweeted that New York isn’t serious about signing the two-time Pro Bowler and longtime NFC East rival.
  • Both the Seahawks and linebacker Bobby Wagner are optimistic about getting a new deal done prior to the season, a source told ESPN’s Josina Anderson (Twitter link). Wagner, 25, is entering a contract year fresh off a breakout 2014 that saw him earn Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro honors.
  • Buccaneers defensive back C.J. Wilson, who lost two fingers in a July 4 fireworks accident and announced earlier today he was taking some time away from the game, isn’t ruling out a return to football later this year. He could end up on Tampa’s practice squad if he does come back, per Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune (Twitter link).

Bucs’ C.J. Wilson To Step Away From NFL

12:50pm: Wilson will be placed on the Bucs’ reserve-retired list, which leaves the door open for him to unretire later on, tweets Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune.

12:23pm: While Jason Pierre-Paul attempts to make his way back to the Giants, another player involved in a Fourth of July fireworks accident may not see the field in 2015. According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk (via Twitter), Buccaneers cornerback C.J. Wilson has decided to “step away from the NFL for now,” per agents Joel and Justin Turner.

Wilson, not to be confused with the defensive tackle who goes by the same name, hadn’t been expected to play a major role for Tampa Bay in 2015, but he did appear in two games for the team at the end of last season, logging some snaps on both defense and special teams.

However, on the same weekend of JPP’s much-publicized fireworks accident, Wilson lost two fingers in a fireworks accident of his own. A report last week indicated that the young defensive back was out of the hospital, doing well, and was “in very good spirits.” But while Wilson may be optimistic about his long-term health, it looks like he’ll be retiring from the NFL, at least temporarily.

Wilson’s decision to “step away” from the NFL is reminiscent of the language offensive tackle Anthony Davis used when he announced his decision to leave the 49ers in early June. It leaves the door open for Wilson to potentially return to the game down the road, if his health allows it.

Wilson, who had been in the final year of a two-year pact with the Bucs, will likely be placed on the non-football injury list or the reserve-retired list by Tampa Bay, unless the team decides to simply cut him.

NFC Notes: Bucs, David, Winston, JPP

The Buccaneers and linebacker Lavonte David are working towards a long-term deal, but there’s still a sizable gap between the two sides, Rand Getlin of NFL.com tweets. David, 25, recorded 145 tackles, one sack, and four forced fumbles in 2014 for the Bucs. In 2013, he had even gaudier tackle numbers to go with 7.0 sacks and a First-Team All-Pro selection. GM Jason Licht, he adds (link), has stated publicly that keeping David in Tampa Bay is a franchise priority. Here’s more out of the NFC..

  • If the lawsuit brought against Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston by the woman who says he raped her goes to trial, it won’t be for quite a white. Winston’s reps and the accuser’s attorneys agreed to set a deadline of October 14, 2016, for discovery and a jury trial date of April 3, 2017, according to Brendan Sonnone of The Orlando Sentinel.
  • While acknowledging that the team’s current relationship with Jason Pierre-Paul is “complicated,” Giants owner Steve Tisch says that his main focus is seeing the defensive end make a full recovery. “It’s been printed and it’s very sincere: Above anything else I hope he’s healing,” Tisch said, according to Neil Best of Newsday. “I hope he will play great football in the future. I hope he’s getting the best medical care available to him and I really personally and from my position with the Giants wish him all the best and I look forward to seeing him sooner than later. It’s complicated, as you know, but [co-owner] John Mara and I, coach [Tom] Coughlin, [General Manager] Jerry Reese, all the team, his teammates, wish only the best for him.”
  • Justin Terranova of the New York Post spoke with former Giants offensive lineman Shaun O’Hara about a number of topics, including how he would play JPP if he lined up against him. “If I was playing against him, the thing I would want to figure out right away is: Is he scared to use the hand? I would be pretty aggressive with him, get my hands on him and see if he’s willing to use his hand or is favoring it. It’s going to take him time to be pain-free, but the biggest thing with him is to get in football shape because it’s going to take awhile. He hasn’t taken a football snap since the last game last year because he wasn’t there this spring,” O’Hara said.
  • Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir of CSNWashington.com debated whether Washington kicker Kai Forbath could be pushed in camp by offseason pickup Ty Long, a Alabama-Birmingham product. Forbath is a clutch, accurate field goal kicker but he struggles on kickoffs and doesn’t offer a big leg. Long has shown that he can nail attempts from deep, but both seem to agree that Forbath is probably safe as long as he keeps booting the short field goals..
  • The 49ers‘ group of outside linebackers should be considerably stronger than it was a year ago, assuming Aldon Smith is on the field when the season begins and remains there, Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com writes. Meanwhile, they’ll be going ahead without Dan Skuta, who signed with the Jaguars in free agency.

Community Tailgate: Who Will Win NFC South?

We’re still over a month and a half away from the start of battles on the NFL gridiron, but there’s no offseason when it comes to debate amongst fans. Earlier this summer, we launched a new series here at PFR that will be known as the Community Tailgate. What’s the Community Tailgate all about? Well, it’s pretty simple. Every weekday, we’ll highlight one of the top stories going on in the NFL. Then, in the comment section below, we want you to weigh in and let us know what you think.

Of course, while the debate may get spirited, we ask that it all stays respectful. If you need a reminder of our rules, please check out our commenting policy. Basically, we ask that you refrain from inappropriate language, personal insults, and attacks. Speaking of commenting: we’ve made it much easier to leave a comment here at Pro Football Rumors. You are no longer required to be a registered user – simply put in your name, email address, and comment and submit.

As the 2015 season inches closer, we’re examining each NFL division, asking you which team you expect to finish atop the East, North, South, and West. Having already taken a closer look at the East and North divisions, we’re shifting our focus to the NFC South, home of 2014’s most tepid division race.

A year ago, it only took seven wins – and, of course, a tie – for the Panthers to snag the NFC South crown, and Carolina is bringing back most of its key players that contributed to that team. Armed with a handful of veteran additions, including offensive tackle Michael Oher, cornerback Charles Tillman, and return specialist Ted Ginn Jr., the Panthers will be looking to repeat as division champions.

The Saints entered 2014 as favorites in the South, but it never came together for Drew Brees‘ squad, and the disappointing season resulted in a major overhaul over the last few months. Jimmy Graham, Kenny Stills, Curtis Lofton, and Ben Grubbs are among the players who were traded or released, and while the team brought in some veteran talent like C.J. Spiller, Max Unger, and Brandon Browner, there will be more pressure on the club’s younger contributors to produce in 2015.

While Carolina and New Orleans could only muster seven wins apiece, the Falcons and Buccaneers combined for just eight in total. It’s not clear yet whether either team has a bounce-back season in store, but there are major changes afoot in both Atlanta and Tampa Bay — the Falcons hired former Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to be their new head coach, while the Buccaneers used the No. 1 overall pick in the draft to land a new quarterback, Jameis Winston. Quinn should help plug the leaks on the Falcons’ defense, and the Bucs could be an intriguing sleeper if Winston provides solid quarterback play.

What do you think? Does the NFL’s worst division from 2014 look any better in 2015? Which team do you expect to win the NFC South this season? Make your pick and let us know what you think in the comment section!

2015 Release Candidates: NFC South

Most clubs have fairly set rosters at this point, as OTA, minicamp, and preseason performances won’t do much to alter roster composition. The majority of key releases came in March, but there are still several scenarios where certain contributors could lose their roster spot in the coming months. For the most part, we’ll focus on situations where the cap savings would be in excess of $1MM.

Because free agency has already passed, financial ramifications won’t play a huge role in these decisions; there aren’t a ton of high-profile free agents on which to spend that saved money, so these calls will mostly be made based on performance. However, any cap space saved through these potential releases could be rolled over into 2016, so that’s something clubs have to consider.

We’ve already looked at the AFC EastNFC East, AFC NorthNFC North, and AFC South, so let’s dive into the NFC South…

Atlanta Falcons:

  • Jonathan Babineaux, DT: The Falcons have accumulated quite a bit of defensive line depth over the past few years, signing Tyson Jackson, Paul Soliai, Adrian Clayborn, and O’Brien Schofield and using draft picks on Vic Beasley, Ra’Shede Hageman, and Grady Jarrett, as well as re-signing Kroy Biermann earlier this year. The lone constant has been the 34-year-old Babineaux, who has been with Atlanta since being selected in the second round of the 2005 draft. Given his age, the club’s newfound depth at his position, and the fact that the Falcons could save nearly $3MM by cutting him, he sounds like an ideal candidate for release, right? However, new head coach Dan Quinn likes to use a rotation along his defensive line, and more importantly, Babineaux was pretty good last year, grading as the league’s No. 28 defensive tackle and rushing the passer quite effectively, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Prediction: not released.

Carolina Panthers:

  • Jerricho Cotchery, WR: Spending 70% of his time in the slot last season, Cotchery nearly replicated his reception and yardage statistics from the year prior, catching 48 balls for 480 yards, but his touchdown numbers lagged far behind, as he scored just once as compared to 10 times in 2014 with the Steelers. The Panthers invested a second-round pick in Michigan receiver Devin Funchess, and the club likely hopes that he’ll ascend to the starting lineup immediately, joining last year’s first-rounder Kelvin Benjamin. Free agent addition Ted Ginn Jr. figures to take some of Cotchery’s snaps in the slot, and other than Ginn Jr., Carolina is going with at youth movement at receiver, with Jarrett Boykin, Mike Brown, and Stephen Hill fighting for playing time. Cotchery isn’t a bad player, but he doesn’t seem to fit with the team’s roster construction, and the Panthers can save $1.5MM by cutting him. Prediction: released.
  • Roman Harper, S: Harper, 32, started all 16 games for the Panthers last season, posting 41 tackles and a career-high four interceptions. Based on PFF’s metrics, Harper produced his best season since 2010, but his overall grade of +0.1 was still just barely above-average, ranking 46th among 87 qualifiers. Carolina’s issues in the secondary have been well-documented in the past couple years, but now that the club has some other options in the back end — Tre Boston emerged as a rookie last year, and the Panthers signed Kurt Coleman to a two-year deal in March — I don’t see Carolina being too desperate to hanging on to Harper, especially given that they can save $1.5MM by severing ties. Prediction: released.
  • Mike Tolbert, RB: Tolbert is an odd player in today’s NFL: He doesn’t fit the H-back mold, instead acting as a running back/fullback hybrid that doesn’t really exist in the league anymore. After suffering a hairline fracture in his left leg during Week 3 of last season, Tolbert was placed on IR/designated to return, ultimately coming back in Week 13. He’s nearly 30 years old, but given that Carolina doesn’t have a ton of depth behind Jonathan Stewart after releasing DeAngelo Williams, Tolbert should be safe. The Panthers would incur $1MM in dead money by cutting him. Prediction: not released.

New Orleans Saints:

  • Ben Watson, TE: Those around the Saints have talked up third-year pro Josh Hill as the leading candidate to replace tight end Jimmy Graham, who was traded to the Seahawks over the offseason. But Hill doesn’t have much in the way of experience, having logged just 20 receptions during his first two seasons, and earlier today Mike Triplett of ESPN.com wrote that he expects New Orleans to use a committee approach at tight end. All of which is to say that 34-year-old Ben Watson is probably safe for 2015; the club would only save $1.5MM by cutting him, and they probably value his veteran presence enough to keep him around. Prediction: not released.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

  • Michael Koenen, P: Koenen is the sixth-highest paid punter in the league in terms of annual value, and his 2015 cap hit is also sixth at his position. However, he finished fourth-worst in terms of net punting average last year, and though he finished with a positive grade from PFF, he still ranked only 23rd among 41 qualifiers. Koenen has no remaining bonus money or guarantees left on his current deal, so the Buccaneers could cut him at anytime, clearing out his $3.25MM salaries for ’15 and ’16. Maybe they’ll wait until training camp or the preseason to see how Koenen looks, but I think they’ll probably cut him and look for a cheaper (and younger) option. Prediction: released.
  • Brandon Myers, TE: Now 29 years of age, Myers has seen a swift decline since his high-water mark season with Oakland in 2012: His receptions have dropped from 79 to 47 to 22 in the past three seasons, while his receiving yards have decreased from 806 to 522 to 190. 2014 second-round pick Austin Seferian-Jenkins is expected to take on a larger role next season, Luke Stocker will maintain his in-lone blocking job, while Tampa also re-acquired Tim Wright via waivers. It doesn’t look like there will be a spot for Myers, or his $3MM+ in cap charges over the next two seasons. Prediction: released.

Buccaneers’ Demar Dotson Changes Agents

Buccaneers offensive tackle Demar Dotson has hired agent Joby Branion of Vanguard Sports to represent him, according to Rand Getlin of NFL Network (on Twitter). Dotson skipped voluntary workouts with the Bucs last month as he pushed the team for a new contract.

The Buccaneers entered contract talks with Dotson’s camp this summer, aiming to secure their longest-tenured player to an extension. However, Doston’s absence from OTAs threw a wrench into things. Reportedly, negotiations were nearly complete, but they stalled due to a team policy that prohibits the negotiation of contracts with players who are absent from workouts, whether those workouts are voluntary or mandatory. Dotson showed up for those mandatory workouts later on, so that he wouldn’t “lose any money.”

While the Buccaneers have struggled to find a reliable left tackle in recent years, they have received steady production on the right side from Dotson, who has started all but one game for the team since the start of the 2012 season. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Dotson has recorded a positive grade in each of the last three seasons, and ranked 28th out of 84 qualified tackles in 2014. He’s set to earn a base salary of just $2.5MM in 2015, which makes him just the 22nd-highest-paid right tackle in the NFL.

It’s possible that Dotson’s change in representation can breathe new life into talks between the two sides. At the same time, giving him a new deal could signal to other Bucs players that skipping workouts is an effective way to make noise and get a pay raise. The Bucs clearly don’t want to send that message and doing so would go against the spirit of their policy about negotiating with players who are absent from practices.

Extra Points: JPP, Luck, Bucs, Cardinals

At some point, the Giants and Jason Pierre-Paul are going to have to talk money, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com writes. The Giants want JPP in camp learning the new defense, so Graziano figures that the most likely outcome is that the two sides negotiate to a lower franchise figure and he signs it in exchange for a written promise from the team to pay him the entire amount. Under that scenario, the Giants could theoretically have Pierre-Paul in camp and help administer his rehab and Pierre-Paul would not have to worry about rushing back to the field in order to get paid. Here’s more from around the NFL..

  • Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com gave his thoughts on at how an extension might look for Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. Luck could be looking at a five-year, ~$125MM pact in exchange for tearing up his currently contracted 2016 season (~$16.15MM), but Seifert suggests he could instead push the Colts to give him a $100MM deal with $90MM fully guaranteed. Such a deal wouldn’t just benefit Luck, it would allow the Colts to spend more on the roster around their star quarterback.
  • Buccaneers cornerback C.J. Wilson, who lost two fingers in a fireworks accident, was released from a hospital on Friday, and he is doing well and is “in very good spirits,” sources tell ESPN’s Adam Caplan. Wilson is in the final season of his two-year deal that carries a non-guaranteed base salary of $585K for the 2015 season. Wilson, not to be confused with the defensive tackle who goes by the same name, hadn’t been expected to play a major role for Tampa Bay in 2015, but he did appear in two games for the team at the end of last season, logging some snaps on both defense and special teams. Now, his chances of seeing the field at all this season are up in the air.
  • Cardinals safety Rashad Johnson says that he has long planned to be a coach when his playing career is through, as Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com writes. Somewhat surprisingly, Johnson doesn’t dream of being a head coach, but instead wants to be a defensive coordinator. “It’s something that makes me who I am,” Johnson said. “It makes me that special player that’s vital even if he’s not a Patrick Peterson-type of athlete. Vital because he can help the defense as a whole because he knows the plays. He can help everyone play faster.” Johnson, who is entering the final year of his deal, has been mentioned as an extension candidate this summer.