Alex Cappa

NFC South Notes: Buccaneers, Panthers

When Buccaneers cornerback Ryan Smith was suspended for the first four games of the season earlier this week it seemed to spell trouble for him. Smith’s standing was already in question after the Bucs used multiple early picks on cornerbacks during April’s draft, and the suspension didn’t look good. However, it turns out that at least Tampa wasn’t caught off-guard by the news. “They’ve known about it since before the draft and have already done things knowing it was coming. This is news to us, but not to them,” tweeted Greg Auman of The Athletic.

Auman also added “don’t look for the Bucs to do anything in response to today’s news of Ryan Smith’s suspension.” For now it doesn’t look like Smith’s roster spot is in danger. The 2016 fourth-round pick has played a big role the last two years, starting a combined 16 games. Last year he played around 40 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, while also playing a huge role on special teams. While the Buccaneers knew it was coming and appears to be standing by him for now, he’s not exactly in the clear. The young guys will be getting more run while he’s out, and there might not be much playing time left for him by the time he returns if they seize the opportunity.

Here’s more from the NFC South:

  • Speaking of the Buccaneers, there were also some interesting nuggets in Auman’s recent roster projection. Notably, Auman projects Alex Cappa to start at guard. A third-round pick last year, Cappa appeared in only six games with no starts as a rookie. Cappa was an upside prospect from D-II Humboldt State, so he was always going to take a while to develop. It’s especially interesting because there have been rumblings that Cappa isn’t progressing like the team was hoping. Jenna Laine of ESPN.com was recently told that Cappa “still isn’t where they’d like him to be yet,” and she floated the potential acquisition of additional interior offensive linemen (Twitter link). Cappa had dominant film in college (look it up, some of it is hilarious), but he was always facing off against weaker competition. It’ll be interesting to see what he looks like when he finally steps on a pro field.
  • We’ve seen a few notable players switch agents recently, including Kenny Stills and Duke Johnson. Add Panthers receiver D.J. Moore to the growing list. Moore is now with NFL super-agent Drew Rosenhaus, according to Joseph Person of The Athletic. Person reports that Moore decided to switch agents after his former agent Damarius Bilbo was suspended for three months back in January. Moore just finished his rookie season so he won’t be eligible for a new contract for a while, but this is still something to keep an eye on. Rosenhaus has a reputation for playing hardball with teams, and this could come back into play in the future. A 2018 first-round pick from Maryland, Moore had a promising rookie season, racking up 788 yards on 55 catches.
  • In case you missed it, Saints rookie Carl Granderson was recently sentenced to six months in jail.

South Notes: Tepper, Mariota, Bucs

David Tepper may have been a minority owner of the Steelers before purchasing the Panthers for a league-record $2.275 billion, but he does not exactly fit the mold of your prototypical NFL owner. In a fascinating piece on the self-made billionaire, Kent Babb of the Washington Post describes how the enigmatic, unpolished Tepper could clash with the majority of the league’s straightlaced owners, and he wonders whether the league will ultimately change Tepper, or if Tepper might change the league. One way or another, Babb’s piece is worth a read.

Now for more from the league’s south divisions:

  • Despite some concerns that Titans QB Marcus Mariota could require a clean-up procedure on his knee this offseason, Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com says Mariota never had such a procedure and that he has looked like his usual self in spring practices thus far. Wyatt adds that, while Blaine Gabbert appears to be entrenched as Mariota’s backup going into the 2018 season, the team is more likely to keep Luke Falk as the No. 3 QB rather than risk sneaking him onto the practice squad.
  • The top four spots on the Buccaneers‘ WR depth chart are already spoken for, but Bobo Wilson, a 2017 UDFA who spent much of his rookie campaign on Tampa Bay’s practice squad, is making his case to stick around. As Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times writes, head coach Dirk Koetter has spoken highly of Wilson, who will compete for reps with 2018 fifth-rounder Justin Hunter. Wilson also has the ability to return kicks, which will certainly help his cause.
  • The Buccaneers traded a fourth- and sixth-round pick in this year’s draft to move up to the No. 94 overall selection, which they used to select Humboldt State OL Alex Cappa. Auman believes that Cappa may not be a starter right away, but that he will quickly push for a job as a regular on the offensive line (Twitter link).
  • Larry Holder of the Times-Picayune believes the Saints were wise to put a “ceiling price” on big-name free agents like Jimmy Graham and Ndamukong Suh this offseason, and he says the approach to Graham and Suh was emblematic of the team’s overall effort to rely more on young, cheap talent rather than high-priced veterans. That shift has been difficult because of New Orleans’ poor draft record in recent years, but while the Saints have a long way to go, Holder says they are moving in the right direction. Indeed, although the offense is heavy on expensive contracts, the defense is largely built on youth and thrift.
  • Texans head coach Bill O’Brien and GM Brian Gaine have specific physical characteristics in mind for every player they draft or sign, and they do not like to make exceptions to those parameters, as Sarah Barshop of ESPN.com writes. O’Brien’s and Gaine’s goal is to create a roster full of “big, strong, physical” players, and while their offseason acquisitions clearly reflect that philosophy, it is now incumbent upon O’Brien and his staff to mold his roster into a playoff contender.

Draft Pick Signings: 5/12/18

Here are today’s rookie signings:

  • The Buccaneers have signed third-round offensive lineman Alex Cappa, reports Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times (via Twitter). The Division II Humboldt State product was the GNAC offensive lineman of the year for four straight seasons, and he was a unanimous All-American in 2017. Cappa primarily played tackle in college, but he could end up being a versatile reserve lineman for the Buccaneers.
  • The Chargers announced that they have signed third-round defensive tackle Justin Jones to a four-year contract. Interestingly, the Bolts’ first 2018 pick signing comes from the third round, which generally produces the biggest hiccups in terms of negotiations. Jones played on the N.C. State defensive line on which Bradley Chubb starred and fellow 2018 draftees B.J. Hill and Kentavius Street played. Jones finished with 22.5 tackles in three seasons with the Wolfpack.

Buccaneers Trade Into Vikings’ No. 94 Slot

The Buccaneers will trade a fourth-round pick and a sixth-round selection to move into the Vikings’ No. 94 spot at the end of this third round.

Tampa Bay gave up the No. 180 selection to swing this deal with Minnesota. The Bucs used this deal to select Alex Cappa, an offensive lineman out of Humboldt State.

This continues a busy night for the Bucs, who have now made four selections on Day 2 in this draft. They took running back Ronald Jones, cornerback M.J. Stewart, cornerback Carlton Davis and now Cappa, who was a stellar performer throughout his career at the Division II program.

The Bucs have a recent history of looking far and wide for offensive line help, with Division III product Ali Marpet being a multiyear starter in Tampa. Cappa was a four-time first-team All-Great Northwest Athletic Conference choice and finished his career as a first-team Division II All-American in 2017.