Cameron Brate

Bruce Arians Discusses Coaches, New Role, TE Options

Bruce Arians has made it clear that his decision to step down as Buccaneers head coach wasn’t because of tension with his franchise quarterback. Rather, Arians has continually mentioned his desire for a clear succession plan when it came to the coaching staff, and he saw a golden opportunity to pass on the reigns to Todd Bowles.

“No it really wasn’t hard,” Arians said during a recent appearance on the “Eye Test For Two” podcast (h/t to JoeBucsFan.com). “[Winning a championship is] great, but succession was really, really big for me. It didn’t happen in Arizona. It meant the world to me to make sure 34 families had jobs beyond February. The Super Bowl wasn’t guaranteed, there’s nothing guaranteed, but now our guys have 5-year contracts. Todd’s got a 5-year deal and all the assistant coaches are set for the future.

“I was probably done anyway, so why not do it now? I know a lot of people think the Hall of Fame is the end-all, be-all and if it happens, that would be the most unbelievable thing to be able to wear a gold jacket. But this meant more to me personally.”

When Arians stepped away from his gig, it was assumed that the move was influenced by Tom Brady‘s decision to renege on his retirement and return for the 2022 campaign. Both sides have said that wasn’t the case, and Arians even said he would have reconsidered had he known Brady’s intentions before making his own decision. Passing on the job to Bowles seemed like a natural move, especially with offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich still around to direct the offense.

With Arians no longer roaming the sideline, the long-time coach has transitioned into more of an advisory role. When Arians stepped down, his new role was described as “Senior Football Consultant.” The former coach indicated that he’ll still be interacting with both the coaches and the players, and he’ll naturally be able to take on a lesser role when it comes to game day:

“It’s a ‘What do you think?’ job,” Arians said. “Everybody asks me what do I think and they know they’re getting a brutally honest answer, whether it be [owner] Joel Glazer, [general manaher] Jason Licht, Todd Bowles or Byron Leftwich. It’s been fun going to practice, watching and learning some more, watching us change, looking at the new guys. Man, that draft class is going to be a home run. Looking forward to getting to camp.

“That’s the beauty of my job. I get to be in the locker room, get to be around the coaches every day and still have a big hand in the draft. The relationships were always the biggest thing for me. Building a new team, watching the new guys come in. Now, Sundays might be different sitting upstairs. I might be able to still holler loud enough to cuss out the refs from up there.”

Since he’ll no longer be responsible for devising a game plan, Arians will have more of an opportunity to contribute to team building. One of his more pressing issues will be figuring out how to proceed following tight end Rob Gronkowski‘s decision to retire. Fortunately, Arians doesn’t sound too worried about the team’s depth at the position.

“It’s a step back, that’s for sure,” Arians said. “[H]e’s a Hall of Fame player. But I really like the room right now. I love the young kids we’ve got in there and Cam Brate’s a good veteran player that Tom really trusts. Now, he’s not Gronk. That size and what he brings as a blocker and receiver I think is unmatched. You don’t replace that guy, but we also have Codey McElroy … I think it’s time for him to break out as a receiver.”

TE Cameron Brate Expected To Stick With Buccaneers

Cameron Brate is expected to be back in Tampa Bay next season, but that will likely come with another pay cut. According to Greg Auman of The Athletic (via Twitter), Brate is expected to return to the Buccaneers next year but will likely have to rework his contract.

The tight end has taken “literal” pay cuts in each of the past two offseasons, per Auman. Brate inked a six-year, $40.8MM extension with the organization in 2018, and he’s set to earn $6.8MM in 2022.

The former undrafted free agent out of Harvard took a bit to find his footing in the NFL. He had a breakout season in 2016, finishing with 660 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. He’s been a consistent member of the offense ever since, appearing in every game for the Buccaneers since 2017. He finished this past season with 30 receptions and four scores.

He was buried behind Rob Gronkowski during Tom Brady‘s two years in Tampa Bay, but with the two Hall of Famers out of the picture, Brate should return to the top of the tight end depth chart next season. Fellow tight end O.J. Howard is set to hit free agency this offseason.

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/9/21

We’ll keep track of today’s minor moves here:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Green Bay Packers

Miami Dolphins

  • Waived: LS Rex Sunahara

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

  • Waived: QB Jake Dolegala
  • Signed: LS Brian Khoury

Philadelphia Eagles

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Washington Football Team

  • Signed: C Jon Toth

Minor NFL Transactions: 7/24/21

Here are Saturday’s minor moves, with the list being updated throughout the day:

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

  • Placed on reserve/COVID-19 list: LB Ray Wilborn
  • Placed on active/PUP list: RB Patrick Taylor

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Buccaneers Rework Cameron Brate’s Contract

The Buccaneers have Antonio Brown back in the fold, thanks to a little bit of help from Cameron Brate. On Wednesday, the tight end agreed to revise his existing contract with a portion of his salary being converted to a signing bonus (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Field Yates).

[RELATED: Buccaneers Re-Sign Antonio Brown]

The Buccaneers wiped $4.69MM from the books by converting $2.425MM of Brate’s pay to a bonus. Meanwhile, his listed salary has been reduced down to a modest $1.075MM. The remainder of Brate’s contract remains untouched — he still has base salaries of $6.8MM and $7.5MM for 2022 and 2023, respectively. However, those seasons are completely non-guaranteed, so the Buccaneers can release him with zero dead money left over.

Brate, an eighth-year pro, inked a six-year, $41MM deal with the Bucs in March 2018. At the time, he was hot off of two solid seasons with an average of 52 catches for 625 yards and seven touchdowns. Unfortunately, the 2018-19 campaigns were not as kind to him — his average dipped to 33/300/5 in those two years as he struggled through a hip injury.

Now, Brate finds himself playing second fiddle to Rob Gronkowski. In 2020, he put up some of the lowest numbers of his career — 28 receptions for 282 yards and two TDs. However, the 29-year-old (30 in July) saw a more significant role in the playoffs, culminating in Brate’s first ever ring.

Buccaneers TE Cameron Brate Dealing With Back Discomfort

It sounds like Cameron Brate may be a bit banged up heading into the Super Bowl. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that the Buccaneers tight end was a limited participant at practice Thursday due to a back injury. Rapoport adds that the ailment was described as “back discomfort,” and Brate “was pulled out of an abundance of caution.”

Brate felt better on Friday and, despite being listed as questionable, is expected to play Sunday, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

Thanks in part to the addition of Rob Gronkowski, Brate put up some of the lowest numbers of his career in 2020, compiling 28 receptions for 282 yards and two scores. However, the 29-year-old has seen a more significant role in the playoffs. After collecting five or more targets in only two of his 16 regular season games, Brate has seen at least five targets in each of his three postseason contests, hauling in 11 receptions for 149 yards and one touchdown.

If Brate were to be sidelined for the Super Bowl, Gronk would likely soak up most of Brate’s snaps. With O.J. Howard sitting on IR, the Bucs could also hypothetically turn to Antony Auclair or Tanner Hudson.

There is some good news on the injury front for Tampa Bay. Rapoport adds that wideout Antonio Brown was a full participant at practice. The 32-year-old sat out the NFC Championship as he nursed a knee injury. Brown appeared in eight games for the Buccaneers this season, compiling 45 receptions for 483 yards and four touchdowns.

Bucs Notes: Brady, TEs, OL, Free Agency

Tom Brady‘s transition to a new team in advance of his 21st NFL season has obviously been less than ideal, with the COVID-19 pandemic preventing the future Hall of Famer from working with teammates and coaches at the Buccaneers‘ facility. The first time the soon-to-be 43-year-old quarterback is expected to be permitted to enter his new team’s facilities will be training camp. But the Bucs do not plan to compensate for this by giving Brady more preseason work. Bruce Arians said Thursday he doubts Brady will need more preseason time to make up for the virtual offseason, per Greg Auman of The Athletic (on Twitter). Still, Brady’s preseason snaps figure to be more important than usual this year.

Here is the latest out of Tampa:

  • Arians has not gotten much out of the tight end position during his stay as head coach in Arizona and Tampa. That should soon change. The Bucs currently house an all-time tight end stable, with Rob Gronkowski joining the team’s O.J. HowardCameron Brate duo already regarded as one of the NFL’s best. Arians said the Bucs will use a two-tight end offense as their base this season (via Auman, on Twitter). Going with more “12 personnel” looks would give Howard and Brate more time on the field and potentially represent an effort to conserve Gronkowski, who retired partially because of injury issues last year. This also points to the Bucs giving stronger consideration to keeping all three tight ends rather than trading Howard or Brate. Arians even said he’s interested in three-tight end looks.
  • Tampa Bay is not expected to make a move to add interior offensive linemen to back up starters Ali Marpet, Alex Cappa and Ryan Jensen, Arians added (via Auman, on Twitter). The Bucs did not draft any guards or centers, but Arians likes what he has seen from backups Aaron Stinnie, Anthony Fabiano and Zack Bailey. A fifth-year blocker, Fabiano is now on his eighth team. Stinnie was a 2018 Titans UDFA; Bailey was a Bucs 2019 UDFA who spent much of last year on IR.
  • However, the Bucs are keeping multiple roster spots open for possible veteran additions. Arians said (via Scott Smith of Buccaneers.com, on Twitter) he and GM Jason Licht discussed saving room for veterans who would be more prepared to play than rookie UDFAs. With Brady on a two-year deal, Tampa Bay stockpiling vets would make sense.

Trade Candidate(s): Buccaneers’ O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate

To say that the Buccaneers are stacked at tight end would be a gross understatement. Even before the Bucs reunited Tom Brady with longtime teammate and bro Rob Gronkowski, they had the formidable 1-2 combo of O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate. Weeks after the draft, the Bucs still have that ludicrously talented TE trio in place. Logically, at least one of them probably has to go…and it obviously won’t be Gronk. 

The Buccaneers listened on trade offers for Brate and Howard towards the end of last month, but they didn’t get any offers to their liking. Publicly, the Bucs said they were okay with having all three TEs on the roster. Then, before the early May deadline, they exercised Howard’s fifth-year option for 2021. This doesn’t automatically mean that Brate is the odd man out, or that they’ll commit a total of ~$20MM to the position. Howard’s option – guaranteed for injury only – doesn’t hamper the Bucs’ ability to trade him. Also, this surplus of TEs would be opulent, even by Brady’s standards.

Howard, ostensibly, holds more trade value than Brate. The Alabama product hasn’t lived up to his first-round billing, but he’s flashed serious ability and uncommon athleticism for a 6’6″ receiver. The Bills saw that first-hand last year, as Howard went off for six catches, 98 yards, and two scores in Buffalo. And, roughly one year earlier against the Eagles, he got nearly as many yards, just with better efficiency – three catches for 96 yards, mostly thanks to a 75-yard connection with Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Teams aren’t sleeping on Brate, either. It’s true that he’ll turn 29 in July (Howard won’t be 26 until November), but he’s a proven playmaker and blocker. Between 2016 and 2017, he averaged 52 catches for 625 yards and seven TDs. After that, the Bucs rewarded him with a six-year, $41MM deal, including $18MM guaranteed. He’s been slowed by a surgically-repaired hip, but he’s more than a year removed from the operating table. It also helps that the Bucs restructured his deal in January. The exact terms of the restructure aren’t clear, but he’s probably on the books for less than the $4.5MM in guaranteed dollars he was slated for.

Howard wouldn’t be especially pricey for other teams, either – his rookie deal calls for a 2020 cap hit of just $3.5MM. The Bucs, meanwhile, would carry a $1.5MM charge for trading him.

The Bucs didn’t find any worthwhile deals for them in April, but interest should pick up between now and September. Even after drafting Cincinnati’s Josiah Deguara in the third round, the Packers could use a high-end TE to pair with Marcedes Lewis. The Bengals may also want to give the Bucs a call as they look to surround Joe Burrow with extra artillery. The list goes on. Depending on the asking price, the Bucs could have a market of 20+ teams for either Howard or Brate.

No Realistic Trade Offers For O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate

The Buccaneers have about $20MM of salary cap space tied up at the tight end position between Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard, and Cameron Brate, and there was plenty of speculation that the club could look to deal either Howard or Brate now that Gronk is in the fold.

However, per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com, no realistic trade options presented themselves to Tampa (Twitter link). We heard a few days ago that the team nearly dealt Howard to the Redskins in exchange for Trent Williams back in February, so Fowler’s report may simply mean that no viable trade proposals surfaced after the Gronk acquisition on April 21 and throughout this weekend’s draft. In any event, it looks as if Tom Brady will have all three players at his disposal in 2020.

Fowler adds that the Bucs never felt the need to trade a tight end and that they are comfortable with their significant financial investment in the position. But it’s not as though they really have a choice. It’s much more likely that an opposing team would pursue Howard instead of Brate, and Howard carries a 2020 cap charge of just $3.5MM, $1.5MM of which would remain on the Bucs’ cap even if he were traded. One way or another, the overall TE cap hit is significant, so it makes sense to simply give Brady as many options as possible and to see if he can help Howard start to realize his potential. GM Jason Licht acknowledged as much several hours before this year’s draft got underway.

It remains unclear if the Bucs will pick up Howard’s fifth-year option for 2021. Though the option would be guaranteed for injury only since Howard was a 2017 draft choice, the Alabama product has not lived up to his status as a first-round selection, so his future in Tampa remains up in the air.

NFC South Notes: Hill, Brate, Walker

The Saints expect Taysom Hill to take over for Drew Brees when Brees calls it a career, and to that end, they placed a first-round RFA tender on the BYU product earlier this month. Teddy Bridgewater had served as the backup to Brees over the past couple of seasons while Hill’s role as a gadget player grew, but head coach Sean Payton confirmed that Hill will be the QB2 in 2020. “He’s earned that opportunity,” Payton said (Twitter link via Jeff Duncan of The Athletic).

However, the team still expects to use Hill as a rusher and receiver next season, so Payton said New Orleans will add another QB that will be active on game days (Twitter link via Duncan). The Saints are expected to explore a long-term contract for Hill in the near future.

Now for more from the NFC South:

  • Cameron Brate‘s recent restructure with the Buccaneers is better classified as a pay cut. Per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, Brate accepted a decrease in his 2020 salary from $6MM to $4.25MM (Twitter link). The move will keep Brate, a quality red zone target, in the fold for Tom Brady while buying the team a little more cap space.
  • Several days ago, the Panthers beat out several clubs for the services of XFL signal-caller P.J. Walker. Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle says Walker’s pact with Carolina is a two-year deal worth $1.565MM, a pretty nice haul for an XFLer who has yet to crack an active roster in the NFL (Twitter link).
  • CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson‘s new one-year deal with the Falcons includes a base salary of $1.05MM and a singing bonus of $137.5K, as Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com tweets.