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NFL Free agent period the start to the answers for the Bucs

The Tampa Bay Bucs need answers. At the moment, all they have are questions.

What are they to do with Doug Martin?

Who will be the wide receiver opposite Mike Evans?

Is there help on the defensive line? Is there a safety? Another linebacker? Protection for quarterback Jameis Winston?

The Tampa Bay Bucs enter their offseason when free agency begins Thursday. Between that harvest, and the draft, there is an opportunity for the 9-7 Tampa Bay team to get better.

But where to start?

How about wide receiver? The Bucs, supposedly, are hot after Washington receiver DeSean Jackson, who has averaged more than 17 yards a catch for three years. Jackson would be expensive, of course. But you know that going in. And if not Jackson, the team might be interested in Chicago’s Alshon Jeffery or Los Angeles’ Kenny Britt.

Then there is running back, which is complicated by Martin’s positive test for PEDs last year. Martin still owes three games to the Bucs, if he he’s here. It isn’t as good a crop in free agency, of course. Adrian Peterson and Jamal Charles are coming off injury, and Eddie Lacy has had weight problems. Latavius Murray might be a possibility.

On the defensive line, the Bucs have linked to Calais Campbell of Arizona and Washington’s Chris Baker.

Of course, free agency just leads to the draft, another starring vehicle for Jason Licht. Last year, Licht was able to sign one defensive end in free agency and draft another, then sign one cornerback in free agency and draft another. This year, the positions might be receiver, back and safety.

Time for the Bucs to go to work.

Should Jameis Winston be hammered for clumsy statement?

Now that he has fumbled, are we to hammer Jamies Winston?

Now that he has said the wrong thing, does it matter if he was doing the right one?

Winston, the quarterback with the troubled past for the Tampa Bay Bucs, had good intentions. Really he did. On an off-day, he chose to speak to the children at Melrose Elementary School. He said later that he noticed one small boy who wasn’t paying attention, and he tried to get him involved.

At that point, Winston said something inappropriate. And, from the reports, there are those who will not forgive him.

“All my young boys, stand up. The ladies, sit down,” Winston said, as quoted by the Tampa Bay Times and others. “But all my boys, stand up. We strong, right? We strong! We strong, right? All my boys, tell me one time: I can do anything I put my mind to. Now a lot of boys aren’t supposed to be soft-spoken. You know what I’m saying? One day y’all are going to have a very deep voice like this (in deep voice). One day, you’ll have a very, very deep voice.

“But the ladies, they’re supposed to be silent, polite, gentle. My men, my men (are) supposed to be strong. I want y’all to tell me what the third rule of life is: I can do anything I put my mind to. Scream it!”

It should go without saying that no one should tell girls to be silent, or to suggest that they are not strong. For that clumsy wording, Winston was wrong.

On the other hand, he was at Melrose to deliver a positive message. Should he be roasted for it?

Yes, Winston had his problems while at FSU, being accused of domestic violence, singing a rap song that was crude. But this was merely saying something the wrong way, wasn’t it? No one should defend what Winston said. Still, you get the feeling that Winston was trying to fire up the boys rather than put down the girls. Don’t you?

ESPN — which defended Winston in a video — did bring up his sexual assault reports in its report.

“I was making an effort to interact with a young male in the audience who didn’t seem to be paying attention, and I didn’t want to single him out so I asked all the boys to stand up,” Winston said. “During my talk, I used a poor word choice that may have overshadowed that positive message for some.”

On the other hand, Winston just turned 23. He will get smoother in his messages. He will be all-inclusive.

And, yes, he’ll learn that girls are strong, too.

Is the Hall of Fame overlooking former Buc Simeon Rice?

John Lynch, who has missed as a finalist for four straight seasons, deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

Ronde Barber, who becomes eligible this year, deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

Simeon Rice?

I’m not so sure.

Oh, Rice — the former Tampa Bay Buc who is currently banging his own drum for Hall entry, was a marvelous talent. He would turn the corner in a rush, and he would reach out with those incredibly long arms of his — I used to call him Inspector Gadget — and down would go another quarterback. At times, Rice could take over a football game, constantly embarrassing an offensive tackle, constantly harassing a quarterback. On those afternoons, Rice certainly looked like a Hall of Famer.

And, while he was in Tampa Bay Bay, Rice played the run better than most people suspect. That’s been a knock on him over the years, that he was a one-trick pony who didn’t care about the run, but it isn’t really accurate. Not while he was a member of the Bucs, anyway.

But the problem with Rice is that he worked so hard to give off the impression that he wasn’t working hard. Can you name another player who was sent home from the Pro Bowl? I can’t. And it can’t sit well when the voters gather, not when there are more deserving players on his own team.

Rice was also shipped home from San Francisco on a Bucs’ trip to the West Coast. I remember writing that day that Rice needed to be contrite, that he had let down his team and he needed to stand up and assure them that he cared as much about winning as any of them.

Instead, Rice came out with a huge smile, and he talked about how nice the flight was, and how comfy first class was, and how he had a men’s magazine just like the one he was flipping through at the moment. In other words, he wasn’t exactly repentant that he missed the game. He was Mr. Cool, and he let everyone know that.

For some reason, that’s a hard image to shake when you’re talking about the Hall of Fame.

Granted, Rice has some numbers. He had 122 sacks in his career with 28 forced fumbles. But his claim that he was the fastest to 100 sacks — he wasn’t; he was ninth — can’t help him when voters repeat his statistics. He’s 19th on the all-time sack list.

Rice was a very good football player, to be sure. He was a player that opponents had to game plan against.

Was he a Hall of Famer?

You decide.

Tampa Bay Bucs increase ticket prices for the second straight season

The Tampa Bay Bucs played better football in 2016.

In 2017, fans will pay for it.

The Bucs have announced a rise in ticket prices for the second straight season, even though they again failed to make the playoffs. This year, the Bucs will play against New England and Atlanta at home, the two Super Bowl teams from a year ago. Carolina, who made it two years ago, will also come to town.

Other teams include New Orleans, the Giants, the Jets, the Lions and the Bears.  The Bucs have a strong nucleus with Jameis Winston and Mike Evans.

“Feeding off the tremendous energy and excitement of the recently completed 2016 season, we know that our fans are already looking forward to what should be one of the most anticipated seasons in recent memory,” said Bucs’ COO Brian Ford. “The upcoming 2017 season marks only the second time in the past nine years that we have had to increase (ticket prices). Our focus is always on providing our fans with a world-class atmosphere when they visit Raymond James Stadium and we are proud that we have been able to continue enhancing the game day experience while still maintaining one of the most affordable ticket prices in the NFL.”

The Bucs say that two-thirds of their increased seats will bre five dollars or less a game. The Bucs are still expected to be among the lowest third of the league.

Former Bucs cornerback Darrelle Revis charged with assault

Former Tampa Bay Bucs’ cornerback Darrelle Revis is in trouble, and this time, it isn’t because of a blown coverage.

Revis has been charged with four felonies and a misdemeanor following a scuffle that left two men unconscious in the street.

Revis’ attorney, Blaine Jones, told ESPN that he was trying to get Revis to surrender to police. Jones said Revis was attacked by at least five men and “feared for his safety.”

Revis is a former Tampa Bay cornerback who now plays for the New York Jets. In his career, Revis has been so good in coverage that his area of the field was referred to as “Revis Island.” Last year, however, Revis showed wear and was beaten badly much of the season.

Two men told police they were punched by Revis after a verbal confrontation. Evidently, the men – ages 22 and 23 – had begun following Revis and video-taping him on a cell phone. Revis supposedly threw the phone into the street and punched the men, knocking them out for 10 minutes.

One of the men suffered a fracture of the orbital bone.

What will the Tampa Bay Bucs do with running back Doug Martin?

The biggest question of the off-season for the Tampa Bay Bucs remains unanswered.

Should the Bucs tackle running back Doug Martin?

Or should they let him run free?

It is a difficult question. Martin will miss the first three games of the season after testing positive for drugs, which means it was his second positive. Since his suspension lets the team off the hook of his high-priced contract he signed before last season, it would appear that the team’s options are threefold.

1. The Bucs could stay the course and hope that Martin regains the ability that made him second in the NFL in 2015.

2. They could wash their hands of him, noting he has two good years in five, and invest the money in another back.

3. They could re-sign Martin to a smaller contract, perhaps one where incentives replace base pay. Of course, there is always a risk that a smaller contract could have an impact on his production.

With free agency and the draft coming up, the Bucs will have plenty of questions to answer. The first one, however, seems to be an internal one.

Voters elect seven to Hall of Fame, but not the Bucs’ Lynch

Former Tampa Bay Buc great John Lynch is still short of immortality.

The NFL announced its new Hall of Fame class Saturday night, and Lynch was not among them.

LaDainian Tomlinson was named to the Hall. Kurt Warner, Terrell Davis, Kenny Easley, Jason Taylor, Morten Andersen and Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones also were elected.

Easley, the senior candidate, was a rare safety named to the Hall. Lynch and Brian Dawkins were left out. Ed Reed becomes eligible in two years and Troy Palumalo in three.

Former Buc John Lynch hopes to get into Hall of Fame despite position

His interception total (26) is kind of low. If you’re looking to knock John Lynch, you can begin there.

His teams won only one Super Bowl. That keeps him from being a slam dunk of a candidate.

He already has two teammates from his defense into the Hall. Other teams have more, but voters lose interest the more players a team has in.

But if you want to know the challenge that Lynch, the great of the Tampa Bay Bucs, faces in today’s Hall of Fame vote, it’s easy. He’s a safety. And most years, safeties need not apply.

It has been 19 years now since the Vikings’ Paul Krause made it to the Hall as a pure safety, and his election came after 19 years in the voting. The knock persists that safeties are really slow corners — never mind that coaches will tell you it’s a whole different skill set. Only kickers have it harder than safeties.

Oh, other players have gotten in — Ronnie Lott and Mel Renfro and Rod Woodson, but those guys all started their careers as cornerbacks. But guys who have played only safety have vanished from Canton.

Of course, it’s hard to quantify. Receivers have catches and quarterbacks have passes, and running backs have yards. But safeties are more of a challenge.

This year, a logjam has begun at the position. Brian Dawkins has joined the race with Lynch and former Broncos Steve Atwater, and former Seahawk Kenny Easley is the senior candidate.

In upcoming years, Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed will join the list.

For Lynch, a heavy hitter and sure tackler in the Bucs’ great defensive run, this might be the best chance he has to get into the Hall.

In Tampa, not many doubt he belongs.

Bucs backup quarterback Mike Glennon already garners interest

He was an insurance policy. Nothing more.

He was who you thought about when you thought about the unthinkable. The guy who might save the day if the main guy was lost.

Now that Mike Glennon is a free agent, are the Tampa Bay Bucs prepared to move on without him?

Oh, with starting quarterback Jameis Winston staying healthy the last two years, the Bucs really haven’t had much use for Glennon. He has thrown passes in only one game the past two years. He won once in 2014. He won four times in 2013.

Still, Glennon has remained highly regarded over the last few years, which is sure to make him in demand in free agency. A report on ESPN suggests the Jets are already on the list of suitors because of Glennon’s age and his small amount of experience.

ESPN says the Bills, Browns, Bears and 49ers also will be interested.

Glennon was a draft pick of former Bucs’ coach Greg Schiano, and was the player that Schiano replaced disappointing Josh Freeman with. The ESPN report listed nine possible quarterbacks for the Jets, but Glennon is at the head of the list.

Now that Glennon’s contract is up, the Bucs will look to draft a project or sign one. Ryan Griffin is also on the roster, although he has not made an appearance in two seasons.

Tampa Bay Bucs place three players on AP All-Pro team

Three members of the Tampa Bay Bucs — Mike Evans, Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy — have been named to the second team All-Pro squad, says the Associated Press.

It is the second selection for David, after earning first-team honors following the 2013 campaign. He is one of only four linebackers in team history to earn multiple AP All-Pro selections, joining Derrick Brooks, Hugh Green and Hardy Nickerson. This season, David tied for the league lead in tackles for loss with 17, while forcing four fumbles, tied for the seventh-most in the NFL. David also posted 5.0 sacks, tied for the most by any player with at least 80 tackles.

Evans is the first Buccaneers wide receiver to ever earn All-Pro honors and only the third receiver in team history to receive All-Pro honors of any kind (Mark Carrier, 1989 second-team All-Pro, College and Pro Football Newsweekly; Keyshawn Johnson, 2001 first-team All-Pro, Sports Illustrated). This season, Evans had 96 catches for 1,321 yards and 12 touchdowns. He ranked sixth in the NFL in receptions, fourth in receiving yards and tied for second in the league in receiving touchdowns. His 12 touchdown catches tied his own mark from 2014 for the most touchdown receptions in a single season in team history, while his 96 receptions were second-most and his 1,321 receiving yards were the third-most.

This is the third career selection for McCoy, who earned first-team honors following the 2013 season and second-team honors following the 2014 season. He is the eighth player in team history to be named to three or more AP All-Pro teams, joining Ronde Barber, Brooks, Nickerson, John Lynch, Simeon Rice, Warren Sapp and Lee Roy Selmon. McCoy started all 15 games he played in this season, leading the team in sacks with 7.0, which ranked fourth in the NFL among defensive tackles. McCoy also tied a career-best with five passes defensed, which tied for the fourth-most in the league among defensive tackles.

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