Retooling a once mighty NFL team in the salary-cap era is never
pretty. Take the case of the Buccaneers, with new general manager
Bruce Allen: In the first two weeks of free agency Tampa Bay, 14
months removed from winning a Super Bowl, signed 17 new players
and cut ties with three stars.
One of those ushered out was 11-year safety John Lynch, a
five-time Pro Bowl player whose departure upset Bucs fans. With
Lynch coming off neck surgery, Allen and coach Jon Gruden feared
he might not be the player he once was and decided they couldn't
risk allocating $4 million a year in cap space to bring him back.
Talk-show callers vilified Allen, who arrived from Oakland in
January, as a carpetbagger, and the media joined in. "A community
was stricken as if one of its baby kittens had been drowned,"
wrote Tampa Tribune columnist Martin Fennelly. "With all the
delicacy of a Sopranos whacking, Raiders East stuck one of its
growing collection of long knives in Lynch's back."
Also, the Bucs made no attempt to re-sign All-Pro defensive
tackle Warren Sapp, who last Saturday agreed to a seven-year,
$36.6 million deal with Oakland. After his latest move--the much
anticipated trade last Friday of disgruntled wideout Keyshawn
Johnson to the Cowboys for receiver Joey Galloway--Allen shrugged
off all criticism. His father, George, was the controversial
coach of the Rams and the Redskins. His brother, also named
George, is a U.S. senator from Virginia.
"Having a brother in politics makes this [criticism] seem like
Little League," Allen said last Friday. "This is the business
we're in. I love John Lynch, but to keep great people like John
forever, that's Disney World. We've got to find a way to beat
Carolina and win our division, and Carolina was better than us up
front last year. But some people look at me like I came to this
job from the NHL, not the NFL."
Indeed, his best acquisitions were starting tackles Todd Steussie
(late of the Panthers) and Derrick Deese (49ers); they should be
an upgrade over Roman Oben and Kenyatta Walker. Running back
Charlie Garner, formerly of the Raiders, may be 32, but over the
past five years he has averaged 4.7 yards per carry and 67
catches a season. When healthy, he's quicker and has better hands
than incumbent Michael Pittman. The addition of Galloway is
interesting because he hasn't had a great year since 1998. "I
hope we make an effort to utilize what it is that I do," says
Galloway, who in his last three seasons with the Cowboys never
played with a skilled passer. "You'll see me going deep and
stretching defenses. I haven't lost a step."
However, unless Gruden is planning to work strong-armed
second-year man Chris Simms into the lineup, Galloway would
appear to be a mismatch for the Tampa Bay offense. Short and
intermediate throws are quarterback Brad Johnson's strong suit.
While Gruden says he's sticking with Johnson as his starter, the
coach's actions would suggest otherwise. The Bucs had serious
discussions with former 49er Jeff Garcia before he signed with
Either way, the Bucs look better on offense, to be sure. But when
you consider that they haven't added to a fast-aging defense,
Allen still has miles to go before he sleeps.
COLOR PHOTO: AL MESSERSCHMIDT/WIREIMAGE.COM Sapp, who didn't even get an offer from the Bucs, will wear a Raiders helmet in 2004.
COLOR PHOTO: JULIE JACOBSON/AP Owens
Last week was a big one for high-profile wideouts as four of them
changed uniforms. Here's how they stack up (2003 statistics).
PLAYER, TEAM G REC. YDS. TDS
David Boston, Dolphins 14 70 880 7
This 6'2" 240-pounder can stretch a defense, and it's a low-risk
contract for Miami
Joey Galloway, Bucs 15 34 672 2
He had 22 TD catches over 1997 and '98, but with only 13 since,
is he still a playmaker?
Keyshawn Johnson, Cowboys 10 45 600 3
Bill Parcells gets his move-the-chains man and a security blanket
for Quincy Carter
Terrell Owens, Eagles 15 80 1,109 9
He's happy, but he gave up 61.4% career passers in S.F. for a
57.0% Donovan McNabb