Buccaneers Training Camp Mailbag, Vol. 1

Greg White (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

The mailbag is back! Bucsblitz.com publisher Matthew Postins answers your questions about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers entering training camp. Today Postins fields questions about Greg White, Jeff Garcia and the top youngster to watch during camp. It's all right here.

Welcome back to the mailbag. Let's get to it. Here's a comment from Woof69 on defensive end Greg White and the second-year pro's dissatisfaction with his current contract.

(Greg) White isn't some long shot who has never produced. He's a returning starter and making close to the league minimum. Just because (Bucs GM Bruce) Allen thinks he can get away with doesn't mean it's the right move. Give the guy a raise to at least $550-$600,000 for this year. We certainly have the cap space and he's already earned it. Chemistry is important. Can't win much with a team of malcontents. — Woof69

Good points, Woof. I'll address them both. First, White had a great year last year and I was impressed, as were the Bucs. But I would suspect that the reason the Bucs haven't given White a longer deal is because they're hedging their bets. White may have spent several years in the NFL trying to break in, but last year was his first full year as a NFL player. He doesn't have the kind of track record that would inspire any GM to give him a longer deal. Say the Bucs give him a 3- or 4-year deal and he suddenly doesn't produce. Then the Bucs are left holding an expensive bag, especially if they've tied bonus money up in White. You've watched this team longer than I have, I'm sure, and you know that track record matters to Allen and head coach Jon Gruden.

That said, I completely agree with your second point. Paying him the minimum, just because they can, isn't fair given his production a year ago. A raise was certainly in order. White is an exclusive rights free agent, a creative way of saying that White can't go anywhere unless the Bucs release him. He has very little leverage. My guess is that if White has a productive first half in 2008, the Bucs will start working on a longer deal. That worked out pretty well for Cowboys QB Tony Romo last year. He entered 2007 with just a handful of starts but some nice stats. People had the same questions about Romo due to a lack of track record. Once he proved it, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones paid him. It's just a matter of proving it. If White does and the Bucs are smart, they'll pay him.

Here's something from Buccaneerbruce76:

Can someone tell me a logical reason the Bucs will not just pay (Jeff) Garcia? I mean seriously, if it wasn't for him the Bucs as a franchise would not be heading in the direction they are heading going into this season. It's not like the guy is asking to be the highest paid QB in the league. But seriously this is becoming an unneeded distraction heading into training camp. Oh yeah, cut (Chris) Simms already!!! — Buccaneerbruce76

You want logic? OK, Garcia will 39 years old this season, plays a style of football that invites injury and will probably see a loss in arm strength in the next 2-3 years due to age. Don't be fooled by the fact that Garcia says he just wants a better salary. He's probably looking for some more upfront bonus money, too, because he lost some incentives last year when he got hurt. Jeff knows this is likely his last chance at a big contract and he wants to cash in. Doing so after the season he had and for a team that needed a boost at his position is smart.

The Bucs just did things a little smarter this offseason by trading for Brian Griese. Now their QB line of succession is set — Garcia this year, Griese next year and, hopefully, Josh Johnson by 2010.

The Bucs don't have to extend Garcia's contract now because they have Griese tied up through 2010. Offering Garcia signing bonus money means incurring a cap hit if Garcia doesn't fulfill the lifetime of his deal, which is 50/50.

Fortunately, Garcia is a pro and won't hold out of camp, unless he and his agent have a dramatic change of heart. And, if he does, the Bucs won't panic because they have Griese.

As for Simms, he'll be at camp because the Bucs want to evaluate him for possible trade value. The best-case scenario? Simms shows he's healthy, the Bucs showcase him in a couple of preseason games and deal him to a team in need of a veteran backup for a fifth- or sixth-round pick. Remember — the Bucs gave up a late pick to get Griese. They'll need a replacement.

It wouldn't surprise me if the Bucs released Simms before camp, but I think it's unlikely. Bruce Allen has said throughout the offseason that he wants five quarterbacks at camp.

Part II will come shortly, but one more questions from our friendly admin, ThePewterPirate:

Tanard Jackson exceeded expectations last year and won a starting spot. Barrett Ruud, while he wasn't a rookie, was backing up Shelton Quarles, who was an anchor on our defense for years. When he was named the started I had mixed emotions. I hoped this wasn't a move just to get some of aging veterans out of the way, like they did by releasing (Simeon) Rice and so on. But on the other hand, the kid showed some hustle out there on special teams and in the preseason prior. To be named NFC Defensive Player of the Month is pretty impressive. Getting it done on a team with a few good LBs (Derrick Brooks, Cato June) is even more impressive. So again, while it wasn't his rookie season, it was his first as a starter.

Earnest Graham was a third string RB and was expected to play very minimal football, special teams and stuff. Again, not a rookie, but no one could've imagined him getting the playing time he did. We used him as a workhorse and he delivered when he needed too. He earned his way onto the team the hard way.

So, with that said, who do you think will be this year's breakout player? They can be on either offense or defense. — ThePewterPirate

Always with the long questions, TPP, but always appreciated. Later this month I'll be publishing my article on the players that could surprise us at training camp and this season (granted they make the team). So look out for that.

As a sneak preview, one of those will be second-year safety Sabby Piscitelli. I think everyone in the Bucs organization was impressed with him during training camp and preseason last year. If he had played a full year (he was hurt in September), I could have seen him among the leaders on special teams. But he attacked his foot injury relentlessly and was ready to go physically by January. So he should be up to speed in that regard.

There are two tracks to watch. First, obviously, will be his work on special teams. He'll see a lot of time there, and he could be the guy that replaces the departed Kalvin Pearson on gunner duty. The second will be his training camp competition with Jermaine Phillips. Phillips did a great job last year at strong safety, but he's had problems with consistency. Plus, he's in the final year of his deal, one of several contract-year players the Bucs will have to make a decision on this season. The Bucs will likely use camp to pit Piscitelli against Phillips and gauge the youngster's development. I don't think Piscitelli will win the job, but if he pushes hard enough I could see the Bucs think twice about re-signing Phillips — who is likely to cost them millions in an extension — and start Pisticelli in 2009, who would have two years left on his rookie contract. We'll see.

That's all for now. Check back shortly for three more questions from our readers.

Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for Bucsblitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald.

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