To the delight of Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans everywhere, their team has received quite a bit of high-profile coverage this offseason due to the signings of free agent quarterback Brad Johnson and defensive end Simeon Rice, along with the drafting of Florida offensive tackle Kenyatta Walker. Those transactions, along with the return of veteran players such as Warren Sapp, Warrick Dunn, Keyshawn Johnson and Derrick Brooks among others, has parlayed the Bucs into the role of Super Bowl favorite in the NFC alongside the rival St. Louis Rams.
Of the four major pro football annuals - Street & Smith's, Athlon's, Lindy's and Pro Football Weekly - only Lindy's did not pick the Buccaneers to reach the Super Bowl. That publication did pick the Bucs to square off against the Rams in the NFC Championship Game, but had the Rams emerging victorious in that game as well as in the Super Bowl over the Baltimore Ravens.
Pro Football Weekly had the Bucs losing to Denver in Super Bowl XXXVI, while Street & Smith's had the Bucs beating Denver to capture the franchise's first Super Bowl victory. Athlon's had the Bucs beating the Ravens for the coveted Lombardi Trophy, which would be a repeat of the 2001 season finale set for broadcast by the Monday Night Football crew on Saturday, Dec. 29 at Raymond James Stadium.
Regional additions of Athlon's and Lindy's feature John Lynch, Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks (Athlon's) and Keyshawn Johnson (Lindy's) on their covers, but have little else to say about the Bucs in their publications other than team reports. Both annuals have the Bucs winning the NFC Central division, while Athlon's features a full-page lead picture of Mike Alstott and a brief spotlight on Lee Roy Selmon.
Lindy's features a full-page lead picture of Sapp and has Keyshawn Johnson as their "On The Hot Seat" player. Lindy's also gives the Bucs a "B" grade on their draft and provides their annual team talent ratings of all 31 teams. The Bucs graded out with a talent rating of 72.5, which ranks third in the league behind St. Louis and Baltimore. Lindy's also lists the top 10 players at each position across the league. Keyshawn Johnson was rated as the No. 9 wide receiver, Warrick Dunn was rated as the No. 10 tailback, Jeff Christy was ranked the No. 4 center, Warren Sapp was ranked the No. 1 defensive tackle, Derrick Brooks was ranked the No. 2 outside linebacker, John Lynch was ranked the No. 1 safety and Martin Gramatica was ranked the No. 5 kicker. Lindy's also broke down each football unit and listed the league's top 5 units.
The Bucs weren't expected to make the list of top five passing games, and didn't, but why they weren't ranked in the top 5 defensive lines is a crime. Lindy's ranked the New Orleans Saints, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans, New York Giants and Miami Dolphins as the league's five best defensive lines. New Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson is mentioned in a QB carousel feature piece in the beginning of the magazine.
Street & Smith's ranked every NFL fan base over the last 10 years, and Tampa Bay came in 27th. The Bucs also are the league's most expensive ticket compared with local income at $24.79 per $10,000 in per-capita income. Street & Smith's have Keyshawn Johnson and Sapp in the "Put Up or Shut Up" category in a preseason feature.
Pro Football Weekly has much more to say about Tampa Bay, as well as providing the most comprehensive, game-by-game stats of the Buccaneers. Linebacker Shelton Quarles is listed as the Bucs' most underrated player by PFW. Dunn is part of a feature called "Back-Of-All-Trades." Sapp plays a major role in an article titled "Finally A Position Of Prominence," which discusses the role of the pass rushing defensive tackle in the present day NFL.
PFW also compiles its annual position-by-position player rankings leaguewide, which is kicked off by the league's top 50 players. Sapp ranks third overall regardless of position, followed by Brooks (16). Brad Johnson was the 15th best QB. Dunn was the ninth best running back, while Alstott was the 23rd best rusher. Keyshawn Johnson was the eighth-best wide receiver. Randall McDaniel is the 18th best guard, while Cosey Coleman is listed in the "Could Emerge" category. Kenyatta Walker was listed in the "Top Rookies" section under offensive tackles. Marcus Jones was ranked as the 10th best defensive end. Sapp was listed as the top defensive tackle, with fellow tackle Anthony McFarland listed in the "On The Verge" category. Nate Webster was listed as a "Youngster To Watch" at middle linebacker. Brooks was listed as the No. 2 outside linebacker. Donnie Abraham was the 13th best cornerback. Lynch was the fourth best safety. Gramatica was the third-best kicker. Rich McKay was listed as the ninth-best front office executive, while Tony Dungy was the 11th-best head coach.
PFW listed Brad Johnson and Sapp as the offensive and defensive team MVPs, with McFarland as the breakthrough player. The Bucs' best position battle is Nate Webster vs. Jamie Duncan for the middle linebacker job.
Buccaneer Magazine's annual Training Camp Issue will come out the week of July 23rd with its own take on the Webster vs. Duncan training camp battle. Buc Mag doesn't come out with season predictions until after training camp, but it's a safe bet to say that we have the Pewter Pirates leading the pack right now.
To subscribe to Buccaneer Magazine or order the Training Camp Issue, call 1-800-881-BUCS(2827). The Training Camp Issue is 48 pages of the best Bucs pre-training camp coverage found anywhere.