The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be hard pressed to find five players they won't miss if Houston selects them on Feb. 18. The Pewter Pirates have a wealth of free agents that they would normally consider putting on the expansion list. It's inevitable the Buccaneers will lose some depth and maybe even a few starters. Which players will the Bucs lose? Buccaneer Magazine attempts to shed some light on the Bucs and the NFL Expansion Draft.
EXPANSION LIST RULES
Teams are not allowed to place kickers or punters on their five-man expansion list.
Teams are only allowed to submit one player whose salary dramatically escalates in 2002.
Teams can only place one player on the list whose season ended on the injured reserve after starting on 53-man roster.
Submitted players must have played on a NFL roster all year, which means practice squad players are not eligible.
*NOTE: Tampa Bay can lose two players at the most in the expansion draft. Once the Texans select one player from the Buccaneers, Tamp Bay can then pull one player off of the list. If Houston selects another Tampa Bay player, the Buccaneers can retract the two remaining players on their expansion list.
Buccaneer Magazine staffers Scott Reynolds, Leo Haggerty and Jim Flynn have taken a look into their crystal balls and shed some light on who the Buccaneers may opt to make available to the Houston Texans on Tuesday.
Buccaneer Magazine editor-in-chief Scott Reynolds' Five Expansion Players:
LB Jeff Gooch
Gooch has a salary cap value of $2.15 million in 2002, which is too steep for a backup linebacker. The Bucs tried to trade Gooch last year but the deal with the Rams fell through because he hadn't yet recovered from offseason groin surgery.
G Russ Hochstein
Hochstein, who was a rookie in 2001, was dubbed Mr. Glass by his teammates in training camp because he broke his foot twice and also broke his hand. He didn't play a down all season and the Bucs don't even know what he could possibly do for them. This former fifth-round pick is expendable.
SS Eric Vance
Vance ended the season on injured reserve and the Bucs can submit one player from that list to the expansion list. Vance is a player who has bounced between the waiver wire and the Bucs' roster before, but managed to stay aboard all season. But David Gibson played better down the stretch when Vance was on IR and has shown more promise.
LG Randall McDaniel
At age 38, McDaniel is a shell of his former self and has one year left on his contract in which he'll make $2 million in base salary and will count $2.667 million against the Bucs' cap due to his $667,000 pro-rated signing bonus. Not only will the Bucs save some money if McDaniel is taken, they will also have to embrace a youth movement at the left guard position.
DE Marcus Jones
Jones had the distinction of being placed on the 1999 expansion draft list for the Cleveland Browns, but wasn't picked. Instead, the former first-round bust had a breakthrough season and recorded seven sacks. In 2000, he earned a seven-year contract extension on the heels of his 13-sack performance. But after cashing in, Jones moved to the left end role and produced only three sacks. Jones, who has a $3.75 million cap value in 2002, can't be cut because he has six years left on his deal and the accelerated pro-rated signing bonus would be a whopping $4.5 million, but if the Texans claim him that $4.5 million cap hit will magically disappear.
Buccaneer Magazine managing editor Leo Haggerty's Five Expansion Players:
I'm going to give you a different take on how the Bucs should handle the expansion draft. I believe that the Pewter Pirates should force the Houston Texans into taking the one or two players that the Buccaneers want to lose. They can accomplish this goal by including in the rest of the expansion lists players that are of no interest to general manger Charley Casserly and head coach Dom Capers. This way the Bucs can predetermine what players will be selected. Here's how it gets done.
Quarterback Joe Hamilton.
I think the 5-foot-10, 190 pound former Georgia Tech Yellowjacket will be at the top of the unprotected list. He has never lined up for a down in any regular season National Football League contest so the Texans have no film to evaluate. Houston would be taking a huge chance on the 24-year old Alvin, South Carolina native unless someone within the organization has a past dossier on Hamilton. If someone doesn't push for No. 1 the newest NFL team will probably pass on the two-year vet.
S Eric Vance.
This was a tossup between Vance and second-year S David Gibson, but the deciding factor here is age. Tampa Bay should go with youth in Gibson and make a older and pricier Vance available.
RB Aaron Stecker.
This one all will stem from how aggressive the Buccaneers are in resigning running backs Warrick Dunn and Rabih Abdullah. If the Bucs don't feel they can resign at least one of their free agent running backs you can bet that the 5-foot-10, 205 pounder in his second year out of Western Illinois will never to make it to the expansion list. If the Texans plucked him that would leave Tampa Bay with no true running backs on the roster other than fullback Mike Alstott.
DE Marcus Jones. This one is strictly a coaching decision. If the Bucs brass feel that rookie Ellis Wyms plus Ron Warner from the practice squad are capable reserves and they can resign Steve White the 28-year old could be the odd cap value out. The 6-foot-6, 278 pound University of North Carolina product may find himself unprotected in an expansion draft for the second time in his six-year career. The former Tar Hell dropped off significantly in sacks this year and that could seal his fate.
TE Dave Moore. This is one that the Bucs would hope to slide by. The University of Pittsburgh graduate will being going into his 10th season in 2002. Houston will probably be more interested in the long-term than the quick fix so the Texans will be looking for players who will not be turning 35 three years down the road. If the 6-foot-2, 258 pounder is snatched up the Bucs are not in that bad of shape with second-year reserve Todd Yoder waiting in the wings.
Buccaneer Magazine staff writer Jim Flynn's Five Expansion Players:
LG Randall McDaniel
McDaniel was one of the best left guards to ever play in the National Football League, but he's been struggling since Tampa Bay signed him to a three-year deal in 2000 and was a big reason for the Bucs' offensive line's woes in 2001. There's one potential problem with placing McDaniel on the expansion list. If he is not interested in the possibility of going to Houston, McDaniel could retire before the Expansion Draft takes place on Feb. 18. If that happens, the Bucs will have to place another player on the expansion list in McDaniel's place. If McDaniel is put on the list and is selected by Houston, Tampa Bay could rid themselves of a $2.667 million cap hit next year.
DE Marcus Jones
Jones could find himself in familiar territory on Feb. 18. Tampa Bay made Jones available to the expansion Cleveland Browns in 1999, but the Browns opted to not select Tampa Bay's 1996 first round pick. Jones turned in an outstanding season in 2000 when he recorded a career-high 13 sacks. But with the addition of RDE Simeon Rice in 2001, Jones was switched from the right end position to the left, and he only managed to record three sacks. Tampa Bay signed Jones to a seven-year contract extension on Nov. 15, 2000, and he has rarely been heard from ever since. Jones has a $3.75 million cap value in 2002, and if Houston selects him, the Texans would also obligate themselves to Jones' $4.5 million signing bonus.
QB Joe Hamilton
If Hamilton were placed on the expansion list, Houston would certainly take a close look at him. With the exception of his size (5-10, 190), the elusive Hamilton fits the mold of today's mobile quarterback, but he hasn't really been a good fit in Tampa Bay. Hamilton is signed through the 2002 season and will count $369,000 against the cap next season.
LB Jeff Gooch
Tampa Bay traded Gooch to St. Louis last offseason, but the trade was void after Gooch failed the Rams' physical. Gooch is a good special teams player and started at the left outside linebacker position for the Bucs in 1997, but his cap value of $2.15 million in 2002 is pretty pricey for a backup linebacker.
S Eric Vance
Vance is signed through the 2002 season and will have a cap value of $473.000 next season. Vance is an outstanding special teams player and has added depth at the safety position, but rookie S John Howell and second-year S David Gibson have played well enough to make Vance expendable.
Copyright 2001 Buccaneer Magazine/BucMag.com
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