Could Sapp Be Traded?

March 30 - Buccaneer Magazine takes a close look at a rumor reported on Football.com over the weekend that had the Bucs shipping DT Warren Sapp to Philadelphia for a first- and two second-round picks. Is there any truth to this report? And why would Tampa Bay want to trade Sapp? Buccaneer Magazine has the inside scoop and offers our analysis on the trade rumor.

A certain story on NFLDraftDigest.com (aka Football.com) created quite a buzz on Friday night. The story talked about a potential major trade between Tampa Bay and Philadelphia involving Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp and the Eagles' first-round and both second-round picks. Here's the report from NFLDraftDigest.com in its entirety:

Major Deal Brewing?

"I have received word that a major draft day deal may be going down between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Philadelphia Eagles. Word is the Eagles are offering their first round pick and both of their second round picks in this years draft in exchange for outspoken defensive tackle Warren Sapp. It seems like both sides would like to make the deal a reality but would like to wait until the NFL Draft is closer in order to explore other options.

Tampa Bay has been seen as the aggressor in the deal as they try to recoup the picks they lost to Oakland in order to acquire coach Jon Gruden. Philadelphia would like a big 300-pound body on the line to go along with speedsters Corey Simon and Hugh Douglas. Philadelphia's logic would be that Sapp wouldn't see nearly the amount of double teams and he and Simon would flourish under the Eagles system. Stay tuned as more details become available surrounding this story."

Buccaneer Magazine attempted to get in contact with high ranking Bucs officials on Saturday to comment on the report, but was unsuccessful. However, we did speak to one NFL draft prospect who confirmed that he had heard of the potential trade talks through his agent. The Bucs told the prospect's agent that they might be acquiring the Eagles' first- and both second-round picks in exchange for Sapp.

So what shall we make of this report on NFLDraftDigest.com? Is it fact or fiction? And because the NFL Draft is just three weeks away, would any comment by general manager Rich McKay or another personnel official be seen as the truth or just a smokescreen at this point? If the trade didn't go down, the Bucs probably wouldn't want to own up to the fact that one of their star defenders with two years left on his contract was being shopped.

Why would the Bucs even want to deal Sapp? There are in fact several reasons, and those reasons actually might give this story some legs.

1. Salary cap and Sapp's production
Sapp has two years left on his contract, and is scheduled to make $5.25 million in base salary this year, and $6.6 million in 2003. His 2002 cap charge, including his prorated signing bonus, is $6.98 million. Sapp's 2003 cap charge, including the same prorated signing bonus, jumps to $8.33 million.

The Bucs know that Sapp may ask for lucrative contract extension as early as this summer after seeing how effective Derrick Brooks' training camp holdout situation wound up being. At the latest, Sapp's demands for a new contract would begin in the spring of 2003.

Sapp will also be 30 this year and is coming off one of his worst statistical seasons since entering the league in 1995 -- notching only six sacks and 53 tackles. Sapp was in tremendous shape, too, but just didn't make the typical impact plays that we all are accustomed to seeing from him.

To give Sapp the kind of signing bonus that he will probably demand with his next deal, likely in excess of $10 million, the Bucs would have to give him a contract with the length of five to seven years. It would be hard to think that Sapp would play past his mid-30s and still have his quickness and be as effective as he is now.

If the Bucs were to trade Sapp, they would save approximately $3.5 million on this year's salary cap and have to avoid a big pay day when Sapp asks for a contract extension. That could go along way towards signing a No. 2 receiver or extending the contracts of other star players.

2. Locker room disruption
It is no secret that the surly Sapp rules the Bucs' locker room with an iron fist. His mere presence is tolerable by some, aggravating to others. Former Bucs defensive end Chidi Ahanotu verbally roasted Sapp and his demeanor in Sports Illustrated at midseason, and at the Super Bowl in February. Former Bucs defensive tackle Tyoka Jackson could hardly stand him either, and Sapp's jousting in the press with star receiver Keyshawn Johnson last year ruffled some feathers within the organization as well.

Sapp's attitude may be wearing thin around One Buc Place, and the fact that the locker room will no longer belong to him, but instead to new head coach Jon Gruden, who can also rule with an iron fist, may not sit well with No. 99.

The fact that he publicly called out the Glazers for not renewing the contract of former head coach Tony Dungy may also be an issue.

His relationship with fans is generally a negative one and creates bad publicity for the team. Many fans root for the guy on Sunday, but could care less about him Monday through Saturday. Ditto for some Bucs players, too.

3. Emergence of Booger McFarland
McFarland played both defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme and a nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme at Louisiana State. He's become one of the league's better if unheralded nose tackles in the pros, but his more natural position may be at Sapp's under tackle spot. McFarland has a quick first step similar to Sapp, and while he might lack Sapp's explosiveness, McFarland is a much better player versus the run.

McFarland, who is on the verge of a breakout season according to the defensive coaches, could make a smooth transition to under tackle. By assuming Sapp's position, McFarland's chances to rush the passer in one-on-one situations increase dramatically. His primary duty as the team's nose tackle is to occupy the center and a guard and help free up the under tackle.

Tampa Bay has had less heralded players play nose tackle, such as Brad Culpepper and James Cannida, and still had an effective defense. Cannida could be re-signed, or the Bucs could simply draft a sign a defensive tackle capable of forcing double-teams to free up McFarland.

4. Desire for draft picks
In interview after interview, Gruden expresses his remorse for the Bucs losing a total of four high picks over the next three years, including this year's first- and second-round picks, as compensation to acquire him in a trade with Oakland. The fact that the Bucs still have plenty of holes to fill, primarily at receiver, running back and linebacker, is reason to crave more draft picks.

Besides, McKay loves to wheel and deal on draft day, and having only five picks in round three through seven is not enough ammunition to make any kind of a bold move. There is a rumor going around the league that Tampa Bay could receive a compensatory pick in the sixth-round, but there is no confirmation from that league on that yet.

Here are the Bucs' current draft day selections.

BUCS PICKS
3rd - 86
4th - 117
5th - 151
6th - 183
7th - 217

The Eagles would love to add another stud defensive lineman to their front four, which already features Pro Bowl end Hugh Douglas and rising star at tackle, Corey Simon. Philadelphia also has the salary cap room to absorb Sapp's cap number and extend his contract.

Listed below are Philadelphia's first three picks in this year's draft:

EAGLES PICKS
1st - 26
2nd - 58
2nd - 59

No other player could command such a high price, either. Neither cornerback Donnie Abraham nor fullback Mike Alstott got any interest on the trading block, and quarterback Brad Johnson would only get lukewarm interest, especially since no team is overly interested in the more talented Drew Bledsoe for even a mid-round pick.

There is a risk to trading away a sure thing like Sapp, who is one of the league's most dominant linemen, for unproven rookies. But if the Bucs were to get three selections for Sapp, they could land on a talented defensive tackle to replace Sapp and still wind up with a tight end and a receiver to help the offense.

But before people start jumping to conclusions that this trade rumor is indeed a full-fledged fact, let us be reminded that McKay said that Sapp will be in a Bucs uniform this year prior to the start of free agency when he addressed the media. Buccaneer Magazine has also been told by some of our insiders that it would be foolish to begin dismantling the Bucs' rock steady defense now when all indications are that the team finally will have an explosive offense to compliment it.

And then there was this quote from Gruden when the Buccaneer Magazine staff asked if any Buccaneer was untouchable when it came draft day trades.

"After what I've been through (being traded from Oakland), I'd say nobody is untouchable," Gruden said. "We've got some guys here that I'm really looking forward to working with. I can't imagine going to war without Warren Sapp. I can't imagine waiving the flag without Derrick Brooks and John Lynch. You'd have to offer a pretty good sized country to get some of these guys. But anything is possible in football. Anything can happen."

Is a first-round pick and two second-round picks considered a pretty good sized country?

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