Bucs Pre-Draft Notebook: Sapp Staying Put?

April 17 – Buccaneer Magazine has compiled a notebook regarding Tampa Bay's plans for this weekend's NFL Draft. Buccaneers general manager Rich McKay reiterated his comments from last week that dispel some rumors suggesting the team is shopping defensive tackle Warren Sapp. McKay also discussed some other issues concerning the draft, including the Tampa Bay's interest in moving up, the importance of later draft picks, the team's pursuit of other free agents and much more.

The 2002 NFL Draft is only days away, but if you're expecting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to trade up into the first-and-second-round, you might want to grab a Snickers bar.

Buccaneers general manager Rich McKay met with members of the media on Wednesday and addressed a number of questions concerning this weekend's draft.

McKay recently squashed trade rumors involving defensive tackle Warren Sapp and the Philadelphia Eagles, but he didn't hesitate to do it again when asked if there was any chance Sapp could be used as trade bait this weekend in order to obtain a high draft pick(s).

"I'm a little tired of the Sapp rumor," said McKay. "I've never had a conversation with the Philadelphia Eagles. Nobody in our office has ever had conversations with the Eagles. The Philadelphia Eagles have never had a conversation with us. I don't know how many different ways you can say it, but it's just not true. We have no intent of trading Warren."

Not only will Sapp not likely be dealt, but Tampa Bay could find it extremely difficult to trade any of their veteran players during the draft day festivities unless the deal had already been in the works before draft day.

"Very rarely will that happen, unless the deal has been talked about much in advance," said McKay. "You have two sides to the salary cap. You have the team that's trading him and that is the team that will have to take the accelerated portion of the unadvertised signing bonus, so they have consequences to the trade. Then you have the team receiving it, who have to take his salary number and deal with that. You have two impacts. I could have seen it in 92, 93 or 94. It's very tough to do."

While there has been an abundant amount of speculation regarding Tampa Bay and their desire to move up into the earlier rounds of this weekend's draft, McKay and Co. seem content on drafting in the third round.

"We need to be content because the cost of going up from where we are to anywhere that would talk about 'impact players' would be exorbitant," said McKay. "I don't mean from a monetary standpoint, I mean from a picks standpoint. So we'll be content to stay where we are at least in our range."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pre-Draft Notebook:
No Early Draft Picks=More Free Agent Spending?

Tampa Bay may not have first-and-second-round draft selections this weekend, but that doesn't necessarily mean the team is doomed. The Bucs would normally set aside about $2 million for their first-and-second-round draft picks. But without those draft selections, the team has been able to land free agent players like QB Rob Johnson, LG Kerry Jenkins, tight ends Marco Battaglia and Ken Dilger, WR Joe Jurevicius and RB Michael Pittman. Tampa Bay has also been able to re-sign CB Brian Kelly, WR Karl Williams and C/G Todd Washington.

"Not dramatically, but yes, it does (give us more free agent dollars)," said McKay. "We've spent some of those already. First-and-second-round picks are not huge salary cap hits. It does give you dollars and we put that into our budget from the beginning and we decided how to spend it and moved on."

McKay believes free agency is a vehicle that will allow the team to cope with the reality of trading away four draft picks to Oakland in exchange for head coach Jon Gruden.

"And, it (signing a free agent) is more expensive," said McKay. "But I will say this to you, they (free agents) can play year one; and they can play year two; and they can play winning football if you're right on them. Which there are no guarantees. That is a big difference."

Searching For Sunday Specials

Tampa Bay re-signed punt returner Karl Williams on Wednesday, but that doesn't necessarily mean the Bucs will not use a draft pick on a special teams player that can return kickoffs and perhaps punts, too. Of course the player would probably be selected in the last two rounds, but Tampa Bay is interested in improving both of those positions. The Bucs have never returned a kickoff for a touchdown in franchise history.

"We've looked in that (kick and punt returners) area," said McKay. "I'd hope we've resolved that issue by Sunday."

Sure, the first-round players get all of the attention when they are drafted, but McKay has made his living in the later rounds of past NFL Drafts. Although McKay would love nothing more than to be in the first round, he knows he has to play with the hand he has been dealt and make sure he drafts players that can have an impact on special teams right away.

"In this year and next year's draft, we have to do well with the picks we have," said McKay. "We've got to get guys that can help us on special teams in the first couple of years. Hopefully two or three of them can become starters down the road. If that happens, we'll be fine. If it doesn't happen, we'll go somewhere else to get them, and that will be become more expensive and more difficult.

Tampa Bay will only have one draft selection on Saturday, but on Sunday, the Bucs will have seven draft picks, and McKay believes those players must make a significant contribution to special teams and they must provide depth if they are going to secure a roster spot.

"The second day is critical to find role players," said McKay. "We need to find guys that participate on special teams, that develop into a solid backup and maybe even develop into a starter. But you need to come away with three of four of those guys. In this case, we have seven picks, and we need to have that happen. It's hard to do because when you're a good football team and you have high expectations, you'll always have that internal struggle of, ‘do we keep this vet, or do we go with this rookie'? That where the trouble comes in. But we've tried to do as an organizations is stay committed to saying, ‘we need player 46-53', which are the players that don't dress on Sunday, We need to keep some young guys because those guys are our future.

"Those guys are salary cap-friendly. We project them to make it every year, and if they don't make it, we'll have a big problem."

Buccaneer Magazine editor-in-chief Scott Reynolds and assistant editor Jim Flynn will both be at One Buccaneer Place throughout the entire 2002 NFL Draft. Be sure to check back with BucMag.com throughout the day on both Satuday and Sunday.

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