Pewter Report Roundtable

March 6 - Pewter Report editors Scott Reynolds, Leo Haggerty and Jim Flynn have sounded off on Tampa Bay's decision to part ways with centers Jeff Christy and Todd Washington. The Pewter Reporters have also discussed quarterback Rob Johnson's decision to sign a two-year contract with the Washington Redskins in this 1,300-word commentary.

Scott Reynolds - Editor-In-Chief

"The Bucs' release of Jeff Christy last week came as no surprise. Pewter Report had reported his expected release on more than one occasion last fall in the Buccaneer Buzz. Christy was a good player for Tampa Bay, but was clearly on the downside of his career. I don't think he was as big, physical or hard-nosed as offensive line coach Bill Muir might have wanted. His loss isn't a big one if the Bucs can find an adequate replacement in free agency. The Bucs will draft a center, but shouldn't have to resort to starting a rookie at the center spot. Tampa Bay is flirting with the idea of acquiring Andy McCollum (St. Louis), who is bigger than Christy at 6-foot-4, 300 pounds. But McCollum is 33 years old and would just be a stop-gap player. In the draft, look for Tampa Bay to show interest in Wisconsin's Al Johnson, Iowa's Bruce Nelson and Mississippi's Ben Claxton."

"The release of Todd Washington came as a bit of a surprise to me, but only because it leaves the Bucs without any center with playing experience. Washington was a marginal player who never got much of a chance to play except for this past season. He flopped at right guard in a couple of starts for Cosey Coleman and just didn't show the physical power or nasty demeanor that the team wants at the center position. Bucs insiders tell me that the team has no interest in re-signing Washington, even at a lower price."

"It's not too surprising seeing Rob Johnson leave Tampa Bay for Washington. Brad Johnson is firmly entrenched as the team's starter, and the Redskins' job is wide open. After seeing Rob Johnson in the preseason I became disenchanted with him. The guy has great physical tools, but absolutely zero pocket presence. His loss isn't a big one for the Bucs. I think the Bucs would like to get Shaun King, which could happen if Chicago opts for someone else, and have him compete with a rookie for the backup job. I think Jon Gruden is itching to draft a quarterback and mold him into a future starter. It would be interesting to see if Gruden beckons free agent passer Bobby Hoying to Tampa to compete for a job."

Leo Haggerty - Managing Editor

"I've got to disagree with the Bucs on part of this move, but not all of it. Yes I think that the decision to release starting center Jeff Christy was a good one. At 285 pounds, which may be a stretch, the former University of Pittsburgh Panther was outsized week in and week out by the mammoth opposing defensive tackles that prowl the trenches in the National Football League. Plus, after 10 years of service, No. 62 doesn't have a lot of tread left on the tires. The wear-and-tear of fighting an uphill battle your entire career has taken its toll. I don't agree with the decision made by the Tampa Bay hierarchy to sever their ties with back up center Todd Washington. I don't believe the fifth–year pro is starter material but, on game day, he backs up three positions, center and both guards, and that is invaluable to the Bucs who like to dress seven offensive lineman on game day."

"Granted, most of the hunches of Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden when it came to free agent acquisitions were unqualified successes. The one unmitigated disaster was the signing of former Buffalo Bills quarterback Rob Johnson and, I hate to remind all you Bucs fans, that I called this one from the start. Everyone extolled Johnson's athletic ability and, in the right situation along with the tutelage of Gruden, No. 11 would blossom into the signal caller that everyone thought he would be coming out of the University of Southern California. Not. I stated in our preseason issue that the one image that I couldn't get out of my mind was the guy that was sacked seven times and driven from the game when the outcome was hanging in the balance. I was wrong about one thing. Johnson definitely proved that he could take a hit as he was blistered with some brutal shots, the topper in Carolina on the first series when he was ear holed by blitzing linebacker Mark Fields, all season long. Johnson never was able to master the art of reading defenses while dropping back to pass and that is a staple of the Gulf Coast offense. He would wait to decipher the coverage until he reached his final step and that, in the NFL with the speed rushing defensive linemen, is just too late. Rob Johnson is gone and, from my perspective, good riddance."

Jim Flynn - Assistant Editor

"It was no surprise at all that Tampa Bay released starting center Jeff Christy. Christy's 6-foot-2, 285-pound frame was too small for head coach Jon Gruden and offensive line coach Bill Muir's liking. Christy has actually been regarded as an undersized center throughout his entire career, but his athleticism helped him compensate for his smallish frame. Christy started to show his age (34) over the last two seasons. While the Bucs won't miss Christy's cap value or aging body, they might miss his smarts, which helped him read defensive formations and relay his observations to quarterback Brad Johnson on every offensive down."

"While Todd Washington's release came as somewhat of a surprise, one could certainly understand the Bucs' decision. Washington was scheduled to have a $1.3-million cap value in 2003, which was entirely too high for a serviceable backup and unproven starter. Washington's ability to play center and both guard positions was, however, a luxury. Tampa Bay probably wouldn't have parted ways with Christy if it didn't feel it could upgrade the center position via free agency. The Bucs will likely sign a center in free agency as well as draft one in April. While releasing both Christy and Washington made sense, those two roster moves left Jason Scukanec as the team's only center."

"Rob Johnson was 2-0 as starter in his first and only season as a Buc, but his departure to Washington shouldn't be seen as a tremendous loss. Johnson was sacked a whopping 19 times in just six appearances with the Bucs, and he failed to lead the offense into the end zone in his two starts. He has all of the physical tools a coach could ask for in a quarterback, but Johnson's decision-making process needs some work. If Gruden, who's regarded as one of the best offensive gurus in the league, couldn't mold Johnson into a good quarterback, who can? Good luck, Coach Spurrier. "

"The Bucs have some interest in re-signing QB Shaun King, but he could sign with another team before the Bucs free up enough money to even seriously talk about re-signing him. If King signs with another team, the Bucs could take a look at free agent QB Jeff Blake, who the Bucs expressed some interest in signing last season before he signed a one-year deal with Baltimore."

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