TAMPA — Next to what he thinks of QB Mike Glennon, the question that Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith has had to answer most often since coming back to Tampa two months ago is: How does he plan to use cornerback Darrelle Revis?
It’s a valid query, of course, because Revis is arguably the best man-to-man cover corner in the game today and Smith is known for employing a zone-based Tampa 2 scheme that might waste Revis’ talent.
But Smith argues that he doesn’t use the Tampa 2 nearly as much as some think, and during a break at the scouting combine last week, he reassured fans that Revis’ skills won’t go to waste.
“It’s funny to me about the Tampa 2,” Smith said. “I mean, somebody sometime needs to go and look and see how much we really play that. Now, we’re a cover 2 team because to me, cover 2 is a great coverage if you think they’re going to pass. But all it is is that.
“We’re primarily going to be a man team. Whether we win or lose is going to be based on how we play man coverage, so that’s kind of where we’re at. Now, there are disguises that you do, too. For instance, you may start from a pre-snap cover 2 shell, but then you move and do different things.
“You have to have a starting point, and (cover 2) will be our signature coverage and once we get that (defensive) front going, it will be the best coverage to be in because, what are we about? We’re about taking the ball away. And you get more interceptions being in zone (coverage) than when you have everybody looking at a man, so we’re going to want seven sets of eyes watching the quarterback, and that’s done with zone coverage, so we want to get into a situation where we can do that.”
If anything, it sounds as if Smith’s plan is designed to take even more advantage of Revis, who has seldom been among the league leaders in interceptions because opponents seldom, if ever, throw his way.
That will no doubt come as good news to Revis, who came to the Bucs in a trade with the Jets last offseason, and it probably translates into bad news for the teams interested in prying Revis away from the Bucs. And make no mistake, two or three are interested, and it’s not hard to figure out which ones. Just think of teams that believe they may be one or two players — including a cornerback — away from getting to or winning a Super Bowl.
New England, which always seems to lose Aqib Talib to some sort of an injury at the worst possible moment, is probably one of them. And Denver, which has to prepare for the day when Champ Bailey is no longer around, is another.
There are probably a couple more, but unless they’re offering a couple of first-round draft picks, it’s hard to imagine the Bucs agreeing to any kind of deal that leaves them without Revis.
After all, it’s not like the Bucs have an abundance of cornerback talent. They have Revis and Johnthan Banks as their starters and would probably list D.J. Moore as their nickel, but they may seek to do better there.
And it’s not like the Bucs are in a position where they need to dump Revis’ salary. He’s slated to make $16 million this year, but the Bucs are already $19 million under the cap, so they can easily afford to keep Revis.
And even if the Bucs did need to reduce that salary for cap space purposes, they could. Their contract with Revis gives them unilateral power to change Revis’s $13 million base salary into a guaranteed bonus. That means they could shave another $9 million or so off their cap with the stroke of a pen, and depending on what they want to do in free agency, they may decide to do that.
Either way, the debate over whether the Bucs will trade Revis should be over relatively soon. Revis is due to receive a $1.5 million roster bonus on the third day of the new league year, which is March 14.
If Revis is still a Buccaneer then, he will almost certainly be a Buccaneer for the rest of 2014. And given Smith’s desire to make generous use of man schemes and take the ball away, that will more than likely be the case.
Take care of your own
Like his predecessor, Mark Dominik, Bucs GM Jason Licht puts a premium on re-signing his own free agents. One such free agent that Licht is hoping to re-sign is FB Erik Lorig.
The Bucs have had some conversations aimed at keeping Lorig out of the free-agent marketplace, which opens March 11, but there is still a chance Lorig will test the waters.
One thing that could help the Bucs keep Lorig around is the fact that offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford, when he was the head coach at Cal, recruited Lorig as a tight end out of high school. Lorig wound up going to Stanford, but if the Bucs show a willingness to expand his role and use him at tight end a little bit, they could sway him to stay in Tampa and avoid free agency altogether.