Mason Foster May Not Move To Outside LB

March 16th, 2012

Joe hates to keep banging the drum on this, but to deny it would be irresponsible.

The Bucs linebacker unit was simply downright dreadful last year, perhaps worst in the NFL. Once opposing running backs turned the corner, it was as if the pups at Derby Lane were rounding the turn for the stretch run after that elusive electronic rabbit.

Now part of the reason was rookie Mason Foster. Joe’s not going to nitpick Foster because the guy was a rookie and, despite what some will tell you, was playing out of position as he was an outside linebacker in college at Washington.

Throw in the fact he was being force-fed play calling duties — with no offseason to speak of — it was a recipe for disaster. And it was.

Folks, playing outside linebacker in the (then) PAC-10 and playing middle linebacker in the NFL is leap of many football levels of talent.

In the offseason, it was believed the Bucs would move Foster back to the outside where he may be more comfortable and be able to utilize his skills a bit better. But hold up, says Bucs rock star general manager Mark Dominik, by way of Woody Cummings of the Tampa Tribune. Foster may just end up in the middle when the Bucs kick off the 2012 season.

“We are talking to the (coaches) about Mason Foster being the ‘Mike’ linebacker of this team,” said Dominik, using the common reference for middle linebacker. “I think the coaching staff that has been in here evaluating that tape feels like he has a great opportunity to … stay at the middle linebacker spot.”

Well, to this Joe suggests Dominik better pull a rabbit out of his hat and get a wicked, beastly outside linebacker to replace Geno Hayes or Quincy Black like South Carolina DR/OLB Melvin Ingram.

Of course, this can all be a moot point if the Bucs are able to get Curtis Lofton or Stephen Tulloch to come to their senses.

70 Responses to “Mason Foster May Not Move To Outside LB”

  1. Jarret Says:

    If they can’t get a mlb in free agency they wont have much choice. But I think this is just Dominik staying put on his offer to Curtis Lofton

  2. Jonny 3.3 Says:

    The best way to jump start a defense is to get an experienced and hard hitting MLB. Mason Foster could be good, but signing a Tulloch, awthorne or Lofton kind of MLB would right away make us a much better defense.

  3. Captain Stagger Says:

    Epic fail for the Bucs FO if Fosyer starts at mike.

  4. Buddhaboy Says:

    remember that run defense. They ran away from the ballcarriers

  5. raphael Says:

    Idk …maybe with some real coaches who knows. I think some of the defensive calls and alignments didn’t help last year.I wouldn’t count out Mason Foster on anything at this point.

  6. thibs5599 Says:

    How is that a fail, he was a rookie playing with two slobs next to him, give the kid a chance. Either way we need two new linebackers on this team, whether it be OLB or MLB, we need two new starters. I would rather not have both of them be rookies, much rather prefer a vet and a rookie. I really hope this coaching staff is not thinking about keeping Black as a starter, do not care about his salary one bit, your salary should not determine your starting role, especially when you were the worse linebacker in the NFL last year.

  7. Rrsrq Says:

    If he is evaluating film then there should be no question, we are looking for a FA MLB, a rookie will not work there, I believe kthat is just GM speak.

  8. Buc_The_World Says:

    He has to say that. He can’t show any weakness in the armor or agents will attack.

  9. Brandon Says:

    Joe, you realize that Melvin Ingram is either going to be an OLB in the 3-4 (most likely) or a DE in the 4-3? He is NOT a 4-3 OLB. You do realize that one of the main responsibilities of an OLB in the 4-3 is to drpp in coverage, right?

    Hopefully, the notion that Foster COULD stay at Mike and the failed but attempted signing of Lofton is to throw the rest of the league off their intentions, which is to draft MLB Luke Kuechly of Boston College.

  10. SilenceTheCritics Says:

    I think with some more experience Foster will be fine. A more experienced Mic would be great of course and i wouldnt argue the move at all. But if we cant get one then I have confidence in Foster.. as long as we get him a new will. Geno just cant do what we need. And on the other side I’d like to see Watkins get a shot at starting just to see if he has anything which I think he does.

  11. Travis Says:

    Dont rule out David Hawthorne either, hes not as heralded as Tulloch or Lofton, but his body of work is as good if not better than those two. He will come alot cheaper and he is still in his prime

  12. bucfanjeff Says:

    I won’t disagree the LB’s sucked. Foster gets a pass for all the things mentioned and despite those things, had some good moments and good games.
    Knowing what we know now about the coach, lock out, etc – it’s a fair question to ask if the biggest part of the problem was coaching and scheme? Foster never avoided a tackle and worked his ass off, same of Watson. Hayes and Black, I can’t say the same for.
    Schiano was a LB and is a legitimate defensive coach. If he feels Mason can be that guy, if the collective coaches feel he can be that guy, they deserve the chance to prove that he can be coached up.

  13. Drew Says:

    Foster will end up being an outstanding Mike. Remember Raheem was calling the D play calls from the sideline and Foster only communicated what was received in the headset. The failure lies with Raheem because we was an extremely horrible DC. With the new coaching staff Foster will become a better player at the position.

  14. CreamsicleBananaHammock Says:

    Sounds like subterfuge from a GM trying to convince Lofton we’re fine without him, or preparing to draft Kuechly at throw other teams off the scent

    How do you know an NFL GM is lying during the offseason? His lips are moving

  15. ClayBURN94 Says:

    @Brandon Thats not always true. 4-3 Olb can be used as blitzers just as much as dropping back into coverage, it depends on the scheme. Our defense is supposedly going to an aggressive blitzing style defense and we could see our OLB blitz on numerous occasions. Just look at the Giants, Mathias Kiwanuka is a 6’5 converted defensive end playing OLB in a 4-3 scheme. It all depends on the scheme.

  16. Pete Dutcher Says:

    Like I’ve been saying…last year wasn’t one bit fair to Mason Foster. Out of all the other players on the team, he got screwed the worse.

    a) Signed to the QB position of the defense

    b) No off-season training

    c) No exposure to the playbook in the off season either, so no time to learn the plays.

    d) an absolutely horrible defensive coordinator…everyone says so and admits it affected every other player, but when it comes to Foster, suddenly it’s all his fault? Please.

    e) No true coaching during the season either.

    The kid needs to be treated like a rookie this year.

  17. Fatmosh Says:

    Erin Henderson please.

  18. Joe Says:


    You do realize that Greg Schiano has stated he’s going to run both a 4-3 and a 3-4 defense, right?

  19. ClayBURN94 Says:

    Joe, Has Schiano or Sheridan run a 4-3/3-4 hybrid before? Haven’t really watched their defenses on tape yet.

  20. NickinMelbourne Says:

    Best reason Mason Foster was a bust at MLB was he had Bozo the Clown as a Defensive Coordinator.

  21. Bobby Says:

    I believe this IS just Dominik telling Lofton in so many words “If you don’t take our offer we’re going to move on in a different direction”.

  22. BigBear Says:

    With the horrid coaching last year, and the gifting of starting positions to Black and Hayes it turned out to be awful. If we were to go into 2012 season with 2 drafted line backers (Kuechly, Zach Brown, or Lavonte David all would be options in rounds 1-3) and then with the guys we still have (Watson, Hayward, Foster, and Black riding the pine) I wouldn’t be upset. The competition would bring out the best in all of them. They have a chance to all learn and grow in a new system with a really qualified defensive staff.

    If there is a FA to be had that can come in I’m not opposed to it as that would allow us to use more draft picks on the best play available and not trying to fill holes.

    As a side note, I like foster in the middle. He is a play maker who can change games and he can do it all from the middle. I always enjoy an athletic 3 down mike who can influence the game in major ways.

  23. Bobby Says:

    I don’t think Foster was a ‘bust’ at MLB. I just think it’s a lot on your plate when you’re a rookie and it’s a position you’ve never played before in college let alone the NFL. I actually thought he did fairly well for what was asked of him with no off season preparation.

  24. Scotty in Fat Antonio Says:

    I had to LMAO when I saw PFT’s Friday Morning One-liners when it said:

    Former Bucs backup QB Josh Johnson wants at least a shot at a starting gig. [Editor’s note: May we interest you in the CFL?]

    Love PFT’s note.

  25. SensibleBuc Says:

    Vontez Burfict…in the 7th.

    16 reps on bench and dude’s not going to run the 40 at his Pro Day lol

  26. Scotty in Fat Antonio Says:

    Why has there not been alot of talk on Hawthorne? Wrong scheme or what? I say let’s bring him in to if nothing else, put more pressure on Lofton/Tulloch. I see Hayes has scheduled a visit with the Broncos. What is John Fox thinking?

  27. 941-Bucs Says:

    We need a LBer who can cover. Foster, Watson, Black, and Hayward are all more skilled for rushing then coverage.

    Our front 4 are all about the pass rush. Meaning are LB corp should be based on Blitzes, Run stopping, and Coverage. We have the Blitzers already.

    Now we need a stud to stop the run and a quick, speedy, and good coverage type of LBer. Personally i am really hoping Brown Falls close to us in the 2nd round. He would fit perfectly at Will. Would be nice to have Brook’s old spot with some real talent again.

  28. Oahubuc Says:

    This trading down and taking Keuchly thing seems to be coming up a lot. Won’t fix our problems immediately, but I’ve sat through about 20 worse Bucs teams than what we’ll probably see this fall. I have a lot of faith in Foster and Watson under some competent coaching. Butch Davis is probably working some magic in his non-coaching laboratory as we bicker.

  29. Northend Says:

    Fatmosh,I also think Erin Henderson is the man for the job.Young,Stout great numbers,good lineage and could be had for 3-4 mill.!/2 what the others want and his numbers last season and coverage ability are much better.No one even talking about him except PFF

  30. K1ngAdroc Says:

    Mason and Quincy can cover in passing nickel situations. We need a thumping, run stopping terror in the middle of the field that intimidates receivers from grabbing quick slants all day. Just as important, we need a real leader for the D. Right now, I just don’t see it out there….

    Lofton – Tulloch – Mays all day. Mark Dom know’s how important this is and will get this done. He’s posturing with all that GM talk.

    We need the next Hardy Nickerson to lead us to the promised land.

    I don’t think we need to spend 9M in K2 to do it, either.

  31. Have A Nice Day Says:

    Well, Geno is visiting the Broncos so we need to hire someone clearly.

  32. Architek Says:

    Give him a chance rather than just give up on him. Get a safety and another outside LB and we will be ok. Draft a CB and another LB and we will be fine.

  33. thibs5599 Says:

    Someone said erin henderson, I like him a lot suppose to be stout against the run and has only started one year. He plays will backer also which would allow us to keep foster where he is. Hawthorne would be great too, I am sure as one linebacker signs it will have a domino affect on the rest. Dom does seem to have a plan though unlike last year.

  34. FlBoy84 Says:

    See this more as posturing by Dominik to dispel the notion that the team HAS to sign a MLB to maintain his position in negotiations with agents for Lofton, Hawthorne, Tulloch, etc.

  35. Have A Nice Day Says:

    Henderson had an awesome year. I’ve thrown his name out a few times.

  36. mcbuc Says:

    @ Pete D…I was thinking the same thing. It seems everyone gets a pass with the exception of the line backers. All of them though. Maybe with the right coaching and a better scheme, even Black will realise his potential. it seems like the Line Backers and LGB are taking more heat than the rest of the team. They pretty much all sucked as one unit.

  37. Capt.Tim Says:

    Every FA linebacker knows that the Bucs are Desperate at LB. we are absolutely horrible. So they are jacking up their prices.

    This is Dom, saying rather than get raped, we might try to work with the talent we have- which, sadly, is only Mason Foster. He was horrible last year- but that was entirely the management teams fault. As Joe so succinctly detailed, the kid never stood a chane at MLB.

    He’s never gonna flourish there. He is a prototypical Sam. He is a huge upgrade over Quincy” the human statue” Black

    In a perfect world, we trade Black and Talib to Raheem, for anything we could get, just to get their asses of the payroll.

    Then, we move Foster to Sam, draft Lavonte David for Wil.
    If we can’t sign one, the Adam Hayward played decent at MLB.

    Also, remember the team has quietly been signing LBs since the season ended.
    They have brought in Mike Balagun, Rennie Curran, and Josh Cutrera.

    Still. Gonna need a MLB. Trading down for Kuechley still sounding good.

  38. gotbbucs Says:

    Take everything that Dominik says from this point forward with a GIANT grain of salt. All he will do from now until the draft is try to throw the scent off of the trail he just laid in free agency. The fact that none of us really know what Schiano wants to do on defense other than being a 4-3 base makes it really difficult to know exactly what position responsabilities will be. I’m inclined to think that he would want Watson and Foster on the outside since he likes to pressure with some blitzing, but who really knows.

  39. Chris FWC Says:

    ^ Could you imagine by what you say could affect million dollar deals? Now thats power… ROCKSTAR POWER!

  40. Rrsrq Says:

    For all of you that want kuechly, I think the Bucs will not go with MLB in first round, think they are still looking to get experience and leadership in lb core. So they will draft an lb, but it won’t be round one, Lavonte David or Zachary Brown may be available in round 2 or even vonteze burfect, audie cole or mychal kendricks in a later round, q. Black will start next year though he may not end up with the most snaps.

  41. RustyRhino Says:

    Rennie Curran is a very good outside LB only 5’11 230 but very fast. and a great tackler. #45 is going to do well for us.

  42. Macabee Says:

    Joe, you’ve explained that Schiano said that the Bucs are going to run 3-4 as well as 4-3 defenses this year. I asked this question in the last thread and I’ll ask it again. There were no responses then and I suspect no one is eager to answer now.

    The Bucs went out and signed 2 former DEs, Daniel Te’o Neshiem, 6-3, 263 and Nick Reed, 6-1, 248. They were given LB numbers, 50 and 53 respectively. In the last 2 games of the season, they played as rush OLBs. I assume Dominik was involved in this. Can anyone explain what was the thinking at the time and are they still in the plans? Also what is a Front Seven coach? Does it have anything to do with 3-4 defenses?

  43. Northend Says:

    Rhino,Curran is a stud!!!!a tackle machine always around the ball.Pull up his highlights on youtube.Iwould not be shocked if he sees lots of time this year.

  44. BigMacAttack Says:

    I could see the 49’rs trying to trade with the Bucs to draft Blackmon, if they sign Peyton Manning. It would be expensive, multiple 1’s and 2’s +, but Blackmon & Manning would round out their team for a run, and the Bucs could reap huge rewards, but later round picks. Just thinking out loud.

  45. Have A Nice Day Says:

    @Macabee I expect it is exactly how it sounds. The Bucs DL and LB did not work as a unit at all the past few years. This guy’s job seems to be an answer for that: i.e. front seven quality control. Bucs had a lack of coaching for years. Now we will have an excess.

    The Bucs will be a 4-3 team with 3 man and 2 man front wrinkles.

    As for the jersey numbers, 50 -59 are designated for OL, DL, and LB.

  46. Rrsrq Says:

    If Bucs trade back, do so with the fins, you slide that far back and they have multiple 3rd picks due to the Marshall trade, I think, they will need a receiver if they sign a qb or a qb (tannehill) if they can’t sign one.

  47. Have A Nice Day Says:

    Here is a jersey number link:

  48. ClayBURN94 Says:

    Macabee, that is what im trying to find out. I dont think schianos ever ran a 3-4 before. I do remember sheridan coached dolpins LB’s last year and they ran the 3-4.

  49. Capt.Tim Says:

    Wow. Raiders released Kamerion Wimbley.
    That’s a LB I’ve always thought would be a good addition.
    Not a need, as he is a Wil, and I think we are already sold on Lavonte David.
    But still . . .

  50. Big Picture Guy Says:

    “Great opportunity” is far from a sure thing. Tis the season to be smoke screening, fa la la la la, la la, la laaah!!

  51. Big Marlon B Says:

    @ Rrsrq

    that was exactly what i thought when Miami traded Marshall. they picked up a couple of extra 3rd rounders, and now have a glaring need for an outside threat. depending on what happens at #4, if Cleveland somehow passes on Blackmon i could see Miami wanting to trade up to 5 to get ahead of St. Louis. if available, Blackmon would pretty much be a guarantee to St. Louis so i could see teams try to get ahead of them. trading back to Miami’s 9 slot would be great because it could still ensure a very talented prospect (Trent Richardson and Luke Kuechly come to mind in that range), as well as stockpile a couple of extra picks for this year or the future. i’m all for trading back and accumulating more picks, as long as Tampa doesn’t trade too far back and miss out on all of the “cant miss prospects”.

  52. Macabee Says:

    Have A Nice Day, Thanks for the info on jerseys and sharing your opinion on the F7 coach. But what I really wanted to know was whether there were plans to keep the LBs that I referenced. Surely, you don’t think they were hired to compete with Clayborn, Bennett, or Bowers. Then, what are they? There are only so many slots for LBs. In so many words, I’m trying to find out where this defense and LB corp is headed!

  53. Have A Nice Day Says:

    There might be 100 or so players attending OTAs/training camp.Those guys were hired to bring in competition for LB. If they do well, they’ll make the team. Most likely will not, however. Any one of them may be cut at anytime.

    As far as a 3-4 goes, Bennett is the only one of our DE’s that might be able to play LB. I don’t believe the Bucs ever want to take Clayborn’s hand off the ground. He only dropped into coverage a few times over the first few game last year as where Bennett did around 25 times over the whole season and was only targetted twice: one he deflected and the other he tackled before the first down. I haven’t seen anything from Bowers on that front.

  54. Have A Nice Day Says:

    Woops! Bennett allowed 2 catches. One for 15 that was a 1st down and one for 12 that was not.

  55. Have A Nice Day Says:

    Te’o and Reed both played snaps for us at the end of last year. When they did line up, it was at RE.

  56. Have A Nice Day Says:

    I just realized I wrote “those guys were hired to bring in competition to LB”. I meant DE.

  57. Cmurda Says:

    All is seemingly quiet on the free agency front currently for us. We still have the room to add a LB. Still hoping Lofton and Tulloch are in the mix for us.

  58. 941Buc Says:

    @ BigMac
    I like your thinking. In my opinion trading down makes the most sense for us. We could get Claiborne or two or three positions of need. For the positions we need thereto is a lot of value in late first round and second round.

  59. TopDoggie Says:

    No updates. Joe must be drinking a Beer and watching the Bulls. Dam its a low scoreing game.

  60. 941-Bucs Says:

    So, I’ve got a question out of the Blue. Where and what are Caddy and Ruud Doing? Are they going to resign with their respective teams? Are they shopping around?

    With the new additions we’ve added and what we are projecting on getting from the Draft. I can honestly say i believe Ruud and Caddy would be able to fit back into their roles and we could gain success from it.

    Ruud Has all the smarts and secrets to playing the position. He was taught by Brooks and Quarles on how to approach the game. That knowledge needed to be passed down to Foster. I know he wasn’t a Thumper but ALWAYS had a nose for the ball and knew how to tackle and prepare. No matter what your knock on him was. The bottom line is the LB corp took a huge dip in progression with out him in the line up. So Say what you will but dude really actually helped this team. We were stupid to just let him walk with out a strong replacement.

    Caddy fit perfectly in the 3rd down Role. I know he wanted a chance to start again and wanted to test Free Agency waters. So i understand why he was allowed to walk. But as it stands i really believe he could be a perfect fit to help. Also allowing us to get a speedster RB in later rounds to train behind with out the pressure of having an immediate impact. But Caddy had all the needed tools. Blocked REALLY well in pass pro. had great hands to catch out of the back field. And still has enough talent ( in limited use) to break out some pretty good runs.

    I know there are better options out there and what not. But it is an interesting thought. Plus both would be dirt cheap to resign. Just sayin.

  61. JoshBucsFan Says:


    I had the exact thought at the start of free agency, bring caddy and rudd back. I believe most would agree caddy would be a fine backup/3rd down back for us and like you said allow us to draft a rb later. Though some would argue just draft richardson and call it a day, I’m of the camp that think lgb can be a good-great rb and with solid help/depth behind him our running game could actually take off. As long as we commit to it.

    As far as rudd goes, I was all for letting him walk last year based on his play etc. But I have to say I would feel much better about our lb corp if he were back to pair with foster at least and then possibly draft another rookie lb. Rudd didn’t seem to impress any in tennessee, and while his stock might not be that high in tampa either, you would think he could be signed for a relatively low amount and allow us to continue upgrading our lb’s while adding a bit of veteran presence and leadership to the young group.

    On paper to me it looks like two low key signings that would add solid players to areas of concern for this team. Of course thats only on paper, and who knows how rudd or caddy feel about rejoining the bucs, but a phone call couldn’t hurt.

  62. Have A Nice Day Says:


    Ruud was let go from a lack of performance(dwinlding coverage, speed, and tackling). I don’t see the defense being any better last year with him on the field. Ruud honestly might not play again anywhere. McCarthy(his rookie back up at the time) played far better for them than Ruud and has the potential to become a star. If he does, it will be for a minimum salary and for possibly only one more year until the Titans find a viable, talented, younger, cheaper MLB back up. There is not much interest or value in Ruud on the market.

    Williams was let go from a lack of performance as well(was the third best runner on our team and was not a pass blocking upgrade to Graham and Lumpkin came cheaper and healthier). Williams will be signed by someone as a 3rd RB option. He maybe back with the Rams at minimum.

    Neither of them would do much to help our team. They would only fill a roster spot at this point in their careers. We could do better to find more talent.

  63. NJBuc Says:

    Mason is a very good LB. An off-season and good coaching and he’ll be productive. If you can’t see that, stop watching football because you’re wasting your time. That said, grabbing a new Mike and sliding him either way is the best move because Geno and Quincy have embarrassed themselves. The GM should bring in a vet at Mike move Mason to Sam and let Dekoda compete with the second round draft pick (Zach Brown or Lavonte David)

  64. ChrisFWC Says:

    …I feel…sluggish…tired…without my Morning Cup of J..zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    zzzz zzzzz pleasezzzzzzz dont bring Ruud back zzzzzzzzzzz

  65. Pete 422 Says:

    With good coaching and a year under his belt, Mason will most likely perform much better. I’m also curious if they can light a fire under Quincy Black? Is his 15 Million guaranteed? If he is what we saw (which I doubt), they need to bite the bullet and cut him. They don’t have the money to bring in a whole new LB corps, so we’ll see. I also have a feeling the Bucs may draft a WR with big play potential in the draft.

  66. Rrsrq Says:


    I like your thinking

  67. Have A Nice Day Says:

    Black’s guarantee money will be paid off by the end of this upcoming season. If doesn’t perform at the very least as well as 2010, he is out of here for sure.

  68. Vince Says:

    Do we foresee Watson getting a chance at the starting gig @ Will? He played well in spot duty last year, and at least he didn’t shy away from contact unlike Black and Hayes

  69. 928buc Says:

    joe why would we get melvin hes a defensive end in the 4-3 and olb 3-4.. he wouldnt be able to cover good enough we need a brian cushing or a derrick thomas in my mind the best linebackers last year… im thinking hightower in the second if we dont sign lofton or tulloch.

  70. RustyRhino Says:

    @ Northend Yeah I know he is a tackling machine, DAWGS! fan here, he lives close to me here in NE Atlanta area. Hope he has a great season.