Investing In A Return Man

April 8th, 2016
Who will replace KR Bobby Rainey?

Who will replace Bobby Rainey?

Joe got a Twitter the other day from a loyal reader, mocking Joe for never writing about a potential return man. An unfair point, but it is down the ladder of Bucs priorities.

The Bucs already lost one return man (presumably). Bobby Rainey, who was mostly ineffective as a return man, is still on the open market. Perhaps the Bucs are hoping Kenny Bell is their new return man? Dirk Koetter said Charles Sims will be given a chance to win the job. We shall see in the coming months.

However, another fan asked multimedia maven Scott Smith of about return men. First, Smith seemed to wave off their importance, initially because rule changes have made kick returns obsolete — Joe will have more about that is a second.

Smith cautions that drafting a guy just to return kicks weakens team depth.

There is another type of investment a team is making if they carry a player on the roster specifically to return kicks. Call it an opportunity cost. If Clay had made the Bucs’ roster out of training camp, solely for the purpose of returning kicks, that would cost the team a roster spot that would have gone to another player who could help in a different way. Bobby Rainey, for instance, and Rainey made a nice insurance policy last year against injury to Doug Martin or Charles Sims. If, instead, you find a good kick returner who is already on your roster and already producing in some other way – such as David Johnson with the Cardinals – then you haven’t cost your team anything in terms of the 53 available roster spots or the 46 game-day active spots.

That seemed to be the way the Bucs were thinking last year with Rainey.

As far as the return game becoming obsolete on kickoffs, Joe firmly believes the new rule of a touchback at the 25-yard line will increase returns, not decrease them.

With the NFL being such a pass-happy game, a touchback starting at the 25 would only take the offense three 15-yard passes to get in field goal range, albeit a long field goal.

So what exactly is the incentive for the kicking team to boot the ball out of the end zone? The kicking team will be better off pooching the ball inside the five. Returning a kick 25 yards is more difficult than returning it to the 20 — often a defensive goal for the kicking team.

Of course, fewer touchbacks means greater chances for a big return.

12 Responses to “Investing In A Return Man”

  1. Pickgrin Says:

    Yea – I think the NFL’s goal of further reducing kickoff returns with this new rule is going to backfire and there will be more returns. Which means the new rule will be gone after this year.

    Would be great if Kenny Bell can lock down the the return job AND secure the slot receiver job. He showed he is a good gunner on kick/punt returns as well in pre-season last year.

  2. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    What about using Grimes also in the return game……Perhaps we will draft a WR who has those capabilities. I think the kick return position must do other duties.

  3. Stanglassman Says:

    Koetter has said Grimes and Humphies on punt and Bell for kick returns. I’m sure they’ll have more competition in by camp.

  4. Pirate n packerland Says:

    How do we replace a fumble machine?

  5. Buc'd Up Says:

    Sterling Shepard in the 2nd

  6. Lou. Says:

    The REAL issue is how to count the specialists.

    The kicker and punter positions are inevitable. Long snapping used to be handled by a backup center or a linebacker, but now uses up an extra roster spot. A returner has traditionally been the duty of some defensive back, running back or a receiver.

    To me, the problem with Kaelin Clay was not that he “took” a spot away from some other receivers. He really didn’t. He consumed a spot as a special teams receiver. His “regular” position didn’t matter at all, as he was never going to play there anyway. The REAL problem was that the Bucs aimed to waste at least three roster spots on extra specialists: a gunner/receiver, a returner, and a third-string qb.

    BTW, notice how good the 2015 draft really was. Clay worked out as a returner, though he plays for Baltimore and not the Bucs. And the 7-th round fullback played on the Patriots. Makes Licht’s performance at the draft even better.

  7. Ben Says:

    I worry less about kick returner than I do punt returner. Kicks usually have 2 guys back to return anyway. A good defense will produce more opposition punts than scores allowed and can happen anywhere on the field. That means if you have a great, dangerous, rare punt returner you have better chances to score on special teams and really change a game.

    They still need to fill other team roles, though.

    I have my eyes on Braxton Miller, Cyrus Jones and Sterling Shepherd. Slot WR or Corner that can PR.

  8. MadMax Says:

    Cyrus Jones in the 3rd. CB and return in one package.

  9. MadMax Says:

    Where I am right now….

    1st- a trade back and drafting Josh Doctson WR
    2nd- Ogbah DE
    3rd- Jayron Kearse S
    trade back into 3rd- Cyrus Jones CB/Return
    4th- Charles Tapper DE/OLB

    still undecided with the rest.

  10. Cobraboy Says:

    If the NFL wanted more kickoff returns, they’d have kickoff be from the 30 like the old WFL did…

  11. William Walls Says:

    Good point on Licht’s drafting, Lou.

  12. godzilla13 Says:

    The perfect draft choice is Cyrus Jones in the fourth round. Yes, he is undersized at 5-10 197, but where else are you going to find a CB who can potentially start in the slot as well as return kicks. He returned four for TD’s last year with a 12.6 yards per return average. He doesn’t get the respect he deserves and could even slip into the third round. He plays with an edge and was one of the most respected CB by receivers at the Combine. Pair Jones with Brent Grimes and Josh Robinson and call them the three munchkins.