Major Investment Time

January 25th, 2020

Another fresh column from The Sage of Tampa Bay Sports. Ira’s good friend Sean Sullivan, Bill Currie Ford general manager, will personally help you get the best value on your next vehicle purchase. Just ask for him.


There’s a big man lurking out there who might solve a big problem for the Bucs.

As the 49ers prepare to run all over the Chiefs in the Super Bowl, Tampa Bay fans are wondering whether their favorite team is ever going to once again boast a credible ground game to complement all those passing yards.

It hasn’t happened since 2015, when Dirk Koetter was calling plays for Lovie Smith and Doug Martin was keeping defenses honest. That’s the last time Jameis Winston’s play-action was respected, the last time any defense went into a game against the Bucs worried about Tampa Bay’s offensive balance.

The Bucs desperately need a tone-setter on a highly-paid offensive line, a nasty brute who thrives on physical dominance at the point of attack.

His name is Jack Conklin.

Titans RT Jack Conklin

This franchise craves a replacement for Demar Dotson at right tackle and there’s nobody in this draft class who can even come close to matching Conklin’s combination of grit, athleticism and physicality.

The eighth overall pick in the 2016 draft, Conklin was the first player selected by Titans GM Jon Robinson, who had been Jason Licht’s key advisor on personnel at One Buc Place.

Conklin is a potential free agent and he won’t come cheap, but he has already proven himself as one of the NFL’s premier road-graders. His blocks paved the way for Derrick Henry to lead the league in rushing yards, sparking Tennessee’s drive to the AFC championship game.

Robinson would love to re-sign Conklin — who wouldn’t? But the Titans face the daunting prospect of Henry, Ryan Tannehill and corner Logan Ryan also hitting the free-agent market.

If Conklin becomes available, more than a few clubs will be interested. The Bucs need to be one of them.

Freeing The Draft

As a rookie, Conklin was voted first-team All-Pro. That’s almost unheard of by a first-year player and Conklin followed with a strong 2017 season before knee injuries and a concussion limited him to only nine starts in 2018.

Unsure about Conklin’s health status, the Titans decided not to exercise their fifth-year option. That may have been a prudent move, but it backfired.

Conklin returned with a vengeance last season, starting all 19 games for a wild-card team that trampled the Patriots and Ravens behind a bruising rushing attack.

If the Bucs can land Conklin in free agency, they can focus on other key areas like defensive line, running back and safety in the draft. And yes, they could even think hard about selecting a quarterback with a premium pick.

As Tampa Bay’s most tenured player, Dotson is recognized as a solid pass blocker who struggles to open holes. If he wants to return as a reserve tackle at a reduced salary, that’s fine, but his days as Tampa Bay’s starting right tackle are over.

Conklin is only 25 and if he hits the open market, look out. At 6-foot-6 and 308 pounds, Conklin gets off on imposing his will in the trenches. Flagged for only 8 penalties in 57 career games, Conklin is the kind of disciplined pro Bruce Arians admires.


Ira Kaufman is thinking big for Bruce Arians

Don’t expect the Bucs to draft an offensive tackle at No. 14. The Jonathan Cooper experience has likely put an end to that scenario. In 2013, the first year Arians and Steve Keim oversaw football operations in the desert, Arizona made guard Jonathan Cooper the No. 7 overall pick in the draft. It turned out to be a disaster, marked by injuries and ineffectiveness.

At the age of 30, Cooper is currently out of football.

The Bucs have their own pending free agents to consider, but 25-year-old studs like Conklin don’t often become available. Conklin could price himself beyond Tampa Bay’s reach, but I’ve got a feeling Arians would drive his golf cart to Nashville for an opportunity to lay out the case for joining the Bucs.

If the Titans move on from Conklin and Licht inquires about his competitive makeup and character, Robinson would give it to him straight.

Can the Bucs afford to add Jack Conklin?

Perhaps the better question is: can they afford to let him get away?

Ira with his good friend and Bill Currie Ford general manager Sean Sullivan. Ask for Sean at Bill Currie Ford. He will help you personally and give you a special JoeBucsFan discount.

Ira Kaufman launched his professional NFL beat coverage in 1979, back when Earl Campbell was the toast of the league and Lee Roy Selmon was defensive player of the year. After a lifetime at The Tampa Tribune, “The Sage of Tampa Bay Sports” joined in July of 2016. His twice-weekly podcast and three columns per week appear here year-round and are presented by Bill Currie Ford. Tampa Bay’s only Hall of Fame voter is a regular on SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio and a part of the FOX-13 Tailgate Sunday show, in addition to his other appearances. 

Episode II of TAMPA TWO this week features Bucs legend Derrick Brooks and Ira diving into the NFC champion, presented by Caldeco Air Conditioning & Heating.

37 Responses to “Major Investment Time”

  1. Formerly Tampa 2 Says:

    Sounds like the replacement of the Decade! Hope the Bucs go after him and look for more help with the 14th pick.

  2. Mort Says:

    I mean if our salary cap let’s us pay Monopoly money for everyone – sure. But that’s not reality. Once we pay our dudes, there won’t be but scraps left on the table.

  3. Ateonetree Says:

    To much money spent on the oline, we can draft Isaiah Wilson out of Georgia who will be a pro bowl right tackle in the 2nd round

  4. Alanbucsfan Says:

    I’ll take upgrade at RT anyway available. And I’ll take re-signing all of DLine over QB as well.
    Jameis is not Mahomes, he’s not Rodgers, he’s not Wilson, Brady or even a healthy Cam Newton- he is not worth breaking up the D.

  5. TouchDownTampaBay Says:

    Sure that would be great, but it can’t and won’t happen. Keeping that d-line intact is imperative and there will not be enough money left over to sign a top tier FA like that. Who cares if Arians missed on an o-lineman several years ago. RT is probably the biggest need on the team and there a plenty out this in this draft. Wirfs or Austin Jackson should be available, along with some good ones that should be available in the second round too. RB, safety, DE, and RT are all positions that need to be addressed before we reach for a QB that will ultimately be backing up Winston. For all the Winston bashers, no, you will not find a QB in the third round that will lead the team to a top 3 offense, lead the league in yards, and be on of the league leaders in TD passes. Once he throws his normal range (or less) of 15-16 picks the Bucs will be in the playoffs and need all of those top 3-4 picks contributing to the team’s success. There is no need to waste a top 3 pick on a QB. Yes, there have been a few that have far exceeded expectations like Wilson, but the overwhelming majority are more like Mike Glennon at best, and many others that flame out very quickly.

  6. Buczilla Says:

    Lane Johnson of the Eagles is the highest paid right tackle making 18 million per year. Conklin will probably want to exeed that number. As long as Shaq, JPP, David, and Godwin get their long term deals, I am cool with getting this dude. We may need to trade off or cut some salaries though.

  7. TouchDownTampaBay Says:

    Alan, so we keep the d line fully intact and then do what at QB? If you want one of these game managers they will also cost more than $20M annually. Some scrub 2nd or 3rd round QB is not the answer. I think the 2nd and 3rd “best” QB prospects in this draft have a very high likelihood of failure as well. Even Burrows could be a bust because he is surrounded by so much talent at LSU it is hard to say how he will do on a bad NFL team. We pick at 14 and may have a shot at the 4th best QB in the draft. You really think that is going to be better option than Winston. You say get rid of him but you don’t have any answers on how to replace him.

  8. Alanbucsfan Says:


    If there was a shred of evidence that Jameis could carry the Bucs to a winning record, I would be all in favor of re-signing Jameis.
    I am not impressed with his meaningless “ballin’ stats.
    What means something is WINS which involves protecting the football which he DOES NOT do.
    I know it’s a team game and there are / have been other issues- but does anyone really think that the Bucs record the last 3 years, 5-11, 5-11, 7-9 would be much worse with another QB ? Probably with less turnovers the record would’ve been better.

  9. Hodad Says:

    Ira, would be great, but Licht paid Smith, Marpet, and Jensen. We can’t afford a 10 plus million dollar RT. We better find one in the draft.

  10. Steven007 Says:

    Though I love the player, this move simply doesn’t jibe with our cap situation. They would have to be extremely creative. They could probably make it work but we would lose several of our pending free agents. Decisions, decisions….

  11. Ghost of Darrell Henderson Says:

    As a fan of the mock drafts, I have been closely watching the 1st round OT position.

    Last night I saw 4 OT’s selected in the top 10. The surprise being Mekhi Becton out of Louisville leap frogging them all to be the first OT (#4 overall) selected in the 2020 draft.

    I like how these mocks evolve over time and because of “group think” or “hive mind.”

    I would really be on board with acquiring Conklin in free agency because that would free up the Bucs to “go crazy” in the 1st by selecting the BPA from an incredibly rich pool of WR’s like Jerry Jeudy from Alabama. That guy has All Pro written all over him.

    He will be there at #14 and nobody would suspect the Bucs to draft him.

    They could save money by not paying Perriman the $12M he’s going to want and by letting Dotson go.

    With ME13 and Jeudy at WR and Chris Godwin in the slot, the Buc receiver corps would be legendary. Imagine 3 receivers getting 1500 yards each.

  12. Jeagan1999 Says:

    YES to Conklin! He is superior in every way to the player he would be replacing…..exactly what Free Agency is for.

    Then add a veteran QB to replace Jameis for 2-3 years.
    Re-sign Shaq, JPP, Nassib & Suh… and if there is money left, Perriman.
    Extend Godwin to a long term contract.
    Draft: Jacob Eason Rd 1, JK Dobbins Rd 2, Best O-lineman available in Rd 3, AJ Dillon in RD 4 (cut Peyton Barber and Dare Ogumbawale)

  13. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    Jack Conklin won’t hit free agency. He’s part of the reason Ryan did so well. They’re not going to let him go.

    Every team experiences first round busts, so to suggest Arians would be gun shy because of a guard bust is merely hearsay to support Ira’s suggestion.

  14. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Almost daily, multi-million dollar FAs are trotted out……dangled in front of us for our consideration……yet….never has there been a current high priced player to be cut or not resigned……
    Now….if you want to forget about Suh and get rid of Brate, then we have the money for Conklin……or, take my suggestion.

    Save the money to resign our defense…..and use a 1st or 2nd round pick on a good RT…..

    The problem with decent FA prospects is the competition from all of the other teams for their services….$$$..

    When we are on the clock in the draft…..we have no competition.

  15. Defense Rules Says:

    Et tu Sage? Can we afford to let Jack Conklin get away?  He11 yes. Adding one more super-expensive OLineman to what was ALREADY 2019’s highest paid OLine in the NFL would be the kiss of death to any hope of salary Cap management that we might have right now (and that’s not much IMO).

    DRAFT DOTSON’S REPLACEMENT in either the 1st round or the 2nd round. DRAFT A BEASTLY RB in either the 2nd round or the 3rd round. IF there’s a stud QB available in the 1st who fits BA’s system, pull the trigger on him too. But no more expensive FA signings for this offense, unless it’s a reasonably-priced QB (Jameis or otherwise).

  16. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    TouchDownTampaBay, I feel the same way you do about Winston.

  17. stpetebucsfan Says:

    Hate to let good players walk but clearly we’ve seen the last of Brate and Perriman. Might be time to move on OJ as well before he becomes an FA.
    Perhaps we could get something for him in return.

    We’ve pretty much concentrated on which FA’s we wish to keep. Let’s take a look at who we’re to sacrifice. After the first two it becomes more and more difficult.

    This guy sounds great but how much more money are we willing to spend on the O side of the ball?

  18. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    • re-sign Barrett
    • tag Winston (or re-sign if reasonable price with only 2 years guaranteed)
    • re-sign JPP if he’s willing
    • re-sign Nassib
    • re-sign Suh
    • let Golston walk
    • wait until next year to give Godwin more money

    In that order.

  19. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    OJ might get us a decent pick in a trade, but he’s Arians favorite extra blocker. Arians won’t let him go.

    Brate is actually cheaper in 2020 than any year in his contract. I like Brate and I’m biased. I don’t want him gone…especially since OJ seems incapable of staying healthy.

    Lavante David could be a cap casualty this year. If that’s the case, we’ll need to re-sign Kevin Minter.

  20. Cobraboy Says:

    Unfortunately, there just isn’t enough $$$ to go around.

  21. Sport Says:

    I don’t believe we need the top RT free agent to be successful. Look at Cappa. This coaching staff has proven they can develop players.

    Remember how Shill Joe was up in arms about not drafting secondary because they couldn’t coach them up? Well, turns out he was right, this coaching staff rode with rookies and second year guys who showed steady improvement all season long. I’m expecting more in 2020.

    I trust Licht and Team to get BA some decent groceries for a helluva lot cheaper than $20M per yr for a RT!

    In BA I Trust!

  22. AwShbucs Says:

    “AwShbucs Says:
    January 12th, 2020 at 2:49 pm
    Its extremely unlikely to happen since we have quite a bit of money already invested in the oline, but what I’d do, would be to cut Dotson and Brate, use that money to sign Jack Conklin from the titans. Instantly improving our pass protection and run blocking.

    And then I’d spend a premium pick on a RB. I’d go as far as to spend a 1st rounder on a player like Jonathan Tayler if hes determined to be the best player there. Although admittedly I’m hoping for either Javon Kinlaw or AJ Epenesa in the 1st and then maybe take Najee Harris or Travis Etienne in the 2nd.”

    SAGE! My guy! Glad that we’re on the same page although admittedly you made the case for Conklin in a far more eloquent fashion than I. Although unfortunately we now know that neither Harris or Ettiene will be draft eligible in 2020. Jk Dobbins would be a great choice in third stead if he’s there in the 2nd. But to the point at hand.

    I truly feel that landing Conlkin in the first round of free agency aka “the legal tampering period.” Would be a catalyst for the entire offense in the sense that it frees up a premium draft pick, and bolsters the Offensive line to the point where they consistently can hold their own, if not outright dominate the line of scrimmage.

    Something that would be an invaluable asset if this team wants to stand a chance against the elite NFC defenses like the 49ers, Vikings, Packers, and the Saints in the regular season as well as the playoffs.

    Against the Saints in particular its would be immensely impactful. I dont know if I’m the only one who’s noticed, but Cam Jordan has owned this team 2 years running. Adding a piece like Jack Conklin stops that in its tracks.

    An offense that just ranked as the 3rd best scoring attack in the NFL with a puny running game outside of a solid year from Ronald Jones, would become nigh unstoppable with a Conklin at RT and a shiny new running back prospect in the 1st or 2nd round.

    One can dream.

  23. Swampbuc Says:

    I like it, Ira.

  24. Jean Lafitte Says:

    The only way that could possibly happen is if we dump Winston with his salary demand and pick up a veteran for $7-10 mil cheaper with a similar skill set. Someone like Phillip Rivers. But it’s imperative that we try to keep the defense together.

  25. J Says:

    Talk about

    The last time Tampa had anything that resembled a running game was when we had Logan Mankins. Mankins last year in 2015 was another pro bowl year for him, and Martin ran for 1500 yards and also went to the pro bowl, wonder why? We need a stud right tackle no if, ands or buts about it.

    I disagree Ira, have you even looked at the OT’s in this draft? There are 3 plug and play OT’s that could be had in the 1st round. Look what Leveon Bell did behind his OL this year, nothing. And he’s one of the best RB’s in football.

    If you do not get Conklin in FA you should not draft someone like Swift just so he can get bottled up all year like a fine wine.

    I believe we need a replacement for Barber but that Oline has to be set before you go splurge on a RB.

  26. Loyaltotheend Section 312 Says:

    Ira so you wanna spend $50 plus million on the o line?

    I thought Ira was supposed to be the knowledgeable writer in this site

  27. Brandon Says:

    Johnathan Cooper didn’t prove why offensive linemen shouldn’t be drafted high, he proved why offensive guards shouldn’t be touched in round 1. Chance Warmack was drafted only a few spots later and he was also a monumental bust. Never draft guards in round 1! They have a tremendously high bust rate and when they can’t play guard they can’t play anywhere. When tackles bust they can move to guard like Mandarich, Gallery, and Brandon Scherff.

  28. TampaTown Says:

    No way Tennessee let’s him get away. Nice to dream but it won’t happen

  29. Bucs Guy Says:

    Keep Shaq and JPP — pay them because they produce ($35M). Keep Nassib ($4M) with a minimal increase because he’s got the same numbers for 2 years in a row. Need to resign a few other key role players like Minter, Gabbert, Nunez-Rochos, Adams, Auclair, Hudson and Ryan Smith ($10M). You need Gabbert if you keep JW because if he has 12-15 interceptions and the Bucs are 3-5 half way through the season you’re going to bench him for the rest of the year. Gabbert then finishes the season as QB.

    Don’t re-sign Suh, Perriman, Allen, Barber or Dotson unless you get a very good cap friendly deal. These 4 made $25.7M in 2019 and you know Perriman is going to get an extra $4-8M. So it would cost $30M at least for 2019. Two of them are in their 30s with another 29, so it’s time to get younger.

    Trade OJ for 2nd and 4th. Keep Brate because he has more production and better chemistry with JW. Sign a veteran S in FA. You gain $4M from the trade, but probably pay $8M for a good Safety, so that’s another $4M spent. Maybe you find a servicable back up DT for $5M in FA.

    At this point, you’ve spent $58M of you $91M. You still need a starting QB (JW or someone else) and another half dozen role players. You’ve made a conscious decision NOT to pay Godwin or Lavonte in 2020 (unless you give them minimal increases in year 1 and load up after that on a new contract). How much are you spending on a QB? Let’s assume $25M whoever it is.

    So can you spend $20M on a RT? You only have $8M. You could cut one of your other high priced OLine players which just creates another problem. The only option is to go ask Brate, Donovan, Ali and Ryan to restructure/take a pay cut. Brate makes $6M and the others $35.5M combined. Maybe you could squeeze $4-5M out of the group, but that’s a big risk and you still don’t have $20M. You only have $13M. So I don’t see how you sign Conklin if he becomes available unless your QB signs for $20M, the stars align, several players redo their contracts and you don’t pay Godwin/David. Get a RT through the draft.

    Draft RT in 1st if one of the big 3 are available, DT and RB in the 2nd, DE in the 3rd, WR and a blocking TE in the 4th. BPA in 5th and 6th. If one of the best 3 RTs aren’t available in the 1st rd, try to trade back and get a RT late in the 1st or early in the 2nd or pick a DT (Kinlaw) in the 1st and RT in the 2nd.

  30. Joe in Michigan Says:

    A few viable options, IMHO, are Big V from Philly or Dennis Kelly of the Titans (who played well when Conklin was injured). The cost would probably be 4 to 5 million a year. Maybe bring back Dot and let them battle it out for the RT spot.

  31. Joe in Michigan Says:

    I do agree with The Sage that we won’t go OL in the 1st Round.

  32. Pigsueybucsfan Says:

    Your right although this idea would be wonderful,salary cap will not allow it to happen if we want to keep our D line let’s go bpa in 1st(Def or O line)then the other line in second rd or maybe safety then BPA for depth the rest of this draft and I think with our coaching staff we’ll have a GREAT year in 2020. GO BUCS

  33. Ed Says:

    Winston and Brate is over $30,000,000 in contracts, spending their cap space on more FA offensive linemen, running back and a bridge quarterback while drafting a future signal caller sounds like a smart move on Licht’s part.

    As far as the wideout, if Perriman isn’t back, the later rounds will allow the Bucs to select a speedster. Tyreek Hill of the Chiefs was a 5th rounder! Emanuel Sanders was a 3rd round pick. Stay away from WR in round 1 or 2, that where you find your QB, OL and RB

  34. Billy_45 Says:

    I think @ Defense Rules has pointed out for years, drafting the trenches is the key.

    If you wanna look at the formula they have 3 1st round D Line picks and 1 1st round O Line in the last 4 years.

    Quit taking other team’s throw aways and DRAFT your own.

  35. BucEmUp Says:

    These advertisements after clicking on the link are a real pain in the ass. Keeping my number of visits down for sure compared to before. Now.I have to manually click out of a advertisement just to read what I clicked to read in the first place? Get rid of this crap please

  36. TouchDownTampaBay Says:

    Jesus these dudes so confident the Bucs can just draft a “future signal caller” at some point in the draft. Most successful QBs are taken very early in the first round. Most QBs drafted after that fail. Need an example of the type of failure, I give you Geno Smith. Know what a successful 3rd round QB looks like, Mike Glennon. The very few that were mid to late round draft picks that succeed are anomalies. I am amazed that after being in QB hell for 30+ years in Tampa guys just act like finding a quality QB is easy peasy. If the Bucs let Winston walk this will be looked at as a huge mistake once that played itself out.

  37. Defense Rules Says:

    @TDTB … “Most successful QBs are taken very early in the first round. Most QBs drafted after that fail.” I agree for the most part TDTB (I personally don’t consider a guy who becomes a solid backup to be a ‘failure’ just not a ‘starter’ long-term).

    The NFL website does a great job IMO of compiling draft history by year by position. Here’s the link ( ).

    Most of today’s starting QBs were selected in the 1st round like you said. A few (like Dak Prescott who was drafted in the 4th round) sneak in there, but relatively few. A few (like Trevor Sieman drafted in Round 7) start for a year or 2, but then settle in as backups.

    Interesting tidbit from that list … Carson Palmer was selected #1 in 2003, and Byron Leftwich was selected #2 in that same draft. Palmer’s QB coach in 2017 with the Cardinals? Yup, #2 Byron Leftwich. THAT’S irony.