Alan Dell

Commentary | Buccaneers no longer Tampa Bay's favorite team

May we interrupt the Tropicana Field love fest to make an important announcement: The NFL Draft is less than three weeks away.

It involves a team called the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Remember them? They used to own their city and every town within three hours driving time. Unfortunately, they drove everyone away.

Now they want you back.

They say they've changed, but you are leery.

The Bucs have six picks in the draft, including the fifth overall. It makes your heart flutter, but you can't trust them. They've jilted you more than once and made you look foolish.

Your true love is football, but the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team that occupies Tropicana Field is warm and fuzzy and never betrayed you. They treat you nice over there and make you feel wanted.

You wish Rays manager Joe Maddon was a football coach, but even he couldn't pull off the kind of magic the Bucs need, though he would gladly try just to please you.

When the Bucs say they've pried open their coffers, you still can't feel good because their judgment has been so flawed.

With their first pick, the Bucs are believed to be debating between Alabama running back Trent Richardson and LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne.

This is a no-brainer. Despite Legarrette Blount's shortcomings at RB, the secondary is a sieve and

Claiborne is the best cornerback in the draft and not afraid to make a tackle.

You are nervous.

You look at the money the Bucs paid linebacker Quincy Black and your stomach churns.

You are willing to accept some mistakes. But you want honesty, and that is something that has been in short supply with this franchise.

They recently dished out $72 million in guaranteed money for three free agents and say it's proof they've changed.

But you know the credit should go to NFL players union head DeMaurice Smith. By putting in a mandatory salary floor that teams must meet next season, he forced the Bucs to open their wallets.

You believe the vault at One Buc Place would've remained sealed if Smith hadn't smashed down the door.

You will give them the benefit of the doubt, but you can still see their penny-pinching ways.

Did they really have to cut Ronde Barber's salary a million down to $3 million after all he has done in his 15 years of service? That's chump change in the NFL.

Those now in charge never hit that "home run" in the draft ,and their picks have gotten worse since GM Mark Dominik was put in charge.

He is on the spot, and that's good. If he fails again he could be gone and everyone would feel better.

In free agency, you got a good one in receiver Vincent Jackson, a legitimate deep threat who should make life easier for quarterback Josh Freeman and perhaps erase all those other question marks at receiver.

Signing Carl Nicks made a big splash, but was it necessary to make him the highest paid guard in the NFL, especially when you've got Davin Joseph at the other guard?

Signing free-agent cornerback Eric Wright to a five-year deal worth $37.5 million with $15 million guaranteed does not seem wise. It's a lot of money for a possible nickelback.

Aqib Talib could be in jail or suspended next season and Barber will be 37, but there were better options available; see Cortland Finnegan and Brandon Carr.

Wright was fourth among CBs last season with 14 missed tackles. The Bucs now have three of the 10 cornerbacks who had the most missed tackles last year. Throw in Tanard Jackson, who led all safeties with 24 missed tackles, and you feel a little nervous.

Since 2008, the Bucs' fourth-round-or-better picks have included cornerback Myron Lewis, receiver Dexter Jackson and defensive tackle Roy Miller. Fans are willing to give them a pass on some unfortunate injuries to receiver Arrelious Benn and defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Brian Price, but their generosity has its limits.

They won't tolerate dishonesty. They don't have to take it.

The Bucs are not the most popular team in town anymore.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2112.

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