March 15, 2013
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have an awful lot of faith in Da'Quan Bowers. To stay healthy, to stay out of prison, and to play well as a starting defensive end.
That became clear when the Bucs decided to let defensive end Michael Bennett leave as a free agent, and it becomes even more clear when reading what Stephen F. Holder of the Tampa Bay Times writes about the Bucs' opinion of Bowers: The coaches in Tampa see Bowers as a player with a higher upside than Bennett, and they're banking on Bowers to develop into a difference maker on the defensive line.
There are big questions about Bowers, however, starting with whether he can stay healthy. That was the biggest question about Bowers coming out of Clemson, where he led the NCAA in sacks in 2010 and was viewed by some as a potential first overall pick. Some teams reportedly took him off their draft boards because of questions about his knee, and he plummeted all the way to No. 51 overall in the 2011 NFL draft. Bowers' knee has held up so far, but last year he missed the start of the season with a torn Achilles tendon.
The other question is whether Bowers will be available this season even if he's healthy. Bowers is currently facing a charge in New York of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree, a felony that can result in up to 3.5 years in prison. It's the same charge that resulted in Plaxico Burress spending two years in a New York prison. That would seem to be a significant concern, but according to Holder, the Bucs have "an understanding he won't be jailed" and "don't anticipate league discipline." They may turn out to be right about that, but that's putting a lot of faith in a player who is charged with a felony.
In any event, there's little doubt that Plan A for the Bucs was always to let Bennett walk and put all their eggs in Bowers' basket. If it turns out that Bowers isn't available, the Bucs may be scrambling for a Plan B.