In many ways, Buccaneers defensive end Da’Quan Bowers has entered a critical stage of his NFL career.
Just 24 years old, Bowers is in the final year of his rookie contract. Through three seasons, his NFL run has been marked by injuries, conditioning issues and a lack of pass-rush production (5.5 total sacks). However, he is young, and he was a well-regarded prospect at Clemson, so if were he to stay healthy and show improvement in 2014, he could enter the offseason with increased earning power.
However, Bowers’ level of fitness reportedly is once again a concern as the Buccaneers near the end of their offseason workouts.
According to the Tampa Tribune, Buccaneers defensive line coach Joe Cullen has indicated that Bowers is not yet in shape after returning from an undisclosed injury.
“I see a lot of signs that he can be what everybody thought he was going to when he was coming out of college,” Cullen said, according to the Tribune‘s Roy Cummings. “But again, a lot of that will depend on how he gets into shape and what happens in the preseason.”
The key coaching staff and personnel decision-makers in place when Bowers joined Tampa three years ago are gone. If Bowers makes the Buccaneers, it will be because the team believes he can help right now. His 2014 base salary ($900,768, per NFLPA records) is not especially high, which probably doesn’t hurt his cause if the club finds itself left to make a decision on him.
Ideally for Bowers, it never gets to that point, with his play and preparation making him a clear-cut member of the roster. But as Cullen noted to the Tribune, Bowers’ summer progress bears watching.