On the final day of the 2013 NFL draft, the Patriots and Buccaneers sealed a deal to swap running backs. New England got forgotten backup LeGarrette Blount and Tampa Bay got a seventh-round pick and Demps, who was signed as an undrafted free agent last season by the Patriots.
Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik said Demps was a throw-in portion of the trade anyway; Demps wasn’t really even the intended target of the trade, said Tampa Bay Times beat reporter Stephen Holder via Sulia.
We were going to (trade) LeGarrette Blount for a seventh-round pick but we asked for the rights to Jeff Demps because we want to investigate that further.
That’s shrewd on the part of Dominik, adding potential value to a deal he would have made without Demps involved. Tampa Bay fans have to look at the deal that way. If not, if they expect Demps to come in and turn into an All-Pro instantly, disappointment will ensue.
Demps is first and foremost a track star, and oh boy is he fast. Not only did he anchor the University of Florida 4X100 relay team, but he also won a silver medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London as part of Team USA in the same event.
He also wants to play football, just like he did for the Gators. But Demps mentioned in a radio interview that football was an afterthought; he’d likely only join the Patriots by midseason, ESPN Boston reported. It’s likely he’ll want to keep the same schedule now with the Buccaneers.
The Patriots wanted an all-football commitment from Demps. When he wouldn’t give it to them, he became expendable, according to the Boston Herald.
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network suggests that Tampa Bay is “willing to be flexible with Demps' schedule to retain his rights.”
If the Buccaneers truly are willing to wait until Demps’ track season is over, and Demps is really good enough to make Tampa Bay want to hold a spot for him, how will the team use him?
Demps is otherworldly fast. According to the Florida Gators’ athletic department, at running back Demps had twice as many 60-yard or more (four) runs than any other Gator in the 15 years prior to his senior season. Just take a gander at Demps’ 84-yard touchdown run against Kentucky in 2011 as an example.
In case that wasn’t enough, look at Demps blaze a 72-yard trail to the end zone against Miami of Ohio in 2010.
That’s the first way Tampa Bay might use Demps.
Imagine Demps lining up in the backfield in a shotgun formation with quarterback Josh Freeman. If Demps were given an eight-yard or so start to get up some speed and then he found a hole, well you just saw two examples of how that could work.
What a fantastic change of pace for starting running back Doug Martin. Demps also caught 57 passes while at Florida. Freeman wouldn’t argue with another receiving option, that’s for sure.
The second way Tampa Bay could use Demps is in the return game.
Demps averaged 18.5 yards per punt return during his four years at Florida and 28.8 yards per kick return. He was even named CFPA National Kickoff Returner of the Week following his efforts against Georgia on Oct. 29, 2011 (UF Athletic Department).
Tampa Bay ranked second-to-last in 2012 with a 20.3 yards per kick return average, and had the fewest kick return yards of any team in the NFL. The Buccaneers fared a little better at returning punts, averaging nine yards per return.
With Demps’ success in the return game at Florida, and Tampa Bay’s ineptitude, it seems like a match made in heaven.
But let’s not forget, Demps hasn’t produced anything at the professional level outside of preseason action, and his track schedule is definitely a hindrance to him doing anything productive for the Buccaneers. It’s not that Demps doesn’t have the underlying skills, but is head coach Greg Schiano really going to disrupt his team’s momentum midseason to add Demps as a new wrinkle?
As much as it’s easy to drool over what Demps could do for Tampa Bay, I wouldn’t count on it.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.