On Sunday, the Bucs defense carried them to a victory recording 4 turnovers and 5 sacks while only allowing 242 total yards while holding the Jaguars to only 11 points (fewest points allowed all season).
This can be credited to the job Todd Bowles has done on defense, but much has to be credited to the job General Manager Jason Licht has done by picking up free-agents such as Carl Nassib, Shaq Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, Ndamukong Suh, and Sam Acho in building the defense outside of the draft,
Which players will return in 2020?
If the season were to end after the December 29th Falcons game, these defensive players would be free-agents if a contract isn’t tendered beforehand. Highlighted are players that if I were couch GM, I’d resign given the projected $90M salary cap.
(Beau Allen, Ndamukong Suh, Shaquil Barrett, Carl Nassib, Jason Pierre-Paul, Ryan Smith, Sam Acho, Darian Stewart, Kevin Minter, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Andrew Adams, Orion Stewart, Noah Dawkins, Kahzin Daniels, Mazzi Wilkins).
- Suh, Barrett, JPP, and Nassib: Nothing is guaranteed in regards to the future of Suh and JPP, but both have been big upgrades since they have arrived in Tampa (JPP, 2018; Suh, 2019). Barrett has been a nightmare for opposing teams, as the 6th year player has recorded 14.5 sacks, 1 INT, and 6 FF in what has been a career year. Barrett is on pace to break the Bucs franchise record for sacks in a season previously set by Warren Sapp when he recorded 16.5 sacks in 2000. Nassib has been a great addition since coming over from Cleveland in 2018, recording 11.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles in 25 games with Tampa Bay.
- Minter, Nunez-Roches, Daniels: All 3 players can provide quality depth on the front-seven. Minter stepped in earlier this season when rookie Devin White was dealing with a knee injury earlier in the season recording 32 total tackles. He has proved he can provide quality depth in the middle linebacker position at a reasonable price. Nunez-Roches and Daniels are both still young and can provide quality depth while continuing to grow as players.
- Wilkins: Still only a rookie, the University of South Florida graduate can provide quality support in the still very young defensive backfield behind Davis, MJ Stewart, Murphy-Bunting, and Dean. This young group has shown promise with their play in the last few weeks.
Keys to success
When asked about the young defense, Arians was quoted saying,
“That first and second-year bunch on defense that’s going to be fun for a long time. It’s just going to get better and better”
If this is the key to success in Arians’ eyes, they’re going to have to search for quality depth in free agency or the later rounds of the draft. This defense should be interesting as they have the potential to be mentioned one day with the Kiffin lead defenses of the past.