From the Bucs 2018 expanded roster, 43 players are gone.
The one thing clear is Arians & Staff did some film work before sending the scouts and position coaches on the road with stopwatches and IPads. Some of the decisions were simple, e.g., Brent Grimes, Cameron Lynch, Riley “Joe Dirt” Bullough, Noah Spence, etc. There’s evidence that core players like Gerald McCoy, Kwon Alexander, or Adam Humphries took a little mulling over. In reality, a defense that gave up TDs 4 of 5 trips to the red zone in 2018 had to be fixed quickly. Seeing the football continually buzz linebackers and defensive backs’ heads on film easily explained why Arians drafted 5 linebackers and defensive backs. Licht, Arians, and Bowles took some early criticism for trading back to gain a pick to draft Mike Edwards and Jamel Dean, but Bowles later explained that he spoke to Justin Evans personally to get a solid medical synopsis and the League Office let the Bucs Brass know before the draft that Ryan Smith would be suspended so all Bowles could do was go with the best information available. Besides, unlike the Kansas City Chiefs, Licht was not handing Bowles the $19,000,000 allowance the Chiefs paid for Bashaud Breeland and Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu. Bottom line—Bowles understood he had to bargain shop.
So where does that leave the Bucs this trade, free agency, draft, UDFA, and waiver period?—Likely tweaking.
The Bucs have to fix home first, and that means the defensive line. Licht knows he can’t go back to the 2018 house of horror. Vinny Curry missed time with the high ankle sprain, Vita Vea played in only 13 of 16 games due to a calf injury, Gerald McCoy missed time with the calf injury, Carl Nassib missed time with the shoulder, Beau Allen missed time with the foot injury, and Mitch Unrein missed, likely, the remainder of his career after getting ear-holed in practice. The one thing Arians has made clear, he wants to sign his defensive linemen. If you lose Chris Conte or Justin Evans, you can find Andrew Adams on the couch where you left him. Defensive linemen just don’t work that way. You can’t hide the good ones because everyone knows who they are. If the Bucs can keep their defensive front seven intact, the trade, draft, free agency, UDFA, and waiver period will gravitate to the best player available (BPA) on all fronts remaining in Tweak-Only-Mode. If the right players fell to the right spot, it’s easier to shore up a vulnerable area, i.e., the offensive line.
If any area needs a dose of depth, it’s the offensive line.
The 49ers used 5 offensive tackles in 2019. This should be a fair warning to Licht & Arians. If anything happens to the Bucs top 6 offensive linemen, things are really grim no matter whose tossin’ or totin’ the rock. The Bucs will likely have a good shot at a top tackle at #14, but the ‘Combine Crazies’ are already dismissive of guys because of “measurables”.
So what happens if Ezra Cleveland or Cesar Ruiz does drop to the Bucs in the 2nd because of “measurables”? Do the Bucs double up to enhance the quality of our ‘Gameday Seven’ offensive line? It’s a conundrum.
It’d be nice to add another running back or safety, but quality-wise, offensive linemen who have really good tape could fall. Regardless of what grocery wish list Leftwich, Bowles, and the position coaches show up with from their Pro-Day travels, Licht and Arians have an opportunity to operate from a position of strength. Purchase wisely, my friends.