With everything that’s going on in this country and around the world, it’s nice to have something, anything to take our minds off of it all. Luckily for us Buccaneers fans, we have a few hot topics to talk about right now. Tom Brady is our new quarterback. We have new uniforms being introduced next week. Free agency is still going on, even though the Bucs are running low on cap space. And the NFL Draft is coming up in about two weeks. That is what I want to get into here.
With the Bucs free agency frenzy pretty much over and the draft fast approaching, I wanted to do one last summary of the team’s positional needs, post-free agency. I’ll discuss each position group, who’s been re-signed, who hasn’t, where they need some help, and where they don’t. I’m going to start with what I feel is the biggest need and work my way down from there. So that means I’ll be talking offensive line first.
The Bucs starting right tackle from 2019, Demar Dotson, is still an unrestricted free agent. There have been some discussions between him and the team, but nothing has come out of those talks yet. They could still sign him as a backup, but his days as a starter are over. The Bucs did sign free agent offensive lineman Joe Haeg a couple of weeks ago. He has spent the last four seasons playing right tackle and guard for the Indianapolis Colts, so he does bring some starting experience and versatility to the Bucs o-line. The question is, are the Bucs satisfied with him as their starter? I’m not so sure. It’s not that he couldn’t do the job. I just think he adds more value to the team as a reserve.
They also have other free agents such as Earl Watford, Josh Wells, Mike Liedtke, and Jerald Hawkins that have yet to be re-signed or picked up by another team. Besides the other starting four linemen Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet, Ryan Jensen, and Alex Cappa, they still have reserves like Brad Seaton, Zack Bailey, and Anthony Fabiano under contract.
Head coach Bruce Arians has recently said that he’s “happy with the o-line” and that he’d be fine with Haeg as their starting right tackle. That could be true. Then again, it could be a bit of a pre-draft “smokescreen“. I say he’s blowing smoke, and the Bucs will be using one of their first two picks on a new right tackle.
If right tackle is the Bucs #1 position of need, then running back might just be #1b. Peyton Barber signed with the Redskins in free agency, leaving Ronald Jones II, Dare Ogunbowale, TJ Logan, and Aca’Cedric Ware as the only remaining backs under contract. Bruce Arians likes Logan as a returner so his job may be safe. Jones has the potential to be a primary back, but with a deep running back class like this year’s, it’s hard to pass up, adding another stud to the stable to compliment him. They’ll likely be looking to grab one of the top backs early on in this draft. And depending on who they get and their skill set, they could even grab another pass-catching, third-down back to challenge Ogunbowale later on in the mid-rounds as well.
The Bucs were finally able to ink free agent Ndamukong Suh to another one-year deal solidifying their starting interior d-line. They also re-signed Rakeem Nunez-Roches to a one-year deal. However, they did lose a valuable rotation guy when Beau Allen signed with the Patriots in free agency. So not only do they need to replace him, but they would be smart to try to find the eventual replacement for the 33-year old Suh. If the top four offensive tackles are off the board when the Bucs go on the clock at #14, don’t be surprised if they use that pick on one of the top interior d-linemen in this draft like Derrick Brown or Javon Kinlaw. Either one of those guys would be a nice fit in this defense and would make for a formidable duo alongside Vita Vea for years to come.
Breshad Perriman, the Bucs #3 receiver from last season, came on strong, finishing the year with three straight 100-yard games after Mike Evans and Chris Godwin both went down with hamstring injuries. It didn’t go unnoticed in free agency. He signed a one-year deal with the Jets for $8 million. Now the Bucs need to find a new #3. Could Scotty Miller stay healthy and step up into that role? With Tom Brady at quarterback, absolutely. He’s got a track record of turning speedy, undersized, white guys into superstar receivers. Maybe Justin Watson takes it up a notch this season? Maybe the former CFL star Bryant Mitchell could surprise us all and take on a big role in the offense? There are options on this roster already.
However, this is a really intriguing draft class when it comes to wide receivers. It’s deep and full of all different kinds of them. Small, speed demons. Big, red-zone targets. Guys with both size and speed. No matter what you’re looking for in a pass catcher, you should be able to find it in this draft. So don’t be surprised if the Bucs grab one in the middle rounds of it.
Tom Brady is now the quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It still doesn’t sound right to say, but I’m excited about it regardless. The Bucs also recently re-signed Blaine Gabbert to be his backup, and they still have Ryan Griffin under contract as well (for now). However, Brady only signed a two-year contract with Tampa and could end up retiring once it’s up. The team might be smart to start thinking about the future of their QB position and preparing for life after Brady.
I don’t think they’ll use a first or second-round pick on one, but I could see them grabbing one in the third or fourth round if the right guy is still sitting there on the board. They could also wait until next year to find Brady’s heir apparent and use that third or fourth-round pick on something that would offer more of an immediate impact. This is a position that is important but could go either way this year.
Even though the Bucs did sign Joe Haeg in free agency who can play guard, they could still stand to add some depth to the interior of their line. As of right now, Zack Bailey and Aaron Stinnie are the only other reserve guards under contract, and they have no true backup center behind Jensen. I see this as a mid-round need to fill, but I could always be wrong. Maybe the team is happy with the interior group they currently have and won’t do anything. It will likely depend on who’s available in those mid-rounds when the Bucs go on the clock.
The Bucs have one of the best, if not the best inside linebacker duo in all of football in Lavonte David and Devin White. They were able to re-sign reserve Kevin Minter, which was a big win in free agency. They also have Jack Cichy and Noah Dawkins under contract as well, but Cichy hasn’t been able to stay healthy, and Dawkins is still unproven. It probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to add some depth to this group with a late-round pick.
Some people see safety as a “big need” for the Bucs heading into the draft. I’m not one of those people. I do think there’s a need to add some depth to the DB group as a whole, but I don’t think it’s a “big need“.
The Bucs still have Jordan Whitehead, Mike Edwards, Justin Evans, and D’Cota Dixon under contract, and they recently re-signed Andrew Adams. This group could go either way. They know what they have in Whitehead as a starter, and Adams is a solid backup. Edwards was inconsistent in his rookie season but showed flashes of his potential. Dixon was on his way to competing for a starting safety spot in camp last year until his injury, according to Bruce Arians. The key here is Evans. If he can return to form after his multiple injuries and surgeries, then this group should be pretty strong. If not, they may need to add a piece later in the draft.
The first half of last season was an embarrassing display of football for the Buccaneers secondary. Their young corners were being exposed on a weekly basis, and they were the worst passing defense in all of football. But midway through the season, something clicked. And over the second half of the season, they all started playing much better. Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean, and Sean Murphy-Bunting started showing why they were all second-round picks and started shutting down opposing receivers and creating some turnovers.
Now going into year two of Todd Bowles’s defense, we just have to hope there’s no “sophomore slump” among these promising young players. The starting spots seem to be in good hands with them, but depth could end up being an issue should one of them suffer an injury. The Bucs did re-sign backup Ryan Smith in free agency, but he’s more of a special teams ace than a backup corner. They still have MJ Stewart, who’s been serviceable at best. They have Deiondre’ Hall, who they picked up last season, and has experience playing both safety and corner. He could end up contributing, especially on special teams. And then there’s Mazzi Wilkins and John Franklin, who are both young and unproven.
The Bucs could add a corner with a late-round pick, but I’d like to see them add a veteran free agent to this group. To me, someone like 30-year old Morris Claiborne makes a lot of sense. He wouldn’t cost much, plus he played two seasons for Bowles in New York and had the most productive years of his career.
The Bucs spent a ton of money on this position in free agency, re-signing Jason Pierre-Paul in free agency and placing the franchise tag on 2019 sack leader Shaq Barrett. They did lose Carl Nassib in free agency, but they still have his clone, Anthony Nelson, on the roster. Beyond them, there’s just Quinton Bell and Kahzin Daniels, who are both young and unproven. They could stand to add some depth here, but it wouldn’t shock me if they don’t select one in the draft and just keep an eye on the waiver wire or sign an undrafted free agent to fill the role.
This is still one of the stronger position groups on the team with OJ Howard, Cam Brate, Antony Auclair, Tanner Hudson, Jordan Leggett, and Codey McElroy. However, you never know what could happen on draft day. There have been rumors swirling that Howard could be on the trade block for the right price, so if it does happen, then the Bucs could be in the market for his replacement.
Then again, Arians says that the coaching staff is excited to see what Brate AND Howard are capable of in the second year of the offense, especially with Brady at quarterback. So don’t expect any “big” draft day trades from the Bucs.
Even though this year’s draft is going to be a bit unorthodox, I’m still looking forward to it. I was supposed to go and represent as one of the Bucs “inner circle” fans, but that’s obviously not happening.
Thanks a lot, China.
But the NFL Draft is always exciting, whether you’re sitting next to the draft stage watching in person, or sitting at home on the couch watching on television. Seeing your team plan for its future is entertaining for football fans, even if you do disagree with the pick. The “gamble” of the draft just adds to the drama of it all. In just two short weeks, the Cincinnati Bengals will go “on the clock” to begin the 2020 NFL Draft. Jason Licht and Bruce Arians will no doubt be ready for whatever scenario plays out with their 14th pick. And I can’t wait to see what they do with it.
Until then, as always, GO BUCS!!!