We’ve already discussed the situation that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have put Josh Freeman into this offseason and it is a hugely important topic of discussion on all Bucs message boards. However, it shows how all-encompassing that the quarterback position has become where the future of the quarterback, who produced an above-average season, is infinitely more discussed than how to overhaul a position where the team is the worst in the league.
Despite being ranked best in the league against the run, the Bucs were not only dead last against the pass, but were less than two more first downs away from giving up the most passing yards in the history of the NFL.
So it is no doubt, therefore, that the secondary will be an issue that the Buccaneers will be looking to solve. After having restructured last season’s big free agent signings, Carl Nicks and Vincent Jackson, they have around $30 million to play with.
With significant financial space, you would expect the Bucs’ top priority to be adding another cornerback to partner their other major 2012 signing, Eric Wright. However, Wright himself was suspended for four games for Adderall use and even when he did play, he was outplayed by undrafted rookie, Leonard Johnson. That four game suspension means that, under the terms of his contract, Wright can be cut with no cap hit, saving the Buccaneers around $8 million more to the cap and getting Wright’s overblown contract off the Buccaneers hands permanently.
As it is, Leonard Johnson could very well be the only specialist corner on the Tampa Bay 2012 roster to be on the 2013 roster. This means they are being talked about as being in the market for a Revis trade, as well as a possible landing spot for free agents Sean Smith, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Brent Grimes or anyone else half decent who can play corner.
An interesting way that the Bucs could go is to sign free safety Glover Quin off of the Houston Texans. Like current starter Ronde Barber, he is a converted corner, but one who is a much more long-term solution and better at deep coverage than the aging Barber now is. This would allow last year’s first round draft pick, Mark Barron, to play a lot closer to the line on the strong side, where he excels. Were Barber to return for 2013, he would return to being the nickel corner, a role he has always made a speciality: he has played in nickel sets both when starting at safety and corner. While this could extend his career for another couple of years, there would be question marks over whether Barber would have the desire to return if not a starter.
The Bucs could also do with more pressure on the quarterback via pass rush to help out that secondary, and letting sack leader Michael Bennett go to free agency would be an extremely bad move, despite the fact they will likely have to overpay to keep him in Tampa.
Meanwhile, they will also have to make a decision over the future of linebacker Quincy Black, who incurred a major injury midway through 2012. While that would be a perfect excuse to chop even more off the cap, as his contract is also overinflated when put next to his play, cutting him would leave the Bucs with a huge hole at the linebacker position. Although, that decision may be taken out of their hands if Black’s injury forces him to retire.
There still remains the Freeman issue on the offensive side of the ball, however. As I mentioned before, his main problems appear to be on third down, firmly placing some of the blame on the revolving door at slot receiver and towards tight end Dallas Clark, who produced glimpses of his fading talent later on in the year, but is not the standout player he used to be. While slot reciever options are likely to be those who would expect a starting spot (Wes Welker), injury prone (Julian Edelman) or both (Danny Amendola), there is a tight end out there who might solve a whole lot of problems for the Bucs.
Martellus Bennett would not only be a huge upgrade at the tight end position, but may help them to re-sign brother Michael, potentially getting both for less than market price. GM Mark Domenik can sell them both on Florida’s sun, tax laws and the prospect of playing together.
The other main offensive issue is the future of running back LeGarrette Blount. Usually re-signing someone who is a restricted free agent and is still only a couple a years removed from being a 1,000+ yard rusher would be a no-brainer. However, under new head coach Greg Schiano, Blount started the season as the second-choice back. After a couple of early fumbles when in the game to rest Doug Martin, he became about as used as a backup quarterback, as Martin became one of the few true ‘feature backs’ in the league. The Bucs will presumably tender Blount at some level, but could potentially use him as trade bait to manoeuvre around the draft.
Possible Free Agents:
RB LeGarrette Blount (RFA)
WR Roscoe Parrish
WR Sammie Stroughter
TE Dallas Clark
OT Jeremy Trueblood
DT Roy Miller
DT Corey Irvin (Exclusive Rights FA)
DE Michael Bennett
DE Daniel Te’o-Neisheim (RFA)
LB Jacob Cutera (RFA)
CB E.J. Biggers
CB Brandon McDonald
S Ronde Barber
LS Andrew Economos
1st Round — #13 — Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State — This time last week, I predicted the Panthers to take Rhodes at #14. That was because I had Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington going here, but I now see him going to Miami, making Rhodes the pick at #13. If both are gone and the Bucs still pick at #13, I expect them to take Oklahoma tackle, Lane Johnson, and sell out on attempting to have the best offensive line in the league (it’d certainly be the highest paid).