6 Roster Holes Bucs Must Fill This Offseason

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Welcome to the offseason version of Bucs Briefing! My weekly column will seem every Wednesday morning, usually detailing seven key observations concerning the crew’s offseason. We’ll take a look at tape, scheme, free company, draft prospects and main storylines as we prepare for an offseason stuffed with intrigue.

This week, we’re taking a look at six methods the Bucs should enhance their roster this offseason. For the aim of this train, we’re not assuming any free agent departures simply but.

7. A Returner Who Can Run With out Falling Over

Bucs WR-KR Jaelon Darden

Bucs WR-KR Jaelon Darden – Picture by: Cliff Welch/PR

I used to be keen to be affected person with Jaelon Darden for many of his rookie season. However by the tip of the 12 months, I used to be completed. Darden merely has no imaginative and prescient or stability as a runner. On numerous returns this season, Darden worn out within the open discipline. Like, actually tripped over his personal ft. “Sniper obtained him” kind of stuff. All 12 months lengthy. Minimal contact was virtually at all times sufficient to convey him down, and Darden persistently did not create splash performs with the ball.

Lengthy-time Bucs followers may bear in mind what a catastrophe former second-round receiver Dexter Jackson was as a return specialist in 2008 for a similar purpose. Sadly, Darden seems to be Jackson 2.0.

The Bucs traded up within the fourth spherical for Darden, so I’d count on him to be the incumbent kick and punt returner going into camp. However Tampa Bay wants to usher in some severe competitors for him. Possibly it’s a free agent. Or maybe certainly one of this 12 months’s day three draft picks is an enchancment over Darden. Heck, convey again Jaydon Mickens. However trotting Darden out with no severe battle for a roster spot subsequent season can be an enormous mistake.

6. An Upside Backup Linebacker

I like Ok.J. Britt and Grant Stuard as particular teamers. Heck, I really like Stuard as a particular teamer. Mr. Irrelevant was quietly superior this season on particular groups. However I can’t see both participant ever turning into a defensive starter, or perhaps a fascinating fill-in like Kevin Minter. Each lack the athleticism to play on the second degree in as we speak’s NFL. Particularly in Todd Bowles’ scheme. They’d be uncovered rapidly.

Bucs ILB Kevin Minter

Bucs ILB Kevin Minter – Picture by: Cliff Welch/PR

As for Minter, he’s a 31-year previous free agent who might retire. Even when he doesn’t, his finest days are behind him. Minter struggled mightily when known as upon this season. And Lavonte David is getting into the ultimate 12 months of his contract. The Bucs may add a 12 months in 2023 if he desires to maintain enjoying, however they want a succession plan in place.

It’s not important for the Bucs to seek out David’s alternative within the upcoming draft. But when they do goal a linebacker within the center rounds, on the lookout for upside is vital. Try this participant have vary and aggressiveness? Is he fearless and bodily? Will he be a scholar of the sport behind Devin White and David? These are all questions the Bucs ought to be asking themselves when scouting linebackers this offseason.

5. Blocking Tight Ends

Bucs TE Cam Brate

Bucs TE Cam Brate – Picture by: Cliff Welch/PR

One of many strangest points of the Bruce Arians’ tenure in Tampa Bay has been his lack of emphasis on blocking tight ends. All over the place else he has been, Arians has prioritized blocking amongst his tight finish room. Within the Bucs’ duo-heavy run scheme, tight ends that may block are necessary.

However for 3 years, Tampa Bay has actually solely had one tight finish, Rob Gronkowski, who can block. O.J. Howard and Cam Brate are common at finest in that space. And the depth guys they’ve had round up to now, Tanner Hudson and Codey McElroy, aren’t blockers both.

In final 12 months’s Battle Plan for the offseason, I wished the Bucs to signal Packers TE Marcedes Lewis. The veteran returned to Inexperienced Bay and was a superb blocker once more this season. Possibly Darren Fells will return to the Bucs, as Howard departs. May Cardinals tight finish Maxx Williams be an choice this offseason? He’s top-of-the-line blocking tight ends available on the market. And he ought to be low cost with minimal manufacturing coming off an ACL harm.

4. Competitors At CB

If the Bucs go into subsequent season with their present group at cornerback – Carlton Davis III, Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Ross Cockrell, Pierre Desir and Dee Delaney – they could be high-quality in 2022. However they received’t be nice. They usually received’t be nice past 2022 both. Dean and Murphy-Bunting shall be getting into contract years. The previous has began to show worthy of being a dependable starter within the NFL. However Murphy-Bunting’s struggles on the sphere and to remain wholesome are troubling.

Bucs CB Sean Murphy-Bunting

Bucs CB Sean Murphy-Bunting – Picture by: Cliff Welch/PR

The Bucs have completed a superb job of discovering high quality veterans to offer depth and management at cornerback. But when they pay Davis this offseason, it’s unlikely Dean or Murphy-Bunting come again for a giant contract. Additionally, Tampa Bay ought to be actively inspecting methods to push Murphy-Bunting’s enjoying time in 2022. He’s been beneath common for 3 years, regardless of not having to face No. 1 and even No. 2 large receivers fairly often.

To me, Tampa Bay wants to return to the properly for an additional cornerback within the draft. This place, together with large receiver, are most likely the largest draft priorities for the Bucs. The excellent news is, if Davis is again, the Bucs don’t want a No. 1 cornerback. They’ll spend one other day two decide in a deep cornerback class. Prioritizing a participant who can defend the slot ought to be a precedence. The Bucs haven’t had an acceptable reply for inside receivers for a while now. That should enhance in 2022.

3. Inside Cross Rush

If the Bucs protection goes to take a step ahead, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles should cease blitzing so usually. Don’t get me fallacious, Bowles can nonetheless blitz. What he can’t proceed to do is blitz at a price that dwarfs the following closest crew within the league. That’s what Bowles did in 2021. And it’s what he’s completed too usually all through his profession.

Shifting ahead, the Bucs want to have a look at their roster and consider why they will’t get extra from their four-man go rush. For those who take a look at so lots of the high groups across the NFC, they’ve official distinction makers that may dominate even good offensive linemen one-on-one.

Rams DT Aaron Donald

Rams DT Aaron Donald – Picture by: USA At this time

The Rams have Aaron Donald and Von Miller. The 49ers have Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead, with large depth. And the Cowboys have Demarcus Lawrence, Micah Parsons and Randy Gregory. Even the Packers, who aren’t as robust on this space, obtained a 12 months three leap from Rashan Gary and have Za’Darius Smith and Kenny Clark.

Tampa Bay desires to have these guys in Shaq Barrett and Vita Vea. However Barrett is an efficient, not nice edge rusher. He’ll most likely at all times wrestle one-on-one in opposition to the top-tier offensive tackles within the NFL. Barrett simply doesn’t have the dimensions and athleticism to be an elite participant. As for Vea, he could possibly be a monster inside rusher. However he must develop extra rush strikes. Additionally, Vea should discover a option to get on the sphere extra usually. Tampa Bay’s aim ought to be to get him to 65-70 % of defensive snaps subsequent season.

In the meantime, how can the Bucs enhance their present crop of expertise? The group hopes Joe Tryon-Shoyinka will grow to be that premier No. 1 edge rusher. There isn’t any query he has the dimensions, size, athleticism and psychological make-up to take action. However the Bucs want one other presence on the inside. It doesn’t even must essentially be a full-time participant. However they want a pass-rushing defensive deal with who can persistently win one-on-one when different groups double Vea.

Sadly, Scott Reynolds tells me it’s one other abysmal defensive deal with class within the draft. We each informed y’all final 12 months’s defensive deal with class was depressing, and we have been proper. The 2021 rookie inside defensive position group was one of many worst in a very long time.

So the Bucs might have to have a look at low cost free agent depth. One attention-grabbing identify is Calais Campbell. He’s 35 years previous, however nonetheless performed at a excessive degree final season. Campbell performed for Bruce Arians and Todd Bowles in Arizona, so he is aware of the system. Arians is at all times serious about bringing again former gamers, particularly nice folks like Campbell.

Don’t suppose that age is a flip off, both. Ndamukong Suh and Steve McLendon performed on Sunday at ages 35 and 36, respectively.

If the Bucs appear like a contender, I’d count on there to be some mutual curiosity right here. In fact, Campbell additionally may select to retire.

2. Enhance Expertise At WR3/WR4

Outdoors of re-signing their very own gamers and staving off retirement for a couple of key veterans, that is crucial goal of the Bucs offseason. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are an excellent tandem. However the actuality is that the Bucs play a ton of soccer out of 11 personnel (one operating again, one tight finish, three receivers). WR3 is a extra helpful place of their offense than virtually any offense within the league. They want gamers who can get open, learn coverages and make performs after the catch.

Bucs WR Tyler Johnson

Bucs WR Tyler Johnson – Picture by: Cliff Welch/PR

After this previous season, we all know Tyler Johnson can’t be counted on as a type of gamers. The second-year receiver obtained ample alternative and performed miserably. He dropped 4 passes within the playoffs and caught solely 5 balls for 45 yards regardless of working because the crew’s No. 2 wideout. Johnson additionally failed to attain a landing all season.

It’s additionally clear the Bucs don’t look after Scotty Miller. Jaelon Darden struggled mightily as a rookie, and Breshad Perriman is a journeyman. Cyril Grayson, Jr. appeared good for 2 video games, however he’s 28 years previous with 11 profession catches.

All of those gamers can come to camp and compete. None of them ought to be counted on because the Bucs WR3 or WR4 subsequent 12 months. The gamers that may play one or each of these roles will not be at the moment on the roster.

Will that participant (or gamers) are available in free company or the draft? Possible the latter.

A number of gamers in free company pique my curiosity – WR/RB Cordarrelle Patterson and WR JuJu Smith-Schuster. Patterson is a terrific YAC participant who can play out of the backfield on third downs. He’s additionally a fearless returner and an excellent locker room man. Quickly-to-be 31 years previous, Patterson could be on the lookout for a spot to complete his profession with a shot at one other ring. He already received one with Tom Brady a couple of years in the past in New England. Bruce Arians loves him too, raving about how exhausting he’s to deal with this previous season. Patterson would probably be low cost and accepting of a task participant designation.

As for Smith-Schuster, that one is a bit trickier to determine. As a free agent final 12 months, there was virtually no marketplace for Smith-Schuster. The Ravens and Chiefs had short-term offers on the desk for him. In the end, Smith-Schuster went again to the Steelers on a one-year deal. However then he damage his shoulder and missed all however 5 video games. What is going to his market be this offseason?

CB Brent Grimes - Photo by: Mary Holt/PR

Bucs CB Brent Grimes – Picture by: Mary Holt/PR

It’s exhausting to think about Smith-Schuster producing way more curiosity than he did in the course of the 2021 offseason. Reportedly, the Chiefs are excessive on his checklist. But when he’s going for a one-year, prove-it deal once more, there aren’t many higher locations than the Bucs. Enjoying with Tom Brady for a 12 months may severely enhance his pedigree. Smith-Schuster can play inside or outdoors, he’s excellent after the catch and he could be a greater blocker than Chris Godwin. He’s the epitome of a “soiled work” large receiver who can nonetheless make performs down the sphere.

His presence would enable Godwin to play an much more versatile function. And if Godwin have been to be injured, the Bucs wouldn’t have to alter their offense that a lot schematically. Smith-Schuster isn’t as constant as Godwin, however he’s like a B-version of Tampa Bay’s star receiver. Individuals overlook, again when Smith-Schuster had an actual quarterback, he put up a 1,400-yard season and was a 13 yards-per-catch man.

However the Bucs are prone to deal with their very own gamers in free company first. So search for the draft as a extra probably choice. That is supposedly a powerful large receiver class with loads of depth. You’ll see tons of large receiver scouting reviews and content material rolling out on Pewter Report over the following few weeks/months.

1. Chortle A Little

That is fairly unimaginable. And you may add one other two for Evans, placing him at 31 touchdowns from Brady. This graphic was printed earlier than the playoffs. If Brady returns, Evans could have an excellent shot at turning into the second-leading landing receptor from Brady. Regardless of solely enjoying three years collectively!

He’ll want simply 10 touchdowns to tie Julian Edelman for second behind Gronkowski. Evans has caught greater than 10 touchdowns in 4 of his eight seasons within the NFL.


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