Will The Bucs Regret Not Re-Signing Safety?

Because the Bucs prepare to move into coaching camp there shall be a brand new starter within the secondary. Tampa Bay elected to not deliver again sturdy security Jordan Whitehead, who as an alternative signed with the New York Jets. The Bucs have typically finished a great job of not over paying to maintain their very own gamers. Though the choice to let Whitehead stroll and never match the two-year $14.5 million deal he bought with the Jets was a little bit of a head-scratcher.

Arduous-hitting safeties of Whitehead’s ilk aren’t frequent place within the NFL anymore. He was a tone-setter for Tampa Bay’s protection and was a frontrunner on the again finish. An incredible run defender, he improved to be much less of a legal responsibility in protection as effectively. With two interceptions every of the final two years, he was no ballhawk like Mike Edwards. However Whitehead made performs on the ball within the secondary. He was additionally fairly sturdy, lacking simply six video games in his Bucs profession.

Bucs SS Jordan Whitehead and Packers RB Aaron Jones – Picture by: USA Right this moment

Whitehead performed a pivotal position within the Bucs’ 2020 run to turning into Tremendous Bowl champions. His bone-crushing hit on Packers operating again Aaron Jones, which triggered a fumble, helped seal the deal on Tampa Bay’s NFC Championship victory. Injuring his shoulder on the play, he confirmed his toughness beginning the Tremendous Bowl two weeks later and performed wire to wire.

So was the choice to let Whitehead stroll the suitable one?

Changing Whitehead In The Run Sport

First, there’s nobody on the roster that may be capable to substitute what Whitehead contributed in run protection. He graded out because the ninth-best security towards the run with an 81.5 grade, per Professional Soccer Focus. Antoine Winfield, Jr., who’s on a All-Professional profession trajectory, completed with a 78.1 grade. Edwards who will get the primary crack at changing Whitehead, posted only a 62.9 grade towards the run. Whereas Newcomers Logan Ryan and Keanu Neal graded out 74.1 and a lowly 28.1, respectively.

The Bucs might use Winfield nearer to the road of scrimmage this yr, however then you definately’re taking your Professional Bowl security out of his free security position. Whereas it’d go well with Edwards’ ability set extra to play the highest half of the sphere, how does that influence Winfield’s manufacturing? After a yr at linebacker, how does Neal readjust to security? And whereas Ryan is robust towards the run, he’s extra of a free security and nickel nook than a real sturdy security on account of his lack of very best dimension. By not re-signing Whitehead, the Bucs threat displacing their greatest participant – Winfield – within the secondary.

Who Units The Tone On The Again Finish?

It’s not simply Whitehead’s influence within the run recreation. It’s his toughness and physicality that shall be missed as effectively. Whereas Neal has been recognized for his hard-hitting play type all through his profession, it’s not one thing he’s proven lately. Winfield can ship some huge hits, nevertheless it’s not his sturdy go well with. Edwards and Ryan aren’t going to put the lumber on ball carriers.

As a Professional Bowler, Winfield is now the unquestioned chief within the security room. It is going to fall on him to ensure the protection is lined up appropriately and make all of the again finish calls. He’ll want to indicate that he could be the identical intimidating drive Whitehead was within the secondary. We’ll see if he assumes these obligations in coaching camp, however you you must surprise if the Bucs would’ve been higher off re-signing Whitehead.