In principle, there have been a rather larger than usual amount of trades and agreements made this year than in recent years. However, aside from signing Mike Evans and Cameron Brate to large contract extensions, and re-signing veteran CB Brent Grimes, the Bucs have remained fairly quiet.
The Bucs remain quiet nationally, and this may prove to be wise for Tampa down the road, as there are still key position players about to hit the market on March 14th. DE, CB, RB, DT, and OT are the positions that I would be looking to address with both the FA and the draft. They are the most critical positions of need.
Running back, despite the confidence in Peyton Barber, has been mentioned as a position that needs priority attention. (Dirk Koetter is not wrong) The free agency is a great place to shop for running backs, however, the draft may be where that position is actually addressed. Firstly, I would take a long, hard , look at the veteran running back Dion Lewis. Despite not being an elite talent, he is able to put up some solid numbers, like 1,100 all purpose yards and 9 TDs. At 28 years old, he is not a long time answer, by no means, but he still has some gas left in his tank and with his talents , paired with Barber, would help ignite the offense from the backfield.
Defensive end and defensive tackle, are definitely positions that need major attention. The FA would be my first choice where I would snag a couple of notable veterans, while eyeing the draft for future talent.
In regards to the defensive line, there are several valuable candidates in the free agency. One such player is DaQuan Jones. Despite being injured and missing the final 4 games of the season, he had been more than a solid supporting cast member of the Titans’ line. Having had surgery in December of 2017, for a torn pec, should not affect his game in any way. He recorded 3.5 sacks, before ending the season due to his injury, and despite the sack number, he had proved to be plenty disruptive on the defensive line. I would not bring him in with starting on my mind, but he will definitely compete for the starting job.
Star Lotulelei, is another prime example of a player, while not elite, has been a reliable starter for the Panthers. He would be a perfect fit in Tampa as a back up to Gerald McCoy, although I’d rather have Clinton McDonald back. Despite the low sack numbers produced by this defensive tackle, 1.5, he does more than enough on the line to cause disruption, and free up the defensive end. Julius Peppers did get 11 sacks, last season, from that left side. If we could talk Peppers out of retirement, I would more than love to have him join our defensive line.
The Bucs have been looking to solidify their CB position and by r-signing Brent Grimes to a 1-year deal they have begun doing so. There have been rumors that the Buccaneers are interested in E.J. Gaines and Trumaine Johnson. With both Gaines and Johnson added to the secondary, it would definitely help out a struggling secondary unit. However, that struggle is mostly helped by the guys up front. Bucs are looking to re-sign CB Robert McClain, so in my mind, that means the Bucs are not likely to go big on any FA corners, but are likely to go big on one in the draft.
Finally, the Buccaneers need to fix their offensive line. Not only would a starter, or two, be wonderful, but a few starting capable guys for depth would be nice as well. In my opinion, this is where the FA comes in most handy. I would be chomping at the bit to sign Ravens FA, center, Ryan Jensen and the Giants FA, guard, Justin Pugh. They both would add much-needed value to the offensive line, and are “plug & play” players, pretty much anywhere on the line.
The Bucs, I believe, will attempt to make sober minded decisions, when it comes to FA and are fully aware that they have key players, on both sides of the ball, that have rookie contracts ending soon. They will command hefty contract extensions. So, I, do not look for splashy FA moves and believe that there will not be any spectacular FA moves made. However, If the Bucs play it right, they could very well add a couple decent free agents, and with re-signing their own key players, can be set for the next couple of years.