Back in March, the Buccaneers signed “money backer”, Deone Bucannon, to a one-year deal worth $2.5 million. Most fans in Tampa Bay don’t actively cover the Arizona Cardinals, but luckily Bruce Arians and Jason Licht do. An NFL money backer is typically a hybrid player who can play linebacker as well as in the secondary. Think Mark Barron, post-Buccaneers.
At first take, it seemed as if the signing was more depth-oriented. Bucannon played solid during his stint in Arizona. He is familiar with Arians, playing under him during the Cardinals playoff run in 2015. Deone’s knowledge of the system is also helpful to the new guys learning the playbook. Hopefully, his football I.Q will equate to production on the field.
However, a deeper look into the stats will tell you that the 26-year-old linebacker/safety has more to offer if handed a bigger role. Bucannon played for the Cardinals from 2014-2018 and had an integral role of the 2015 Cardinals defense. After a rookie season that saw him notch 83 total tackles, two pass deflections, and a forced fumble, he doubled down on his progress going into his second season.
His sophomore campaign would be the season that put him on the map as the 2015 Cardinals were the team to beat in the NFC. Arians asked Bucannon to switch to inside linebacker, and his career took a turn for the better. When he got his first chance to start 16 games, he blew up the stat sheet. In his new role, he recorded 112 tackles, three sacks, three forced fumbles, and an interception on the way to a playoff run.
Now, this was three seasons ago and his production hasn’t been what it used to be. Luckily (for Bucannon anyway), the Buccaneers are lacking in the safety department. Reunited with his old coach and an attacking style of defense he ran in Arizona, will the coaching staff resurrect the ghost of 2015 Deone Bucannon?