On March 13th at 4:00pm, Jason Licht will probably be on the phone. This is the start of the new NFL league year and thus, the start of free agency, when teams can put commitment to paper and officially start signing free agents to their roster.
The NFL’s free agency system currently in use was introduced on March 1st, 1993. The free agency system gives players the right to test the market to find the true value of the services they can offer a team. This year’s free agency crop might have some interesting things to offer the 2019 Buccaneers defensive unit.
New defensive coordinator Todd Bowles will be looking to solidify a unit that underachieved in 2018. This is where the Buccaneers could make the biggest splash in free agency this year. With whispers—or are they yells by now—that Bowles will be implementing a base 3-4 system, there are some interesting possibilities.
The following are linebackers who have all operated in a 3-4 scheme and are free agents: Jadaveon Clowney, Dee Ford, Preston Smith, Clay Mathews, and Terrell Suggs. The Buccaneers also have Kwon Alexander, who is a free agent, so linebacker is 100% a position they must address with free agency. A name that also jumps out is Dante Fowler Jr., a 3-4 defensive stud from right here in Tampa Bay. His underperformance in Jacksonville prompted an October trade to the Rams, where he had a bit of a resurgence during the Rams Super Bowl run this season.
Getting his own paragraph is safety Tyrann Mathieu, aka “the honey badger.” Who hasn’t been impressed with this young man’s commitment to football after receiving his second chance from HC Bruce Arians? Arians drafted him in the 3rd round out of LSU after Matthieu spent the 2012 season out of football after breaking unspecified team rules. The relationship between these men is no secret. The fact that the badger can bring it is no secret, either. Look for the Buccaneers to frame free agency around this acquisition.
Some teams dabble in free agency. Others make a splash. A couple will do a full-on cannon ball so as to make the largest splash and biggest ripples possible. The Buccaneers and Jason Licht made some big moves last year, and cap space is at a premium. That said, there are some defensive pieces that could help them transition a lot faster. What kind of magic does Licht have up his sleeve for this year’s free agency period? One thing is for sure. It will be his call.