The 2019 Bucs will need quality depth on defense, especially in the secondary so they don’t repeat 2018’s results.
There are many quality guys available and if the Bucs can sign at least one quality cornerback and safety, then it will promote healthy competition at the position and help shape draft priorities. Here are suggestions the Bucs should consider.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix – Safety
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix’s familiarity with the 3-4 and productive seasons with the Green Bay Packers helped him become a stout presence in their secondary. Despite being traded to Washington in 2018, he has reliable hands catching five interceptions in 2016, making the Pro-Bowl. He’s also among the league leaders for tackles playing from the safety position. While spending most of his productive career at free safety, he can switch to strong. He’s also learned from one of the best 3-4 minds of the game, Dom Capers.
Landon Collins – Safety
Should the Bucs not be able to land Clinton-Dix, Landon Collins would be a strong alternative. Despite playing one less season than Clinton-Dix, he too also landed a spot in the Pro Bowl in 2016 with five INTs. He’s also hovered around 100 tackles his entire time with the New York Giants. Also in Collins’ favor is the current defensive coordinator of the Giants is James Bettcher, who took over the position at Arizona in 2015 once Todd Bowles took the head coaching position with the New York Jets.
Earl Thomas – Safety
Bucs can use a veteran leader in the secondary, but make no mistake, Thomas won’t likely be a long term solution entering his 10th season. The six-time Pro Bowler will help defenses respect the pass. Besides his age, Thomas hasn’t been used in recent years to blitz the QB, which is perplexing considering he was successful in his first three seasons when Gus Bradley was Seattle’s DC topping at six tackles for losses in 2011. After Thomas’ third season, Dan Quinn, who took over for Bradley, dedicated Thomas more to coverage. He’s worth at least a two-year deal and he’ll thrive as a stout veteran unlike the Bucs’ last highly touted safety acquisition in TJ Ward.
Lamarcus Joyner – Cornerback/Safety
LaMarcus Joyner is a little bit of a gamble since he’s more of an up and coming talent and had one great year in 2017. He’s also played in a 3-4 under Wade Philips with the Los Angeles Rams. He’s been a respectable defender since 2015 averaging about a handful of pass defenses. He has speed to sack the QB. In 2017, he had 3 interceptions for 104 yards.
Ronald Darby – Cornerback
Ronald Darby will be one of the most coveted cornerbacks in free agency with his exceptional skills in coverage. He’s averaged double digits almost every season he’s been in the league with the Buffalo Bills and later, the Philadelphia Eagles. The only time he didn’t have double digits? He had nine as a member for the 2017 Super Bowl-winning Eagles. The only knock on him is concerns with injury missing 15 games in the last two seasons.
Leonard Johnson – Cornerback
Bucs fans might be familiar with Leonard Johnson his three year stint with the team from 2012 – 2014. In his first two seasons, he’s had 17 pass defenses. He fell a little off the radar from 2014 – 2016 with lower productivity in stints with the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers. He had a semi-successful stint with the Bills defending seven passes. But fell off again in 2018 with brief stints with the Cardinals and Giants.
Justin Coleman – Cornerback/Linebacker
Despite not being used very often with the Patriots his first two seasons, Justin Coleman became one of the most productive corners when he landed in Seattle in 2017. He’s had three INTs, two returned for touchdowns (in 2017), a combined 19 passes defended, 2 sacks, and a two fumble recoveries (one for TD). Coleman would be perfect fit for Bowles’ aggressive defense.