With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers off until July 26th, it’s a good time to take a wild guess at what the 53-man roster will look like. There will be plenty of changes between now and when the roster is finalized. Here are some of the players that might make the final cut. Keep in mind, injuries do also occur which could affect this list.
The roster on the Buccaneers official website has 18 players listed as inside linebacker or outside linebacker. Several of them most likely won’t play a true linebacker in the 3-4. For example, in my opinion, Anthony Nelson will most likely play at defensive end and not linebacker. With that being said, the linebacker positions aren’t fully set. I’ll be selecting guys who I think will truly play the linebacker position.
Devin White (Inside Linebacker)
This one isn’t much of a secret. The fifth overall pick in the draft is loaded with talent and comes to a defense that needs to perform in 2019. No doubt Todd Bowles is very happy to have him on the team. Devin White is fast, smart and physical. In Bowles’ defense, he will probably get plenty of opportunities to blitz the quarterback too. It could be a big year for the young linebacker from LSU. White is in prime position to win the defensive rookie of the year award.
Lavonte David (Inside Linebacker)
One of the Buccaneers best players of the past decade, Lavonte David isn’t going anywhere. It will be interesting to see how Todd Bowles uses him. He can do everything that most teams would ask from their linebacker. He can blitz, tackle and cover. It should be fun to watch Bowles work with David. Bowles is one of the best defensive coordinators that David has had in his career. His experience will also prove invaluable to the youth on the team.
Deone Bucannon (Linebacker)
Bucannon made a name for himself in Arizona. His best year was in 2015 when he recorded 109 combined tackles, three forced fumbles and an interception. The hybrid linebacker/safety will look to keep his career going under his former coach and defensive coordinator. With tools and the knowledge of the system, he should get plenty of snaps. His versatility will go a long way in securing a spot on the roster.
Shaquil Barrett (Outside Linebacker)
The free agency acquisition will look to bolster a pass rush that has struggled for several years. Barrett didn’t get many opportunities in Denver (turns out Von Miller and Bradley Chubb are pretty good) but he came to Tampa Bay for the opportunity and the coaching. Barrett only managed 275 snaps on defense for the Broncos last year. In comparison, both Von Miller and Bradley Chubb had 844 defensive stats. He made the most of his opportunities though, finishing with three sacks, six tackles for a loss and seven quarterback hits.
As I wrote in the beginning, it remains to be seen how exactly the linebacker position will play out. I think the 3-4 defense is a perfect fit for what Spence brings to the table. Although he’s struggled with injuries up to this point in his career, he could be a crucial piece in the pass rush this coming year. He’s fast and has plenty of bend to get around the edge. Having largely played third down pass rusher up to this point, I don’t think that will change. Could this be a breakout year for Spence?
Carl Nassib (OLB)
Nassib is another interesting one to guess at. He played well last year and with Jason Pierre Paul injured for a majority of the 2019 season, he could even start for a portion of this coming year. Outside linebacker would be a bit different for Nassib. While in Cleveland, he played a little 3-4 in 2016 during his rookie year, but it has been 4-3 since then. He could see some time at both DE and OLB.
Jason Pierre-Paul (OLB)
Although Pierre-Paul will be out for part of the season (could be more, could be less), he will remain on the Bucs roster. Coming off a 12.5 sack season, much was expected of him in 2019. Hopefully, the injury heals correctly and he can get on the field ASAP. The Bucs were clearly counting on him, that’s obvious from their draft.
Other names to watch out for: Jack Cichy, Devante Bond and Kevin Minter