With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers heading into another free agency with big question marks yet again, they’ll need to find ways to keep the good and add to make it great. The non-playoff teams have already been working on their plans for next season, much like the Buccaneers have. What positions are the Buccaneers looking at?
Tampa Bay and the Big Question at Quarterback
This is the question that most Tampa Bay fans and media alike are asking themselves. The first order of business is to either sign Jameis Winston to a long-term deal or use the franchise tag. In my opinion, a long-term deal gets done and Winston will be a Buccaneer. It has been a mixed bag this offseason with fans on whether to bring Winston back.
Former Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer explained that year one in the Bruce Arians system is the most difficult due to the playbook being so complex. Many people say that Winston will never be a quarterback that can eliminate turnovers and that the Buccaneers should move on and start over with someone else.
There will be a total of nine free-agent quarterbacks in the years market not including Winston. There are some interesting names that may be available to the Buccaneers come March when the free agency period begins.
The name that I have heard the most has been Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers. Rivers has relocated his family to Florida from San Diego. Coach Arians has been on the record saying he loves the way Rivers plays the position. If Rivers is signed, he could be used as a bridge quarterback for whatever young quarterback Tampa may plan to bring in.
Reshaping Tampa Bay’s Offensive Line
The offensive line was a concern this past season. Winston took too many hits and the Buccaneers will need to look to replace an aging Demar Dotson at right tackle. Tampa Bay will have options here, they could draft a right guard and move Alex Cappa out to right tackle.
It makes more sense to keep Cappa at guard and draft a tackle. This is the position that I believe general manager Jason Licht will look at in the early rounds of the draft. Most of the free agents at this position will be a little older and regression will become a factor over the next few seasons.
Keeping What They Have
The next focus will be on Shaquil Barrett, last year’s steal of free agency. In my opinion, Barrett is the second most important player that the Buccaneers will focus on this offseason. Coach Arians made it a point to stress how much he wanted to keep the defense intact. Barrett’s league-leading 19.5 sacks got him an invite to this year’s Pro Bowl and potentially a huge payday in Free Agency.
Barrett has said at Pro Bowl practice that he would like to stay in Tampa, but setting his family up financially is very important. Tampa Bay also must decide on whether to bring back Jason Pierre-Paul. Pierre-Paul was a major part of the Buccaneers turning around the defense this past season. After Pierre-Paul returned from injury, the Buccaneers defense seemed to start clicking.
Barrett had nine sack in the first four games which led to teams starting to double and chip him. In his first game, Pierre-Paul provided a spark to a defense that was having problems getting to the passer. Once Pierre-Paul came back from his injury, coach Todd Bowles said the team’s energy was different from the minute he walked in the door. I think that the Buccaneers will do everything they can to bring both Barrett and Pierre-Paul Back for next season.
Yannick Ngakoue is another name that will draw a lot of attention in free agency. He is only 25 years old and has put together a nice four-year run in Jacksonville. He has 37.5 sacks in that span and made himself known around the league as a force coming off the edge. If Tampa Bay fails to sign Barrett, Ngakoue would be a nice addition.
Free agency does not start until March 18th which makes this the season of “rumors”. I for one hope that the team makes whatever moves necessary to become a contender in the NFL for years to come.