Buccaneers Roster Reset: Defense

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The first big waive of free agency is over. Many familiar faces are in new places, while some are staying home. For all teams, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it’s time to take stock. What do they have and where do they go from here?

Defensive Line – Vita Vea, William Gholston and Rakeem Nunez-Roches 

Ndamukong Suh is currently unsigned. To this point it feels like the Bucs need to start seriously considering their options at the position. Even if he does return to Tampa Bay, the team needs to add depth and get younger on the line.

If Suh doesn’t re-sign then this would leave a hole next to Vita Vea at defensive tackle that would likely have to be filled through the draft. This seems like the Bucs most likely target in the first round. A pass rushing defensive tackle next to Vea would add another dimension to this front seven and could be the missing piece to get the Bucs back to the Super Bowl. 

Outside Linebacker – Shaq Barrett, Joe Tryon Shoyinka, Anthony Nelson, Cam Gill 

Obviously the most noticeable thing about this group is who’s not here. Jason Pierre-Paul is still a free agent and after spending a first round pick on his replacement last year it’s unclear if the Buccaneers would want him back. Pierre-Paul has been a big part of the Buccaneers turnaround, both in terms of culture and production. Even if he’s replaced with a younger more talented player at this point, Pierre-Paul would be a significant loss.

With that said, this group is still relatively strong on paper. Shaq Barrett is a proven commodity and is now the headliner of this group. After that things become less clear. Joe Tryon-Shoyinka had great flashes last year as a rotational rusher and there is every reason to think he’ll take the next step in his sophomore season. Anthony Nelson and Cam Gill are both quality depth players.

The team could certainly look to add someone to this group. I tend to believe it will be a veteran free agent who can bring leadership and situational pass rush. Frankly, a guy exactly like Pierre-Paul would be the ideal choice to rotate in behind Barrett and Tryon-Shoyinka. 

Inside Linebacker – Devin White, Lavonte David, K.J. Britt, and Grant Stuard. 

The roles in this group are clearly defined. Lavonte David and Devin White are the clear cut starters and will play a vast majority of the snaps. K.J. Britt and Grant Stuard are primarily special teams players with a chance to show something in their limited opportunities. 

Veteran Kevin Minter is a free agent and it’s unclear if the Bucs want him back as he will turn 32 this year. This means that one of Britt or Stuard could establish themselves as the main backup. At this point I’d give the nod to Britt, but don’t be surprised if the Buccaneers add another linebacker to compete for this spot. Particularly a guy with coverage ability, something this entire group is weak in overall, should be a skill set Tampa Bay is looking for.

Cornerback – Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Ross Cockrell, Dee Delaney, and Pierre Desir.

Basically everyone is coming back from this young group. Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean will be on the outside with Sean Murphy-Bunting and sometimes Ross Cockrell taking snaps in the nickel. Dee Delaney and Pierre Desir will fight to make the team, but both stuck around for parts of last season.

It’s possible the Bucs target this position in the draft. Beyond Davis, none of these guys have proven themselves enough to earn a long-term commitment at this point. Combine that with an excellent draft class of corners and the Bucs could use a pick on a potential long term solution.

Safety – Antoine Winfield Jr, Mike Edwards, and Logan Ryan

There is a lot of familiarity with this group, but there will be some reshuffling this season. Jordan Whitehead has moved on to New York and now Mike Edwards likely moves I to the starting lineup to take his place. This will be a bit of a trade off, improving the overall coverage on the back end at the expense of run defense. 

Logan Ryan was signed to help fill the void left by Whitehead. However, he is also more of a coverage safety who specializes in nickel coverage more than being a box defender. I anticipate the Bucs adding a depth safety late in the draft, specifically a strong safety who can defend the run.

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