The NFL is not designed for long term success. With the salary cap and the worst teams getting the best prospects, no one can stay on top forever. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are no exception to this.
For example, the Bucs have three key members of their young secondary who will be free agents after this year. The sad reality is that they probably won’t be able to keep them all. This means tough choices will have to be made.
Those three players are Mike Edwards, Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean. Three key players in the Buccaneers Super Bowl run and guys who have a bright future. So the question is, who does the team keep?
Let’s say they can only get one long term contract done. No worries, there’s always the franchise tag in their back pocket if they really want to use it. That leaves one walking away at year’s end. It’s a classic game of sign one, tag one, cut one.
Now it’s just a matter of deciding which is which.
Sign One – Mike Edwards
If I had to lock one of these guys up long term then it would be Mike Edwards. The fourth year safety out of Kentucky will be getting his first opportunity to start this season after Jordan Whitehead left in free agency.
Despite not being a full time starter to this point, he has made many splash plays as an over the top ball hawk. Last season Edwards led the team in interceptions (3) while only starting four games. With more opportunities that number will likely increase in 2022.
This ability to create turnovers is extremely valuable. That is why keeping Edwards long term is so important. Especially considering that he does it better than anyone else on the team.
Tag One – Jamel Dean
Jamel Dean has solidified himself as a respectable number two corner with the Buccaneers. He even filled in admirably as the top corner when Carlton Davis was injured last season. It’s fair to say that Dean is a key part of this young secondary.
With that said, Dean’s tenure in Tampa Bay has been up and down. He was drafted as a better athlete than football player, with 6’1 height and 4.3 speed in the 40 yard dash. Since then there have been growing pains and ups and downs.
The question is, can Dean consistently maintain his good play? If he can sustain the high level of play that he’s shown at times then he can be a long term building block. If not, he can and probably should be replaced.
It’s also worth noting that the Buccaneers may have drafted Dean’s eventual replacement this year with Zyon McCollum. McCollum is an excellent athlete from a low level program and it will probably take him a year or two to acclimate to the NFL. If Dean doesn’t prove himself by then, then it makes sense to let him go in two years.
Cut One – Sean Murphy-Bunting
Much like Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting has had great flashes. We all remember the three postseason interceptions he had on the way to a Super Bowl victory, including picking off Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. We’ve seen that his brightest moments are as good as anyone.
However, Murphy-Bunting has also been inconsistent. After being drafted in the second round out of Central Michigan he was asked to transition from being an outsider corner to a nickel corner. This move has not always been smooth.
On top of that, the Buccaneers signed Logan Ryan in the offseason. Although he’s listed as a safety, he’s a guy who does most of his work out of the nickel. So there’s a legitimate chance that Murphy-Bunting loses his job this year.
I hate to say it, but it seems likely and logical that Murphy-Bunting is the odd man out in the Bucs secondary.
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