Akiem Hicks is yet another in a large group of contributors the Buccaneers have lost to injury. During Sunday’s 20-10 win over the New Orleans Saints, Hicks left the game in the first half with a foot injury. Subsequently, it was determined that he tore the plantar fascia in his foot. Ultimately he looks to be out for a month and the Buccaneers also have the option of placing him on short-term injured reserve. So what are the front office’s options?
Next Man Up
The quick fix is simply for the next players in the depth chart to move up and prove themselves. This option is the most likely, with the coaches evaluating their progress and how well they contribute over the next week or two before seeking help elsewhere. That’s how the Team handled the depleted wide receiver corps. Allowing them to play out the first two weeks before seeking to sign Cole Beasley.
There is really only one option in this scenario. Logan hall. The rookie and second round pick, will likely get a chance to step up and show what he’s got. Thus far he’s only recorded on tackle but watching his tape indicates he’s played his role well. In the Saints game there were flashes as he drove offensive lineman into the backfield and even bull rushed them into the running lane preventing positive yardage. Now he’ll have a much expanded role.
Behind him the Buccaneers will almost certainly rotate in Rakeem Nunez-Roches or Patrick O’Connor.
Practice Squad members Mike Greene, Deadrin Senat, and Willington Previlon could find themselves elevated to the 53 man roster just in case.
Now for the long shots and former Buccaneers fans are bringing up to replace Hicks.
Option A: Tried and True Ndamukong Suh
Ndamukong Suh is still a free agent bidding his time for the right opportunity to join a team. Although last season we may have seen him decline. He hit all time career highs in missed tackle percentage (19.2) and some of his lowest in hits and hurries. He did however remain consistent in his sack totals. Could we see further regression in the aging star if he comes back? Maybe, but the Buccaneers may not want to spend the money to bring him back in. It will cut into what reserves they have and it’s still early in the season.
Option B: Long Time Buccaneer Gerald McCoy
Gerald McCoy hasn’t really played since 2019. After a decent year in Carolina, McCoy signed a three year contract with Dallas. This however was short lived after an injury. He never saw the field that season. Bad luck struck McCoy again in Vegas the following year creating much the same result. After two years away from playing it’s hard to tell what shape McCoy is in and what level, if healthy, he can play at. With all those looming questions I doubt we see McCoy in a Buccaneers uniform again unless its a one day retirement signing. Though stranger things have happened.
Option C: My Dark Horse Candidate
There are a few other stout defensive linemen who are still free agents. One in particular could be a candidate and would come cheaper than Suh but have more impact than McCoy (and maybe Suh). Last season he registered the following stats, Suh’s 2021 stats in parentheses for context. Logged 2.5 sacks (6), 13 hits (13), 22 hurries (24), and 6 tackles for loss (7). All this while playing with a cast of other defenders that is not nearly as talented as those in Tampa last season and this.
Additionally he has some familiarity with Todd Bowles’ defense and may not take long to get spun up.
That player is Sheldon Richardson.
Either way this defense still needs to perform no matter who is on the field especially while the offense struggles. The issue will be cap space and how to sign another player and finagle more money for contingencies later down the road if that’s the route they take.
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