On Monday afternoon the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made a big splash in the opening hours of the NFL free agency tampering period. The team agreed to terms on a four year, $52 million contract with their homegrown star Jamel Dean. This was an unexpected move with the Bucs hard pressed for cap space, it was thought that Dean would get his big payday elsewhere.
With the return of their star cornerback, the Buccaneers filled what was thought to be one of their biggest needs. With most of the secondary hitting free agency this year it was expected that this area of the defense was going to turn into a big weakness with the team. Now it is looking like their biggest strength.
Adding Dean back to the secondary gives the Bucs three returning starters on the back end. Along with Carlton Davis and Antione Winfield Jr, this group now has three high end starters going into next season. They will be the foundation of what the team can accomplish in 2023.
From Young Guns To Veteran Leaders
Of course all three of these returning starters were a part of the Buccaneers Super Bowl team in 2020. They were the young group of defensive backs who called themselves the Gravediggers. Now they are veterans on this team, with Davis and Dean getting their second contracts and big paydays.
At that time, the secondary was viewed as the biggest question mark with the defense. All the starters were on their rookie deals and there was concern about the lack of experience. Truth be told, compared to the dominating front seven the secondary was the weakest part of the defense.
However, that is no longer the case. With the losses of guys like Ndamukong Suh, Jason Pierre-Paul and no potentially Will Gholston and Lavonte David the front seven has lost a lot of leadership. It’s time for the next wave to take the helm and guide the future of the franchise.
With Todd Bowles being a mastermind when it comes to defensive backs, it’s no surprise that he has prioritized keeping this group together. They have the talent and now have the experience to be the leaders that this team needs. Davis and now Dean should be expected to step up and take that role with them both getting contract extensions.
What Does This Signing Mean For The Roster Moving Forward?
With Dean re-signing, we can all collectively take cornerback off the board as a high priority need. This means that they likely won’t target one until the third round at the earliest. However, the team will likely still be looking for a nickel corner with Sean Murphy-Bunting still being a free agent.
This will shift the attention in the early rounds to other positions of need. Offensive tackle, defensive tackle and pass rusher will likely be the top priorities. Without having to worry about replacing a starting cornerback, the Bucs can invest their most valuable resources into these positions.
This will drastically shake up their approach to the draft. While it seems that General Manager Jason Licht had this planned all along, not meeting with many of the projected first round cornerbacks at the combine, having this need filled solidifies those plans. Where the team will go from here remains to be seen.