The Buccaneers’ training camp started for rookies on July 24, with veterans reporting the next day for full squad practices. Of course, there’s also the fun joint practice with the New York Jets, who have new QB Aaron Rodgers and a “Hard Knocks” appearance to spice things up with the Bucs.
All of that being said, the coming weeks should produce some sort of free agency news, with a lot of quality names still on the board for teams like the Bucs to fill some roster holes.
The sexiest and most discussed position that could garner attention is at running back. Ezekiel Elliott, Kareem Hunt, and Dalvin Cook are the big names that could be in the mix, as well as a trade candidate in Saquon Barkley (unlikely due to his desire to play for a team that’s willing to give him a contract extension, something the Bucs can’t afford to do)
But I think the more interesting position (and one that deserves more attention than it’s being given) is the secondary. There are still a lot of quality corners out there, and the Buccaneers have a huge need for the slot position.
My favorite guy remaining is veteran Casey Hayward, someone who brings valued leadership to a secondary group that doesn’t include anyone over the age of 27.
While the former Vanderbilt man may not be the household name that those aforementioned running backs are, he’s had a very solid, productive career to this point. He’s played for the Chargers, Packers, Raiders, and most recently the Falcons, garnering a couple Pro Bowl selections along the way. A jump to another NFC South team wouldn’t be the worst thing, and ending your career in the sunny and income-tax-free land of Tampa isn’t too bad either.
Hayward’s age (he turns 34 in September) is a bit of a concern, as injuries and drop off are sure to come, but he should be affordable at this point of the offseason, and he’ll gladly welcome an opportunity to earn a starting spot on a team that isn’t totally in the rebuild stage quite yet. I mean, he was just on the Falcons.
Hayward can also push some competition for that starting slot role, a position he’s played at a pretty high level throughout his career.
The current roster of Bucs corners that are likely to make the roster includes the two starters, Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean, as well as second year guy Zyon McCollum and recent draftee Josh Hayes (who can also double as a safety).
I’m not sold that the Bucs are going to sit on their hands and be happy with that group, because it’s one that lacks depth, as well as an established slot guy. Enter Hayward.