The NFL off-season, for a football fan like myself, is like sitting in the backyard and watching the grass grow. Its six months of anticipation, with occasional news of moves that clubs make, players making headlines for extracurricular activities (see Manziel, Johnny), and other miscellaneous happenings. The good news is that there’s only 41 more days until preseason begins, and the countdown is on. With the month of July on the horizon, training camps will be kicking off, and this is the time where, in my opinion, hopes in respective clubs really take shape. And for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and all NFL teams, there will be quite a few questions that will be answered in regards to progression.
All that being said, I want to look beyond the 2016 season for a little bit and focus on key free agents for 2017. The main guy that will be unrestricted will be WR Vincent Jackson, and considering the type of year that Doug Martin had in 2015, you have to wonder in Jackson will have the same type of production. The 33-year old Jackson was limited last season due to injury, tallying only 543 yards and 3 touchdowns. While the guy isn’t exactly over-the-hill, with the Bucs having a young, deep depth at the wideout position. Depending on the numbers he puts up, and if he can stay healthy, this could be the final year we see Vincent Jackson in the red and pewter.
For the defensive side, linemen Akeem Spence and Will Gholston (both 24) will both be unrestricted in 2017. While still young, they combined for 4 total sacks last season, but I suspect they will be retained for depth, which is something that coordinator Mike Smith wants. Also, S Brad McDougald and G Gosder Cherilus are starters that are in a contract years as well, so look for them to be standouts for 2016 (though I’ve been hard on Cherilus for his penalties). I won’t speculate on how hard Tampa Bay is looking at the upcoming free agents, but I’m sure that Jackson is their main priority in regards to the moves they will make. But upon review, the aforementioned mainstays might give the local fanbase a little more excitement, despite the possibility of moving on from Raymond James Stadium.
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