By Nick Gagnon
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have added a lot of young talent to their team through the last couple of drafts. In 2013, they were able to add wide reciever Mike Evans to the roster, who has proven by now that he has the potential to be a superstar in this league, after 2 straight 1,000 yard seasons to begin his NFL career. In last years draft, the Bucs used the number 1 overall pick to secure former FSU quarterback Jameis Winston to be their franchise quarterback of the future. The gamble on Winston paid off, as he went on to set many Bucs rookie passing records on his way to a Pro Bowl invitation. It is easy to see the Bucs are taking some big steps in the right direction, and we can expect them to pick up right where they left off in this years upcoming draft.
Tampa will have the 9th overall pick in this years draft, so they will have plenty of options to go with in the first round. Don’t expect them to take an offensive player in this round, the Bucs used every draft pick last year on the offensive side of the ball, and their biggest holes are on defense right now. Tampa was statistically in the middle of the pack when it came to defending the pass last year, but had trouble doing so when it really mattered the most, even allowing Kirk Cousins to come back from a 24 point deficit in week 7. A good cornerback would do a lot for this team right now, and a couple local Florida corners in FU’s Vernon Hargreaves and FSU’s Jalen Ramsey could fall right into their lap at pick number 9. If it isn’t the secondary that gets the attention, a good pass rusher is also something the Bucs are lacking aside from defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. If Ohio State University defensive end Joey Bosa or Oregon defensive end Deforest Buckner are still available at this time, the Bucs could potentially land an upcoming defensive star for the future. They would be crazy to let free agent Doug Martin walk after a breakout season, but in case they do, a good runningback is another thing they could be looking for in the draft. Ezekial Elliot and Derek Henry are two big time names in this years draft, if the Bucs decide to part ways with Martin they’ll have a chance to fill his shoes quickly with either of these guys.
No matter which player they go with, Tampa Bay is in prime position to add another key player to their team, and if this draft works out as well as the last few have for them, the Buccaneers and their fans have a lot to look forward to for next season.
Probably the only thing great about any NFL offseason is the hope of getting that one player or players to help turn your team around (if your team was sub-.500, that is). Such is the case with the beloved (?) Buccaneers, who at a 6-10 record find themselves in yet another season where moves need to be made and money needs to be shelled out. Its no secret that the team has quite a few needs on the roster in order to take that next step.and get over the hump. Tampa Bay could, and will get players in the draft, and there are some high prospects that they can choose as a security blanket for their needs. Still, with the number nine pick this year, I’m not so sure that the Pewter crew will get exactly what they need.
For this reason, I think the Bucs would benefit more in the offseason rather than roll the dice and wait for a player to fall in their lap in the draft. As of this writing, Tampa Bay has the seventh-highest salary cap in the league, just a hair under $47,000,000. Granted, it doesn’t seem like much, but considering the lack of state tax here in Florida, there might be enough to entice a veteran player or two to relocate to the bay area. Now, don’t get your hopes up too high; the odds don’t seem too great bringing in a high profile star like Miami did with Ndamukong Suh last offseason. But on the plus side, I don’t suspect the Bucs will spend what Miami did, and get little in return.
Let’s address the primary need Tampa: a defensive end that can take some of the pass-rush attention away from Gerald McCoy. Now there’s seven defensive ends in the draft that the team could pick, but how do we know either of them would make an immediate impact? Now, for an established presence, I’d say the Bucs could go after Jason Pierre-Paul, who if you recall is already familiar with the bay area playing college ball at USF. The dollar stretches a lot better down here than in New York, and there’s nothing wrong with coming home and playing with a partner like McCoy. Malik Jackson, fresh off a Super Bowl victory with the Broncos, is an intriguing bet as well.
The defensive backfield has been suspect all year as well, as there is a need at both cornerback and safety. Again, it might be difficult to secure a premiere back in the draft to help the defense. Yet you have free agents in Chiefs S Eric Berry and Chargers mainstay Eric Weddle. And I didn’t forget about the receiving corp. With Vincent Jackson becoming more of a liability age and injury-wise, might be best to go after a guy like Alshon Jeffrey, who has yet to make the playoffs in his Chicago tenure. Can you imagine pairing Jeffrey and Mike Evans? Jameis Winston could have a dream season with a tandem like this.
The Bucs could shore up the rest of their needs in the draft, and sure, they can get a rookie to add depth to their primary needs. After all, this team was set to build for the future after they drafted Winston last year. The team has seen a boost in success thanks in large part to Winston, but veteran pieces are needed to help guide this young core. Players like the aforementioned Jackson with Super Bowl cache can show the rest of the team how to develop a winning culture. Youth can provide a spark of life, but nothing beats experience when it comes time to show up.
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