The Tampa Bay Buccaneers season was a success in many of our eyes. The team has now improved its record each year since 2014. This season saw the demise of Austin Seferian Jenkins and the emergence of Cameron Brate. It also saw players like Mike Evans, Kwon Alexander and Ali Marpet turn into stars. However, now that this wonderful season has concluded it is time to look at another part of the NFL. The Off-season. The off-season can be a time period where team’s fans get excited about the teams future, whether it is getting a new head coach, picking up a couple of highly regarded free agents, or drafting a player that people feel with help the team get one step closer to a super bowl. The Off-season can also be rough on fans as once the draft is over as those fans get eager to see their new and improved team in action. Now, let’s take a look at what exactly this off-season has in store for the Bucs and their fans. Will it be filled with excitement or filled with “what if?” with the third highest cap number in the NFL it is certainly shaping up to be a pretty fun off-season.
Who stays and who goes
Like I said, with that much cap space the Bucs will be able to sign some good players in free agency but will also be able to resign most of the players that are set to hit the open market. Punter Bryan Anger was already rewarded because of his outstanding punts that pinned the opponents deep in their own territory with a 5 year extension right before the season ended. Now there are some names on this list that fans will be split on. A guy that comes to mind is Chris Conte, who was having an awful season but then was able to turn it around with a couple of key turnovers in key moments of the game. In all honesty, if Conte wants anything more than a one year deal then I’m not so sure I would keep him around. I also would not break the bank for him, give him the money that a backup deserves, because with Keith Tandy’s performance over the past couple of games and a number of quality safeties that are in this year’s draft it may be hard for Conte to regain the starting job. Some guys that stand out big time to me and guys that I would keep are Russell Shepard, Jacquizz Rodgers and Josh Robinson. Shepard’s ability on special teams and as a receiver cannot be overlooked and he needs to get a new deal. Rodgers has also earned an extension with the team and so has Josh Robinson who was signed as a free agent from the Minnesota Vikings. Robinson has been spectacular on special teams coverage this season and he definitely needs to be back. Joe Hawley is another name that will be tossed around but I do not think he will be back next season as the team will look for a bigger and stronger center to help set the tone in the run game. Another guy that has to be back is Will Gholston who has been a tremendous run stuffer for the team. As for Akeem Spence, I believe he will hit the open market, it does not look good for him as he did not play many snaps in the final 4 games of the season. Let’s hope the Bucs are able to lock up everyone they choose to this off-season. There is no reason why they shouldn’t lock up a guy they want with all the cap space they have.
Free Agency targets
Now, we know that there are multiple holes on this team but to go on a spending spree in free agency would just be silly. This past off-season the Jacksonville Jaguars spent 178.3 million dollars in free agency and it resulted in a 3-13 record and another top five pick in this year’s draft. In 2014 our Tampa Bay Buccaneers spent well over 100 million dollars on players and that resulted in the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft. Now, the Giants also were one of the biggest spenders in free agency in 2015 and that resulted in a playoff birth. The Buccaneers have about 84 million dollars to spend on resigning their own guys and signing new ones. That number is also before potential cuts to guys like Alterraun Verner and Evan Smith. I have looked at this year’s free agent list with an eye on the Bucs biggest needs. There is not much to be had at the wide receiver position this time around but a few guys that caught my eye were Kenny Britt from LA, Kenny Stills from MIA, Kendall Wright from TEN and Pierre Garcon from WAS. I think the best option here is either Wright or Stills because they have the age the Bucs are looking for as Stills will be 25 by the time the season rolls around and Wright will be 27. Those two guys are also the fastest players of that group and believe me, the Bucs need speed. I would keep my eye on those two guys as we get closer to march. Another position I looked at was defensive end. Yes, the Bucs did sign Robert Ayers last year and yes they did draft Noah Spence but that does not mean they do not need more pass rushers. Three guys that come to mind our Calais Campbell from AZ, Mario Addison from CAR or Jason Pierre-Paul who played his college ball right here at USF. I would like to go after JPP and get a deal done with him. He proved this year that he is capable of rushing the QB even without all five fingers. It was also rumored that the Bucs were one of three teams that offered JPP a one year deal last off-season but he decided to resign with the Giants because he said he did not want to learn a new defensive scheme on a one year prove it deal. Shortly after his season-ending injury, it came out that he will not sign another one year deal and will look to sign a long-term deal with a team this off-season. I think it is time to bring JPP home. Another position I looked at was defensive tackle. Gerald McCoy has been great and in no way am I saying replace him, instead, I give him big time help. Guys I took a look at were Kawaan Short from CAR, Dontari Poe from KC and Bennie Logan from PHI. The option I prefer is to sign Short away from the division rival and give McCoy the help he needs. The last position I looked at was safety. Names I like are Eric Berry from KC, Tony Jefferson from AZ or Jahleel Addae from SD (LA, I guess) my favorite option is Tony Jefferson. Jefferson will be 25 on opening day of next season and he would be a great, young addition to a secondary that still needs work. Now, this could all be thrown out of the window if all these guys i named get resigned but many of them will hit the open market. The reason I did not choose Eric Berry as my best option at safety is because there is no way Berry wants to leave KC and there is no way KC will let him leave. With 84 million dollars in cap room for these Bucs, anything can happen.
With the 19th pick in 2017 NFL draft the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select…. That is the question that every Bucs fan and every fan, in general, is going to be asking themselves up until draft night. Who should their team take? Well for the Buccaneers I see Wide Receiver as the biggest need on the team so I picked out two guys that fans should keep on their radars moving forward. The first one is Western Michigan Wide Receiver, Corey Davis. Davis, who is 6-2 and 205 pounds also has elite speed. He offers elite speed and height combo, Davis is also a great route runner and can be a burner down the field and take the top off of the defense while still being able to make plays on the 50-50 balls. He is an ideal #2 Wide Receiver for any NFL team and can step up as a top receiver if needed. Another guy that I have been studying is Washington Wide Receiver, John Ross. Ross is explosive and has a chance to score a touchdown every time he touches the ball. The only knock on him is he has only had one true year of production as he was converted to Wide Receiver after being a defensive back and dealing with injury issues. His ideal place in an offense is in the slot and he is a deep threat at the next level and should run at least a 4.35 40 yard dash at the combine. Another position that is a need is safety and there are many quality safeties in this draft. The one I focused on though was Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers. Peppers may be too small and not strong enough to be an NFL linebacker which he occasionally played at Michigan and will also likely to not be a slot corner in the NFL as he is not fast enough. Strong safety is the best fit for him in the NFL. He could be a replacement for Bradley McDougald should the team decide to not bring him back. Peppers can also be a strong side linebacker in some of Mike Smith’s packages if needed. These three guys would all be incredible options for the Buccaneers at number 19. I will get more in depth with the draft as we start to get closer to it.
I hope everyone enjoyed my off-season preview for the Bucs. This really is a major off-season and one that could make or break the Bucs heading into next season. Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith resigning with the team was already a huge bonus. A young team with a nucleus of young talent and a returning coaching staff with over 84 million dollars in cap room and being in a great spot in the draft sure does sound great to most Bucs fans. I trust Jason Licht with the importance of this off-season to get the players needed to make the playoff dream a reality. How can one not trust Licht after what he has been able to accomplish the past two off-seasons. It should be a fun ride and I am so happy that I get to share it with some great Bucs fans. I also would like to take this time to thank every fan who read any of my articles this season it is greatly appreciated. I would also like to thank all of the other writers that are doing absolutely outstanding work! They kill it with every single article and I appreciate their support for me this season. Last but certainly not least I would like to thank Derek Fournier for giving me the opportunity to write for this great website. I know that when he found out I was 15 years old he was a little hesitant and I would be too but I am grateful he gave me a shot instead of passing over me just because of my age. I cannot put into words how happy I am to be writing for such an outstanding website. We as Bucs fans are very lucky to have a guy like Derek who puts in countless hours to make sure he gives the fans a great podcast and a great tailgate before the game. Everyone thank you so much for letting me write articles for all of you this season. Doing this has made me so happy. Of course, we always have to finish an article with the two words that Bucs fans love to hear the most. GO BUCS!