2018 Bucs Offseason: Part 2- Current Defensive Roster Breakdown

The Buccaneers are going into this 2018 offseason in pretty good shape, both contract wise and salary cap wise. Next year may not be so easy. At some point in the next two years, they’re going to have to re-sign Jameis Winston, Mike Evans, Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet, Cameron Brate, Adam Humphries and Kwon Alexander. That amounts to a whole bunch of “Benjamins”  being dispersed. That being said, this year the Bucs have about $65 million in cap space. That’s the fifth highest amount of any team in the league with a possibility of being even higher. There are some moves, on both offense and defense, that could add more cap space. In my last article, I covered the offensive and special teams players and their contract situations. In this article, I’m going to hit on the defensive side of the ball. So, let’s get started.

 

DEFENSIVE LINE

Gerald McCoy: 47 tackles, 6 sacks; under contract ($500k cap hit)

At 29-years old, the six time Pro Bowler is entering his 8th year with the Bucs and is under contract until 2022 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. He made $13.75m in 2017 and is due to make $12.75m for 2018. Some Bucs fans are somehow displeased with his play over the last few years, but I disagree. He’s one of the most productive and disruptive defensive tackles in the game and he’s here to stay. However should the Bucs decide to part ways with him for whatever reason, this would be the year to do so. His stock is still high meaning that his trade value is there and there would be a minimal hit towards the salary cap of $500k. I don’t see it happening, but who knows what’s going on inside the halls of One Buc after this season.

William Gholston: 36 tackles, no sacks; under contract (no cap hit)

At 26-years old, he’s under contract until 2022 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. He had a disappointing season with zero sacks after signing a new contract last year. If the Bucs truly want to improve their pass rush, then releasing the run stopping defensive end may be where they start and they can do so this offseason without any salary cap repercussions. He made $7m in 2017 and is due to make another $6.5m in 2018.

Robert Ayers: 31 tackles, 2 sacks; under contract (no cap hit)

At 32-years old, he’s under contract until 2019 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. His numbers didn’t reflect it, but he actually had a decent year as a pass rusher. He had 41 pressures in 2017, the most on the team and even ahead of Gerald McCoy (35). Nobody else on the team had more than 20 pressures. He made $6.5m in 2017 and is due another $6m in 2018. While he’s getting up there in age, he’s a bargain price for a solid edge rusher. Even if the Bucs add a high priced free agent defensive end or draft one at #7, I think Ayers could stick around to add depth.

Chris Baker: 33 tackles, .5 sacks; under contract (no cap hit)

At 30-years old, he proved to be a 2017 free agent “fail”.  After totaling 56 tackles and 9.5 sacks as a 3-4 defensive end over his final two years in Washington, he was disappointing in his first year with Tampa as a 4-3 defensive tackle. Was it the scheme? Maybe. But that doesn’t excuse his laziness or his attitude. He made $6m in 2017 and will make $4.875m in 2018. He’s under contract until 2020 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent, but the Bucs could release him this offseason without any salary cap repercussions. I don’t see the Bucs bringing him back for another season but we shall see.

Noah Spence: 9 tackles, 1 sack; ended the season on IR; under contract ($1.3m cap hit)

The 24-year old pass rush specialist has had a rough two years in Tampa. After being drafted 39th overall in the second round of the 2016 draft, he’s suffered through two torn labrums, this second one ending his season and sending him to the Injured Reserve. He had surgery to repair it so hopefully it’s good to go for the 2018 season. He has the potential to be a sack master from the edge if he can stay healthy. The question is, can he stay healthy? He made $1.37m in 2017 and is due to make $1.65m in 2018. He’s under contract until 2020 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Stevie Tui’kolovatu: on IR for the entire 2017 season; under contract ($68k cap hit)

The 26-year old spent 2017 season on Injured Reserve and never really got a chance to show what he could do on the field. He’s under contract until 2021 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. He only made $370k in 2017 and is due to make $578k in 2018. He adds no pass rush threat to the defensive line so it will be interesting to see if the Bucs bring back the run stopping role player.

Davonte Lambert: on IR for the entire 2017 season; under contract (no cap hit)

The 23-year old made $363k in 2017 and is due to make $630k in 2018. He was yet another player from the defensive line who spent his entire season on the Injured Reserve list. He’s under contract until 2019 when he becomes a restricted free agent but there would be no salary cap repercussions should the Bucs release him this offseason.

Channing Ward: on IR for the entire season; under contract (no cap hit)

At 25-years old, he is under contract until 2019 when he becomes a restricted free agent. He made $55k on the practice squad in 2017 but is due to make $555k in 2018 should he make the 53-man roster. He is another player that adds depth to the defensive line, but there would be no salary cap repercussions should the team release him this offseason.

Clinton McDonald: 29 tackles, 5 sacks; UFA

At 31-years old, he’s becoming an unrestricted free agent after spending the last 4 seasons in Tampa Bay. He finished with the second most sacks on the team and took the starting defensive tackle job away from Chris Baker during the season while only making $2m for 2017. Although I’d like to see him back for another year, I’m not so sure the Bucs bring the veteran back. He does add some experienced and inexpensive depth to a relatively young defensive line.

Sealver Siliga: 8 tackles; UFA

The 28-year old saw limited time in 8 games in 2017 while making $1.1m. He’s another big run stopper who adds no real pass rush which is something the Bucs sorely lack. He’s a similar style player to the younger Tui’kolovatu who is currently under contract and a cheaper alternative. He’s another player who may not be returning to the team for next season as he is now an unrestricted free agent.

Justin Trattou: on IR for the entire season; UFA

The 29-year old spent the entire 2017 season on the Injured Reserve list and is now an unrestricted free agent. I doubt that he’s back in Tampa for next season.

Will Clarke: 15 tackles, 2.5 sacks; UFA

The 26-year old saw limited action in 15 games in 2017 earning $690k in the process. He adds some production and youthful experience to this Bucs d-line so I think he’ll be back with the team if they can get him for the right price as an unrestricted free agent.

Ryan Russell: 17 tackles, 2 sacks; RFA

At 26-years old, he saw limited action in 14 games for 2017 while making $615k. He is now a restricted free agent and will probably be back in Tampa next season at the right price.

 

LINEBACKERS

Lavonte David: 101 tackles, 5 forced fumbles; under contract (no cap hit)

At 27-years old, he’s entering his 7th year with the Bucs and had 100+ tackles for the fifth time in 2017 when he made $6m. He’s due to make $8.75m in 2018 and is under contract until 2021 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. As unlikely as it would be, there would be no salary cap repercussions should the Bucs release him this offseason.

Kwon Alexander: 97 tackles, 3 interceptions; under contract ($120k cap hit)

At 23-years old, he’s entering his fourth year with the Bucs. He made $735k in 2017 and is due to make $825k next season. After making his first Pro Bowl this season, the 2018 season is the final one of his rookie contract so pretty soon the team will have to look into his new contract which should be substantial considering he’s one of the best young linebackers in the league.

Kendell Beckwith: 73 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble; under contract ($530k cap hit)

At 23-years old, he’s under contract until 2021 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. The rookie ended up as the starting strongside linebacker and had a solid rookie year making $640k in 2017. He’s due to make $755k in 2018. He will absolutely be back next season as the starting SAM.

Devante Bond: 14 tackles; under contract ($72k cap hit)

The 24-year old entered the 2017 preseason as the favorite for the starting SAM LB job and was injured before the regular season even started. He saw limited action as a reserve LB and special teamer in 14 games once he healed up. He made $500k in 2017 and is due to make $666k in 2018. He’s under contract until 2020 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. I see no reason for him not to be back next season.

Eric Nzeocha: 2017 practice squad; under contract (no cap hit)

The 24-year old began and ended the 2017 season on the Bucs practice squad. He’s under contract until 2020 when he becomes an exclusive rights free agent. He’s set to make $555k in 2018 if he makes the 53-man roster.

Riley Bullough: 2 tackles; under contract (no cap hit)

The 24-year old Hard Knocks star spent most of the season on the Bucs practice squad until he was activated to the 53-man roster with 3 games remaining. He made $82k in 2017 and is set to make $555k in 2018 if he makes the final 53-man roster. He is now under contract until 2019 when he becomes an exclusive rights free agent.

Adarius Glanton: 31 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble; RFA

At 27-years old, the reserve LB saw action in 14 games in 2017 before breaking his leg. He earned $690k this season and is now a restricted free agent. He will likely return as a reserve LB if he signs for the right price.

 

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Vernon Hargreaves: 42 tackles; under contract ($8.3m cap hit)

The 22-year old CB had a somewhat disappointing sophomore year starting opposite Brent Grimes outside, but his play improved once he was moved inside to nickel. He suffered a hamstring injury in Week 10 which sent him to the IR for the rest of the season. Some Bucs fans are ready to write him off, but I’m not. The potential is there. He’s very solid in run support and has the tools to be a good cover corner. He made $3.2m in 2017 and is set to make $3.87m in 2018. He’s under contract until 2021 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Brent Grimes: 49 tackles, 3 interceptions; UFA

Even at 34-years old, he was once again one of the better cornerbacks in the league. After making just $8m in 2017 as the #1 CB for the Bucs, he now becomes an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Hopefully, he ends up back in Tampa for at least another year but it will depend on how much it ends up costing the team. If they can re-sign him for less than $10m, then I would say do it. If not, let him walk and chase the dollar bills.

Josh Robinson: 5 tackles; under contract ($125k cap hit)

At 27-years old, the special teams standout played in 11 games and made $3.125m in 2017 after re-signing with the team last offseason. He’s due to make $1.875m next season before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2019. I’m sure he’ll be back next season.

Ryan Smith: 62 tackles, 2 forced fumbles; under contract ($300k cap hit)

At 24-years old, the special teams gunner was forced into a starting cornerback role due to injuries in Week 10. He had an up and down rest of the season in coverage while earning $690k in 2017. He’s due to make $780k in 2018 while under contract until 2020 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. He should be back next season.

Maurice Fleming: 2017 practice squad; under contract (no cap hit)

The 24-year old spent all of 2017 on the Bucs practice squad. He is now under contract and set to make $480k in 2018 should he make the final 53-man roster. Should the Bucs decide to release him this offseason there would be no salary cap hit.

Robert McClain: 50 tackles, 3 interceptions; UFA

At 29-years old, he made $615k in 2017 and is now an unrestricted free agent. He provided solid play at nickel so hopefully the Bucs can re-sign him for minimal money and bring him back next season.

Jude Adjei-Barimah: on IR the entire 2017 season; RFA

The 25-year old spent the season on IR after fracturing his right patella. He is now a restricted free agent and I have no idea if he’ll be back or not. I think that he adds solid depth at CB but it may be a question whether he can come back from the injury and perform as well as before.

Javien Elliott: 5 tackles; ERFA

The 24-year old played 15 games, primarily on special teams in 2017 earning $540k. He is now an exclusive rights free agent this offseason meaning the Bucs will likely re-sign him to a minimal deal for next season. The young corner has shown flashes of being very good but hasn’t quite put it all together just yet.

Justin Evans: 66 tackles, 3 interceptions; under contract ($2.1m cap hit)

The 22-year old safety had a solid rookie season earning $930k in 2017. He’s under contract until 2021 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. He showed that he could be a big part of Tampa’s secondary in the future. He’s set to make $1.8m in 2018.

Isaiah Johnson: 4 tackles; under contract (no cap hit)

The 25-year old spent much of 2017 on the Bucs practice squad before being activated to the 53-man roster late in the season. He’s set to make $555k in 2018 if he makes the final 53-man roster and he’ll be an exclusive rights free agent in 2019.

T.J. Ward: 43 tackles; UFA

The 31-year old veteran safety signed with the Bucs in the beginning of the season and never quite panned out. He played in 12 games in 2017 earning a quick $4.625m as a part-time player. Between his lackluster play and his complaining about the way Mike Smith used him, I doubt that he returns to Tampa next season especially being an unrestricted free agent.

Keith Tandy: 26 tackles; UFA

The 28-year old veteran had another solid year making $840k in 2017. He is now an unrestricted free agent and I think the Bucs would like him back if they can do it at the right price.

Chris Conte: 77 tackles, 1 interception; under contract (no cap hit)

The 29-year old safety will most likely be back in Tampa next season. There are quite a few Bucs fans that won’t be too thrilled about that, but oh well. As much as some people don’t like him, he’s solid in run support and decent in coverage when he’s not left hanging out to dry by poor cornerback play. He’s under contract until 2019 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. He made $2.875m in 2017 and is set to make another $2.375m in 2018. However, should the Bucs decide to move on from him for some reason, there are no salary cap repercussions.

 

Where the Bucs offense is sitting pretty going into next season, the defense is in the exact opposite position. There is a ton of work to be done to fill this roster on that side of the ball. The d-line is a disaster and the secondary is a big question mark. The linebacking corps is the strength of this defense with the three young starting studs and some decent reserves. Jason Licht will have both free agency and the draft to fill all their holes. Defensive end is a must. A defensive tackle to replace Baker. A cornerback to possibly replace Grimes. Another safety to replace Ward. Should the Bucs decide to blow up the d-line and start over, they could create almost $17.5 million in cap space by releasing Gholston, Baker and Ayers. In any case, there will be “holes o’plenty” to address this offseason so the Bucs front office will be busy. In the next installment of my offseason series, I will take a look at the free agent market for the Bucs positions of need. Until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!

 

 

Jon Hinkle

Jon Hinkle

My name is Jon Hinkle, also know as Deez Bucz to most Buccaneers fans. I have been given the opportunity by WhatTheBuc.net to do some writing about one of my favorite subjects...Buccaneer football and all that goes with it. This is my first public writing gig, so I'm hoping that I can entertain the fine fans of Tampa Bay while learning and gaining experience towards a possible new career in sports reporting. I hope everyone enjoys the fruits of my labor and I look forward to bringing some new and exciting stories to Bucs Nation! And as always.....GO BUCS!!!

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