The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had some pretty high expectations going into this past season, even with a new head coach and a lot of young blood on the team. This is a very talented group which added a couple of big money free agents, including Vincent Jackson, who led the team in receiving. They got a really rude awakening though when their top two offensive linemen Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph hit injured reserve, along with 2011 first round pick Adrian Clayborn.
The Bucs finished last season dead last in the NFL in pass defense, and even though they finished 1st in the league against the run, that didn’t stop teams from throwing all them, even though it was the only way to get yardage. They traded Aqib Talib to the Patriots and rid themselves of a distraction, but they only had 27 sacks and finished the year with 18 total interceptions.
Here are my top needs for the Tampa Bay Bucs, in no particular order.
Without question, this is the Bucs’ top need. After trading Aqib Talib, the cupboard was left pretty bare. Ronde Barber moved to safety, E.J. Biggers is a free agent, and Eric Wright appears to have been a bust as a big free agent signing. Rookie Leonard Johnson was something of a bright spot after going undrafted out of Iowa State, picking off three passes and returning one for a touchdown, but I still think this is an area the Bucs can look to in the first round.
2. Defensive Tackle
Roy Miller is a free agent, and while Gerald McCoy is certainly one of the best DTs in the league when healthy, he has had some problems with injuries since he’s been in the league. There is not much to speak of outside of those guys on the Buccaneers’ roster at the defensive tackle position. This is a sleeper first round option for the Bucs.
3. Tight End
Dallas Clark played well after a slow start last season, catching 47 passes for 435 yards and four touchdowns. However, he is a free agent this year and his backup–Luke Stocker–has just 28 receptions in two NFL seasons after the Bucs used a fourth round selection on him two years ago. I don’t know if this will be a huge area of priority this offseason, but it’s certainly an area this team will consider.
4. Backup QB
The Buccaneers are entering into a really important season. Josh Freeman is in a contract year, and he’s struggled to be consistent in his first few NFL seasons. There have been times when the Bucs offense looks dominant, and other times when it goes stale. Will the Bucs look to this year’s draft for a potential replacement for Freeman if he struggles again? Will they simply upgrade the backup QB situation? This will be a storyline to follow closely.
5. Outside Linebacker
Quincy Black could be upgraded at the outside linebacker position, I think. The former third round pick has been solid at times throughout his career, but I think the Bucs need a guy who can come in and perhaps not only play SAM linebacker, but rush the quarterback and make an impact blitzing. This is a really important position on any team, and the Bucs should look into getting a guy who can maybe play a sort of hybrid role.
6. Wide Receiver Competition
Vincent Jackson is over 30 years old, and Mike Williams fits great in his role as the #2 receiver. Arrellious Benn has been a huge bust, and while Tiquan Underwood showed some promise last year, I still think the Bucs could look to potentially add another playmaker this offseason, someone who can maybe take Benn’s roster spot or upgrade their slot receiver situation. Either way, potentially a veteran free agent or mid-late round selection here.