The Bucs fall to division rivals New Orleans in the Superdome - 11/6/2011
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday October 16.
Ntohing beats a win in on national TV in front of a sold out crowd!
By Tom Krasniqi
This is part two of our free agency preview for the Buccaneers. As you know, the Bucs defense was enigmatic in 2012. They were tops in the NFL against the run and dead last in pass defense. With plenty of money to spend, the team will address the pass defense through free agency and the draft.
Let’s take a look at each position to break down where the Bucs need help:
Defensive line: Gerald McCoy finally stayed healthy for 16 games and it showed. He was disruptive throughout the season and made his first Pro Bowl. Nose tackle Roy Miller had just 24 tackles but he did a good job of occupying blockers to allow McCoy and the linebackers to make plays. Miller is an unrestricted free agent and will be allowed to test the market after talks broke off with the team last week. Because Miller was a two-down player who can’t rush the passer, the Bucs believe they can find better options through free agency. One name to watch is Terrence Knighton, who’s a 335-pound mammoth who can swallow up blockers and provide some push up the middle. Another possibility is Kevin Vickerson (6-5, 325lbs) from Denver. At DE, the Bucs believe Adrian Clayborn will rebound from a serious knee injury. The team is also high on Da’Quan Bowers, provided that he beats the gun charge in New York and team officials believe he will be exonerated. So, where does that leave Michael Bennett? He’s an unrestricted free agent coming off the best season of his career. Bennett recorded 9 sacks and played really well against the run. His agent is Drew Rosenhaus so you know the asking price is sky high. The Bucs would like to re-sign Bennett, but at their price. If Bennett walks, look for the team to pursue a second tier DE through free agency. William Hayes of the Rams is an interesting option. He had 7 sacks last season and would fit nicely as a third passing rushing option behind Clayborn and Bowers. Israel Idonije is undersized at 275 pounds, but he’s a versatile guy who can rush the passer from the edge and can slide inside on passing downs. Paul Kruger was a key cog for the Ravens in their Super Bowl run but will likely command more than $9-million per season and is more of a 3-4 OLB. One thing is for certain: the Bucs must improve their pass rush in order to alleviate pressure from their secondary. Tampa Bay had just 27 sacks last season, tied for third worst in the NFL.
Linebacker: The Bucs are set at WLB with LaVonte David, who had a spectacular rookie season. Mason Foster settled in nicely at MLB. The team will be searching for a SLB after the serious injury suffered by Quincy Black in the Chargers game. He’s scheduled to make $5.5-million in 2013 and will be released at some point. Adam Hayward filled in admirably but the team views him as more a reserve/special teams demon. Ditto Dekoda Watson and Najee Goode. One name to watch is Jaguars free agent Darryl Smith, who was bothered by a groin injury for most of last season. Back in 2011, he had a terrific season with over 100 tackles, 3.5 sacks to go along with one interception and two forced fumbles. He would be an ideal fit but he will have plenty of suitors, including the Giants and possibly the Bears. Justin Durant and Phillip Wheeler are solid SLB options as well. Keith Rivers could be an under-the-radar option. The team has to add some depth as well.
Secondary: Boy, where do we start? This unit was a disaster in pass coverage. The lack of a consistent pass rush also doomed this unit. The Bucs gave up an average of 297 yards passing last season and surrendered 30 touchdown passes. Aqib Talib and Eric Wright were the starting cornerbacks to open the 2012 season. Talib was suspended for Adderall use, then traded to New England before the deadline. Wright was also suspended for using Adderall and will be released at some point now that his guaranteed money has been voided. E.J. Biggers, Danny Gorrer and Leonard Johnson were exposed repeatedly in coverage. As you might imagine, CB will be the most pressing need for the Bucs this offseason. They’re in luck because there’s quality and quantity when it comes to cornerbacks in free agency as well as the draft. Expect the Bucs to make a serious push for Derek Cox of the Jaguars. The new Bucs secondary coach is Tony Oden, who spent last season in Jacksonville as the DB’s coach. Cox is the type of corner the Bucs are looking for: He’s young (26) and big (6-1, 190lbs). He has the ability to play in press coverage and is a good tackler. He had 16 tackles in one game against the Texans last season and had 4 interceptions on the season. One knock on Cox is his durability. He’s missed 17 games to injury over the last three years. Sean Smith is also a big, young CB who will have plenty of teams chasing him. The same goes for Cary Williams of Baltimore and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie of Philadelphia. Brent Grimes is intriguing, but he’s on the small side and coming off a torn Achilles injury. Keenan Lewis of Pittsburgh is also a solid corner. The Bucs will sign at least one CB in free agency and will also look to draft at least one as well. Mark Barron had his ups and downs during his rookie season, but the team loves his physical style. The big question is: Will Ronde Barber return? The team is likely to meet with Barber soon in order to gauge his interest. Even if Barber returns, the Bucs could use an athletic, playmaking free safety and Dashon Goldson would be a perfect fit. He too will attract plenty of attention and will likely demand in excess of $7-million per season. If his knee checks out, Detroit’s Louis Delmas may be considered. The Bucs may also use the draft to get themselves a safety.