The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have many positions that need to be filled this offseason, both on offense and defense.
With the draft upcoming in May, the Bucs can fill some of those needs, but the problem with the draft is that college players don’t always live up to the hype. This is where free agency comes into play. Free agents can sometimes be a better pickup than a hotshot college draft.
The top needs for the Bucs this year are offensive linemen, defensive linemen, slot receiver, and tight end. The free agent market this year includes a plethora of offensive and defensive linemen that the Bucs can take advantage of.
Lets start with some of the top defensive linemen on the free agency market that the Bucs could possibly ink to a deal:
-Michael Bennett is a name that many Tampa Bay fans are familiar with. Bennett played in Tampa from 2009 until 2012 when he became a free agent. In his last year in Tampa he had nine sacks, three forced fumbles, and 34 tackles. Last year, Bennett had 8.5 sacks, one forced fumble and fumble recovery, and nine tackles for loss. Could Bennett end up back in the red and black uniform? It would be a smart move for the Bucs.
-Michael Johnson had a career high 11.5 sacks for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2012, but in 2013 his production fell off as he only managed 3.5 sacks. The lack of production could be attributed to the fact that Bengals defender Geno Atkins was injured for part of the season. Johnson could be a good fit for Tampa Bay, but some wonder if he will be able to produce 2012 numbers once again.
-Lamar Houston is a force to be reckoned with, and the Bucs could use him at either the defensive end or OLB position. Houston excels at stopping the run by his ability to attack the ball carrier. A lot of teams will be bidding for Houston, It would be a major pickup for Tampa to grab the former Texas star.
– Linval Joseph racked up nine sacks and 17 tackles for loss in his past 47 games for the New York Giants. Jospeh is only 25-years-old and with the right supporting cast, could be a Buccaneer favorite by the end of the year.
Now another major position that needs to be filled is offensive linemen. In order for Mike Glennon to succeed in Tampa, he will need time to develop the play. Some of the best offensive linemen free agents include:
-Eugene Monroe made all but four starts while with Jacksonville, and was traded to Baltimore last season where he further showed his ability as an outstanding lineman. Monroe has great pass blocking ability, which would certainly help the Bucs, the biggest problem is how much will he cost.
-Brandon Albert is also a pass blocking machine, and is a season veteran in the NFL. Albert’s biggest letdown is not being able to stay healthy. Tampa should make an offer to pick up a great blocker, but should be warned of the potential missed time.
-Jared Veldheer was a monster for the Oakland Raiders, not missing a game in three seasons and surrendering only 15.5 sacks in that time frame. The 2013 season was not as friendly to Veldheer as he underwent shoulder surgery and missed most of the season. It would be a big risk for Tampa to pursue Veldheer coming back from injury, but if he comes back to previous form it could be scary for the rest of the NFC South.
-Geoff Schwartz was a big time player for Carolina in 2010, but since then hasn’t shown much production until last year when he stepped in after an injury took out a starting player. Schwartz showed his old self for the Chiefs and started in every game for the remainder of the season. It would be a huge risk signing Schwartz as he could easily slip back into he lackluster ways but if he brings his best to the table, Tampa could really benefit with his play.
Last thing that the Bucs need to address is a target for Glennon to throw to. The Bucs have Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams (for the moment) but could really use an elite slot receiver or a tight end. This is where it could get tricky due to the slim amount of elite tight ends in the game today, and the even slimmer amount that are free agents. A few tight ends and receivers the Bucs could consider are:
-Eric Decker was apart of the high octane Broncos offense in 2013, catching eleven touchdowns and racking up almost 1,300 yards. His biggest game of the year came against Kansas City as he hauled in four touchdown passes and 174 yards. As impressive as his numbers are, Decker reportedly wants top receiver money, and it seems like no one thinks he is worth it. If the Bucs can convince him to take less than he thinks he is worth, it might work bringing him to town but don’t count on it being that simple.
-Golden Tate was a factor for the Super Bowl winning Seattle Seahawks, but his attitude could be something that the Buccaneers organization just doesn’t want to mess with. He can have a bad attitude on the field showboating on occasion, which can cost a team. However Tate is good at picking up yards after the catch, and is a great punt returner. If Tampa can straighten out his attitude, he could be a big contributor.
-Jermichael Finley had two good seasons for the Green Bay Packers from 2011 to 2012 with 1,434 yards receiving and ten touchdowns. In 2013, Finley suffered a scary season-ending neck injury, and now it could be a gamble to sign him. Finley is expected to be 100 percent by the start of the season, but could be one hit away from ending his career. The other negative about Finley is he just isn’t motivated at times, and this can be frustrating for teams. It would be a big risk by the Buccaneers to sign Finley to a deal.
With the amount of talented linemen that are available through free agency, the Bucs should focus on signing some of the previously mentioned players and then focus on the draft for the other positions. With the seventh overall pick in this years draft, the Bucs could draft a high caliber receiver, such as Sammy Watkins from Clemson, to play in the slot position and then focus on picking up a tight end or quarterback in the second and fourth rounds.