TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS / TEAM NEEDS
Mike Sullivan’s offense will mix a vertical passing game with the strong arm of QB Josh Freeman and a pair of downfield receivers with a power-running game, led by 2012 standout rookie RB Doug Martin. The offense was inconsistent, though, reflecting Freeman’s year. The Bucs should look forward to getting an impressive O-line back and healthy in 2013. Freeman could use another weapon or two.
TOP 3 OFFENSIVE NEEDS
TE — With 33-year-old Dallas Clark heading to free agency, and Luke Stocker being used more as a blocker last season, the Bucs need to find a seam-threat tight end who can be a weapon in the passing game, like they had in years past with Kellen Winslow Jr.
QB — The Bucs are letting Freeman enter 2013 without a new contract — he will have to earn one with his performance. If there is even the slightest thought in the Bucs’ facility that Freeman is not going to be the franchise quarterback, it’s time to draft someone as a Plan B. The Buccaneers could also upgrade at the backup spot, a position currently held by Dan Orlovsky. Finding a rookie quarterback to add to the roster could also apply some pressure to Freeman.
WR — Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams form a solid duo, but Arrelious Benn has been injury-prone, and Tiquan Underwood can’t be relied upon as a No. 3 receiver. Roscoe Parrish and Sammie Stroughter are set to be free agents. The Bucs could add a slot receiver and help the depth.
Bill Sheridan’s defense had the distinction of being first in the league against the run, and last in the league against the pass, good for 29th overall. The secondary has a bright young star in SS Mark Barron, but needs major help at corner and free safety. The 4-3 scheme has talented second- and third-year players in the front seven but still needs depth, especially on the D-line.
TOP 3 DEFENSIVE NEEDS
CB — Since trading Aqib Talib, the Bucs have been without a shutdown corner. Eric Wright played in only 10 games because of injury, and E.J. Biggers is set to enter free agency. The Bucs drafted Leonard Johnson last year, but need a lot of work at this position, especially when considering the fact that Tampa was dead last in the league in passing yards allowed.
FS — It’s unclear if Ronde Barber, who will be a free agent, has played his final NFL game. Even if the 37-year-old returns, the Bucs need to think about that position carefully and find his eventual replacement, assuming it’s not Ahmad Black. Like the corner position, an upgrade here would improve a bad passing defense.
DL — Starting DE Michael Bennett and DT Roy Miller are set to be free agents. There are durability questions about Gerald McCoy. And while Da’Quan Bowers played well down the stretch, it’s no certainty he can stay healthy. This is a position that needs added depth, especially if Bennett and Miller are allowed to walk. Improving the pass rush also would be a help.
2012 DRAFT REWIND
1st round (7): SS Mark Barron / Alabama (GP/GS: 16/16)
1st round (31): RB Doug Martin / Boise State (GP/GS: 16/16)
2nd round (58): WLB Lavonte David / Nebraska (GP/GS: 16/16)
5th round (140): MLB Najee Goode / West Virginia (GP/GS: 3/0)
6th round (174): DB Keith Tandy / West Virginia (GP/GS: 9/0)
7th round (212): RB Michael Smith / Utah State (GP/GS: 1/0)
7th round (233): TE Drake Dunsmore / Northwestern (GP/GS: 0/0)
SUMMARY: Their first three picks guaranteed this would be a successful draft. Each is a building block for the future.