COMMENTARY | Though changes on offense appear subtle by comparison, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dramatically altered the composition of their defense during a busy offseason. Second-year coach Greg Schiano is a defensive-minded leader, so the preference in spending habits is hardly surprising. Yet, nothing created greater need for these moves than the miserable performance in attempting to stop the pass during a disappointing 7-9 campaign last year. Marked by a rebuilt secondary that has fans salivating for improvement, here are five key additions to the Bucs' defense in 2013.
Darrelle Revis, CB
Haunted by an abysmal pass defense, which surrendered an NFL-worst 297.4 passing yards per game in 2012, general manager Mark Dominik wisely realized significant changes were needed to the defensive backfield. No transformation on the entire Bucs' team is likely to prove more impactful than the acquisition of this four-time Pro Bowler. Despite tearing his ACL with the New York Jets last season, Revis did not come cheaply, as Tampa Bay traded this year's first round selection and a 4th round draft pick in 2014 to acquire the disgruntled cornerback.
Possessing substantial flexibility under the new salary cap demands, the club inked the 28 year-old to a mammoth six year, $96 million contract, making Revis the highest paid defensive back in the league. To the Bucs' credit, the mega-deal contains no guaranteed money, which limits long-term liability if the knee injury is more damaged than expected. When healthy, the seventh-year player is the definition of a shutdown corner and fans are rightfully thrilled about "Revis Island" relocating to Tampa Bay. The veteran's abilities will quickly get an appropriate test, when the Bucs open the 2013 season with a road contest against the Jets.
Dashon Goldson, FS
Though the pre-draft trade of Revis formally put the NFC South on notice of Tampa Bay's intent to improve its woeful pass coverage, changes actually began upon the opening of free agency. Just a day after the signing period commenced in March, the Bucs scooped up safety Dashon Goldson, who spent his first six seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. In order to assure the veteran's services, the University of Washington product received a very generous 5 year, $41.25 deal, which includes $22 million of guaranteed money.
Though the Bucs likely overpaid for the two-time Pro Bowler, the 29 year-old is a quality addition to the secondary, and capably compensates for the retirement of Ronde Barber in May. Goldson grabbed 3 interceptions and 53 tackles last year and has posted similar stats since becoming a starter in 2009. One of the NFL's hardest hitters, the extra money will come in handy, as Goldson is no stranger to earning fines for his stinging tackles. Now teamed with last year's first round pick, Mark Barron, the Bucs possess a pair of safeties who can stop the run and the pass with equal tenacity.
Johnthan Banks, CB
Changes to the secondary just kept coming throughout a busy offseason for the Bucs. Even after acquiring Revis and Goldson, the team used its top selection of 2013 to add this highly-regarded cornerback out of Mississippi State. Landed in the second round, with the draft's 43rd overall pick, Banks captured the prestigious Jim Thorpe Award in 2012, as college football's top defensive back. Accumulating a total of 11 interceptions and 3 touchdowns for the Bulldogs, the defender was converted from safety during his sophomore campaign and impressively served as a four-year starter in the SEC.
Based solely on his performance, many expected Banks to be drafted even higher. However, a slow combine time of 4.61 seconds in the 40 yard dash allowed his stock to fall and some question if Banks possesses the necessary speed to thrive at corner. The 23 year-old does offer excellent height at 6'2" and has demonstrated an ability to play physically, which fits the new-look secondary's style nicely. Supporters hope Banks earns the starting corner spot opposite Revis in 2013, but Tampa Bay hedged its bets by retaining veteran Eric Wright to a restructured contract.
Anytime the Bucs can grab a player from the New Orleans Saints, the potential opportunity to watch a new addition shine against a division rival is always intriguing. Departing the Saints after four seasons as a reserve, Casillas was signed to a 1 year, $1.4 million contract in March. The 26 year-old linebacker only accrued 93 career tackles in part-time play, but did compete in Super Bowl XLIV in 2010, where he grabbed a surprising New Orleans onside kick to open the game's second half.
Casillas will likely find a place on special teams, but the University of Wisconsin product should also receive an audition at strongside linebacker for the Bucs, who released the under-performing Quincy Black over the winter. Though typically lining up on the other side for the Saints, second-year player Lavonte David is a tackling machine at the weakside position and will rarely leave the field. Instead, look for Casillas to compete with veterans Adam Hayward and Dekoda Watson for playing time at linebacker.
Akeem Spence, DT
Just as Tampa Bay recognized the demand to overhaul its secondary, the squad's defensive line received a required offseason makeover. Despite enjoying the league's best run stop in 2012, some blame for the Bucs' atrocious pass defense must be assigned up front, as opposing quarterbacks were too comfortable putting the ball into the air. While Michael Bennett and Roy Miller departed via free agency, and new tackle Derek Landri was signed to a 2 year, $3.25 millon deal, it is hoped that the draft most addressed the great needs at defensive line.
Though later selecting defensive ends, William Gholston and Steven Means, the highest chance for an impact on the d-line reside with the draft's 100th overall selection, Akeem Spence. Trading to move up to grab the 22 year-old in the fourth round, the Bucs obviously kept a close eye on this athletic defensive tackle. Spence was a standout for the University of Illinois, where he racked up 213 tackles in three seasons. Those are astounding numbers for a 307 pound tackle. If Spence's physical abilities can create a pass rush from the middle of the line, he could be the ideal complement for 2012 Pro Bowler, Gerald McCoy.
More by Jeff Briscoe from Yahoo! Contributor Network:
Jeff Briscoe is a writer who covers sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. A loyal Tampa Bay Bucs fan, he co-hosts the Florida-based radio show, The Sports Train.
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- Darrelle Revis
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- Dashon Goldson