3 Bucs needs after the first wave of free agency
With the first wave of free agency winding down, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers now have a much clearer view of the holes across the roster. Despite entering free agency $56 million over the salary cap, the Bucs are not in as bad of shape as their early cap deficit would have suggested.
The journey to cap compliance led to a number of roster casualties. The Bucs lost left tackle Donovan Smith, right guard Shaq Mason, defensive tackle Rakeem Nunez-Roches and most recently, safety Mike Edwards. They also cut running back Leonard Fournette and tight end Cameron Brate after the start of the league year.
These moves helped the Bucs retain key players like cornerback Jamel Dean and linebacker Lavonte David while picking up quarterback Baker Mayfield, all of whom are potential starters.
These moves and trade-offs begin to paint a picture of what the Bucs plan to do to build the roster over the rest of the offseason.
Here are three needs the Bucs still have after the start of free agency:
(AP Photo/Jason Behnken)
While Donovan Smith had a down year in 2022, he was a reliable left tackle for the better part of a decade. Replacing him will either require a change of position for right tackle Tristan Wirfs or an investment of draft capital. In either case, the Bucs have a starting tackle to add to the roster.
Smith’s release was accompanied by notions of moving Wirfs to the left side. The All-Pro tackle is due for a major extension and a move to left tackle could make him even more money and squeeze even more value out of having an elite lineman.
The problem is moving from right tackle to left is not just a change in where a player lines up. It requires a total change in movement patterns and mechanics. An elite right tackle might just be an okay left tackle, especially right after the switch.
The Bucs don’t really have the cap space to sign another starting-caliber left tackle. Their only remaining alternative is to draft one.
Fortunately, the Bucs are in a position to draft some of the better prospects in this year’s draft. Georgia OT Broderick Jones, Oklahoma OT Anton Harrison and Tennessee OT Darnell Wright are viable options when the Bucs are on the clock with the 19th-overall pick.
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
The Bucs currently only have one safety under contract: Antoine Winfield Jr. With Mike Edwards signing in Kansas City, the need to address the safety position is greater than ever.
With only one safety on the roster, the Bucs will have little choice but to sign at least one free agent to help fill the position. The Bucs could bring back Logan Ryan or Keanu Neal, but neither are really starting material at this point in their careers. They could also reach out to former Bucs safeties Andrew Adams and Justin Evans, both of whom played under veteran minimum salaries last season and are still free agents.
It is likely the Bucs will also address the position in the NFL draft. Their top target would likely be Alabama S Brian Branch, who has a versatile skill set that can be deployed across the secondary.
The Bucs could also target prospects later in the draft. Texas A&M safety Antonio Johnson, Illinois S Sydney Brown and Florida State safety Jammie Robinson are all options for the Bucs during Day 2 of the draft.
(AP Photo/Rich Schultz)
While the Bucs have the centerpiece of their defensive line in Vita Vea, they lack the pieces necessary for an effective line rotation. Aside from second-year DT Logan Hall, the Bucs are losing all of their other players in the defensive interior.
As with all their other holes, the Bucs are limited in addressing the defensive tackle position in free agency. They likely will not have the cap space to re-sign the likes of Akiem Hicks or William Gholston.
One player they could bring back is Deadrin Senat. While he does not bring much as pass rusher, he is a hard guy to move in the run game.
In the draft, the Bucs could look for a mix of big bodies and athletic pass-rushers to bolster the line. Baylor defensive tackle Siaki Ika, Wisconsin defensive tackle Keeanu Benton and Wake Forest defensive tackle Kobie Turner could all be in play for Tampa to restock the defensive line.