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Cornerback Bryce Hall could play a significant role in Bucs secondary

TAMPA — Bryce Hall may be one of the more overlooked and underrated additions to the Bucs this season. The free-agent cornerback from the Jets is a smart guy with an edge who may just need some time to adapt to head coach Todd Bowles’ defense.

“He’s a very intelligent player, doesn’t make the same mistakes twice,” Bowles said. “He’s a bookworm, and he brings it to the field every day. You’re not going to beat him mentally. Physically, he’s been where he’s supposed to be right now. It’ll be great to see him in pads, but he’s doing an excellent job.”

The Bucs’ decision to trade Carlton Davis to the Lions was evidence of their confidence in cornerback Zyon McCollum. But depth at that position is hard to come by, and Hall could become a valuable piece considering the injury history of Jamel Dean, who missed eight games over the past three seasons.

“You can never have enough corners,” Bowles said, “I wish I had five of them.”

What the Bucs are getting in Hall is a guy who played on arguably the best defense in the NFL with the Jets, though it was a totally different style and scheme than Bowles deploys.

Hall’s only season as a full-time starter came in 2021, when he had 79 tackles and 16 passes defensed.

“I would say here it’s cool, because there’s so many different opportunities to make plays, create confusion on the quarterback and have an opportunity to get your hands on some footballs,” Hall said. “And also, you see (Bowles) has been coaching this defense for years. They won a Super Bowl, so you know this defense has the ability to be very, very good.”

Hall said he’s looking forward to a new opportunity with the Bucs.

“I get to play, do different things, so I’m grateful to be a part of this defense; it’s cool for me,” he said. “It’s just different philosophies, different styles, but it doesn’t mean both can’t be good. You see in New York they’ve been doing really good stuff for years, they’ve been on that caliber-level for a long time. For me, it’s just fun, it’s cool, I get to learn something different. It keeps it fresh for me.”

Hall will be the primary backup at both cornerback spots but also could get in the mix at nickel back with Christian Izien and rookie Tykee Smith. Hall played only 5% of the Jets’ defensive snaps in 2022 and 22% last season.

Despite the competition in the defensive backs room, Hall said the Bucs gave him a warm welcome.

“That was the first thing when I set foot in the building is, it was like family,” he said. “Everybody was super-close, everybody was just super-friendly. I just felt like it was family right away. Everybody jokes around with each other. It’s like you’ve got brothers in the locker room, it’s like being at home. I’ve got five older brothers, so it feels like I’m another brother when I came in here. So, I thought that was special.”

Hall forged a fast friendship with McCollum, arguably his biggest competitor.

“That’s my guy,” Hall said. “He’s such a great dude. Just watching him, I’m learning a lot from him. Just how he’s built, how explosive, fast, athletic, he does a lot of really good things. Then, off the field he’s super-friendly, super-cool. That’s how it is with everybody here, I feel like.

“Even though there’s a spot for me personally, I feel like I’m my biggest competitor. I can’t control what anybody else does or anything like that. Just how I come to work every day, the energy I carry. As we do good individually, that’s going to make the team better. So, it’s nothing but love.”

Mini-drama

One of the few sticky situations for the Bucs entering next week’s mandatory minicamp is the somewhat unresolved contract situation with left tackle Tristan Wirfs.

Wirfs is set to play under the club’s fifth-year option of $18.2 million but obviously wants an extension. The Bucs would like that, too.

But timing is everything. Wirfs has not done any field work during voluntary offseason workouts, but if he chose not to report to minicamp Tuesday, he would be subject to $101,716 in fines for missing all three days.

The Bucs faced the same situation a year ago with Devin White, who reported to minicamp but agreed not to work out.

“Those things have a way of sorting (themselves) out,” Bowles said last week. “I don’t worry about that right now. I understand it’s the business part of it, and we’ll go from there.”

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