Tampa Bay Buccaneers preview
FILE PHOTO: Mar 18, 2020; Tampa, Florida, USA;A Tampa Bay Buccaneers flag waves at AdventHealth Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
TEAM DRAFT NEEDS
The Bucs signed four-year veteran Joe Haeg. He has 35 games of starting experience, but he played only 74 offensive snaps as a reserve for the Indianapolis Colts last year. Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs and Louisville’s massive Mekhi Becton (6-foot-7, 364 pounds) could be options at No. 14.
The Bucs haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since Doug Martin in 2015. Ronald Jones has flashed his running ability but has been unable to grab hold of the featured back job as he’s not a strong receiver or pass blocker. Peyton Barber also left in free agency. There are a slew of mid-round options to consider bringing in to push Jones for playing time.
The Bucs brought Ndamukong Suh back on a one-year, $8 million deal. Along with 2018 first-round pick Vita Vea, they helped lead the Bucs’ top-ranked run defense in 2019. Beyond them, there’s not much.
Mike Evans and Chris Godwin make up one of the league’s best starting wideout tandems. There is very little to get excited about behind them as the next leading returning receiver is Justin Watson (15 catches, 159 yards, 2 TDs).
Tom Brady’s two-year, $50 million contract brought an end to the NFL’s biggest offseason drama. There’s no telling how long the soon-to-be 43-year-old will play, but Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Griffin aren’t long-term replacements.
Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul combined for 28 of the team’s 47 sacks. Barrett received a franchise tag and Pierre-Paul was re-signed, but the Bucs must develop some cheaper options.
—FIVE-YEAR DRAFT HISTORY
Jason Licht’s draft record is awfully complicated. He’s found some great middle-round pieces (Ali Marpet, Kwon Alexander, Chris Godwin) but also some major disappointments (Roberto Aguayo, Noah Spence, Vernon Hargreaves, perhaps Ronald Jones) in early rounds. The Bucs’ first-rounders are also perplexing, flashing potential before winding up in the dog house, as epitomized by Jameis Winston and O.J. Howard. It helps that Vita Vea came on in Year 2, but it’s still hard to justify taking a nose tackle 12th overall. After years of looking for defensive backs, Tampa Bay finally appeared to get it right in 2019 with Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean. At the same time, another major investment in a kicker (Matt Gay) looks shaky.
Best pick: WR Chris Godwin, R3 2017 — Marpet deserves mention, too, but Godwin impressed in limited work before erupting as a full-time starter in 2019.
Worst pick: K Roberto Aguayo, R2 2016 — Trading up for a kicker in Round 2 is inexcusable. That Aguayo flopped from the jump makes it one of the biggest draft blunders in recent memory.
TOTAL OFFENSE: 397.9 (3rd)
RUSHING: 95.1 (24th)
PASSING: 302.8 (1st)
TOTAL DEFENSE: 343.9 (15th)
RUSHING: 73.8 (1st)
PASSING: 270.1 (30th)
—Field Level Media