PRO FOOTBALL

How Do the Bucs Strengthen Their Secondary in 2018?

BUCS ALLOWED 22 PASSING TDS IN 2018. TIED FOR 8TH FEWEST IN NFL

TAMPA, MAR 15, 2018 – In case no one clued you in, welcome to the OFFICIAL START of the 2018 season, as the Free Agency signing period started with several Booms, Bangs, and Thunderclaps.  How else would you describe the contract inked by a mediocre, egocentric quarterback to leave the nation’s capital for a trip to the near frozen tundra of Minnesota, the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”… at a cool $84Million… guaranteed?  Hell, even I would learn how to fish for those numbers.

And the local NFL product, your Tampa Bucs, threw their hat in the ring as well… so to speak.  No, they didn’t need to sign any high-priced free agent quarterback, as they have their own high-priced signal caller with the same number of playoff wins as the aforementioned new QB of the Vikings – zero.

What they DID do in the last several days was to ink several players to contracts / extensions to help said high-priced quarterback AKA Jameis Winston put points on the board (TE Cam Brate, WR Mike Evans), protect his flank (T Demar Dotson) or keep the offense going should he befall injury (backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick).  At least they’re looking after the offense…

So what are the Bucs doing about their defense, especially their pass defense, a part of their team which needs a TREMENDOUS amount of work? I’m glad you asked…

The Bucs picked up the 2018 contract options on defensive backs  Josh Robinson and Chris Conte (CB and S, respectively), along with re-signing S Keith Tandy to a two-year contract and CB Brent Grimes for another year.  Robinson, Conte, Grimes and Tandy accounted for 1/4 of their defensive backs from last year.  Safety T.J. Ward is not anticipated to return in 2018, while cornerback Robert McClain is a free agent who the Bucs have yet shown interest in re-signing to date.  Justin Evans, Vernon Hargreaves, and Ryan Smith are virtual locks to wear Pewter at Ray Jay this year, with Javien Elliott, Maurice Fleming, Isiah Johnson and David Rivers set to compete for roster spots.

There are plenty of defensive backs on the open market should the Bucs look to improve in the D backfield: Cornerbacks E.J. Gaines (Bills), Rashaan Melvin (Colts), Darqueze Dennard (Bengals), Ross Cockrell (Giants) are amongst the best who are under thirty AND don’t have a history of injury.  As for the best Safeties under thirty without injury concerns, the list includes Morgan Burnett (Packers), Kenny Vaccaro (Saints), Tre Boston (Chargers) and Marcus Gilchrist (Texans).  Tyrann Mathieu (Cardinals), a newly freed dynamic playmaker cut on the 14th of March due to a large contract hit, is also available and should be back to 100% following his ACL tear in 2015.

As I speculated in my previous piece here at BCP – Where Do The Bucs Lean in Round 1? https://bigcountypreps.com/where-do-the-bucs-lean-in-round-1/ – Tampa could pull the trigger on such standout cornerback stalwarts such as Joshua Jackson of Iowa, Denzel Ward of Ohio State, Carlton Davis of Auburn, Donte Jackson of LSU, Jaire Alexander of Louisville or Mike Hughes of UCF.  Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick of Alabama is able to switch to corner in the pros should it be warranted.

Besides Fitzpatrick, Derwin James (FSU), Ronnie Harrison (Bama), Justin Reid (Stanford) and Terrell Edmunds (Virginia Tech)  are the best safeties available in this draft, although the Bucs appear pretty loaded at the position following their latest draft in 2017 (Evans) and free-agent signings.

It’s a good bet that at least one of these aforementioned players will be available in either the first or second round for the Bucs (picks #7 and #38 barring trades) in next month’s draft so Tampa has plenty of options to improve their secondary should they see fit early on, let alone with later round sleepers… OR in the coming weeks through free agency during the upcoming phases of ‘Add A Veteran.’

It’ll be a fun few months for the Bucs prior to training camp.

Jay “Captain Jack” Levy, BCP Contributor