If the Buccaneers can't get a defensive end in the first round of the upcoming draft, they may go after a linebacker. This would make perfect sence: Barrett Ruud, Quincy Black and Adam Hayward are all free agents after 2010 and replacements have to be found. But it's unlikely the Bucs will actually draft a linebacker that high, unless it's a pass rushing specialist who the Bucs could use in place of a defensive end. There are two reasons for this: finding a functional linebacker is relatively easy. Someone who can tackle, drop back and pass rush all with some competence can be had as far back as the 7th round, which is where the Bucs got Dekoda Watson last year. The second reason lies in the Bucs' draft history.
Here's the thing: the Bucs haven't drafted a linebacker in the first round since 1995, when they took Derrick Brooks. The FSU product is in the running for the title of 'Best Buccaneer ever', and should be a first-round Hall of Famer. They only took one linebacker in the second round since 1995 in the form of Barrett Ruud. Opinions vary about the middle linebacker, but I think we can all agree that he hasn't really been a force in the middle. The Bucs have instead relied on late rounds and free agents to fill in as linebackers, despite the tremendous success of Derrick Brooks.
The best-known free agent linebacker is, of course, Hardy Nickerson, a premier middle linebacker who went to 5 well-deserved Pro Bowls as a Buccaneer. His successor was another free agent, out of the CFL this time: Shelton Quarles. Other free agent linebackers to have started for the Bucs since Derrick Brooks was drafted include Lonnie Marts, Rufus Porter, Ian Gold and Cato June, with varying results. The Bucs have also looked to draft picks from the 3rd round and later as well as undrafted free agents. Jamie Duncan and Quincy Black were 3rd-rounders. Al Singleton was a 4th-rounder. Geno Hayes was a 6th rounder. Jeff Gooch and Ryan Nece were undrafted free agents. The Bucs love to use the later rounds of the draft to add linebackers, and aren't too happy drafting linebackers high in the draft. But they do need to add talent to the linebacker corps, and the best way to do that is to draft someone in the first couple of rounds.
Looking at the Bucs' history it's unlikely they decide to draft a linebacker in the first round. Not only is defensive end a much greater need, but they haven't drafted one that high since 1995. But don't discount the possibility entirely, Akeem Ayers should be available at #20, and his pass-rush abilities would certainly be intriguing for the Bucs. In the second round Bruce Carter could be a possibility, a first-round talent who is dropping because of injury. And Martez Wilson is a wildcard here, who could go anywhere from the late first-round to the late-second round and would be a good prospect at MLB for the Bucs. But that's about it for prospects the Bucs could draft in the first two rounds, and there still going to draft any competent pass rusher they can find over a linebacker. Instead the Bucs will have to look at linebacker late in the draft to fill the holes at the position.