Draft needs are one thing. There's also the need for veteran skills available through the Free Agency market.
I'm not yet saying who exactly the Bucs should pursue in Free Agency and the Draft - we need to see what the draft board is gonna look like, and who's not going to be franchised or restricted in FA. This is merely a list of need by position on offense (I'll post one for the defense - CORNERBACK MOTHERSMURFERS - later)
Quarterback: Yes. Josh Freeman has his issues. His positives - when playing to his strengths he's very good, he's still incredibly young for a 4th year vet, he hasn't been caught using Adderall - outweigh his negatives - forces throws, fixes his field vision, overthrows receivers. Question is, would we rather have, oh, Kevin Kolb or Tony Romo or Ryan Fitzpatrick? Problem is, there's not really a lot of options out there to replace him: Free Agency market outside of Joe Flacco at QB looks pitiful, and Flacco's doomed to be franchised if Baltimore has any sense; and the draft in 2013 doesn't have any QBs coming out that makes anyone go "Next RG3, Next Luck, Next Cam Newton," not even a guy who makes scouts go "Next Josh Freeman." The worrisome part is also "what if we give up on Freeman too soon?" Examples include the Niners' Alex Smith, someone who walked the edge of the knife for 5 years until having a breakout career under the right coaching.
Freeman's under contract for one more year. 2013 could be used as a final exam: pass well - literally - and you get a good long contract as franchise QB.
The backup situation, therefore, is the real issue: who do we want at the No.2 spot to take over in case Free tanks it? Draft too high and you get a QB controversy in the worst way. Using a First Round pick on QB given the dire needs elsewhere and you're basically choosing a brand new Franchise Guy, so might as well trade Freeman away.
Free Agency move: none available that makes sense for backup or even replacement as Starter.
Draft need: Middle Round (Fourth or Fifth), depth/development only.
Running Back: DOUG MARTIN IS GOD.
This is all about depth needs here. If Blount goes, we're down to "Wassisname On Third Down" Guy. Blount did not impress the coaches in 2012, bad enough that he was practically uncalled for games where a power running game made perfect sense. And the times he was out there, he fumbled or failed to ramble off the big gains he accomplished in 2010 and parts of 2011. So he's practically gone, and I doubt the Bucs can trade him off-season.
This means looking at the Free Agency market for a solid veteran (28-29ish) to work as the change-of-pace RB. Fellow draftee Michael Smith from 2012 may still be on the roster, but he should have been more for special teams and stuff: kinda surprised he was inactive so long...
Free Agency move: Say some sad farewells to LeGarrette Blount, then find a powerback veteran if one can be had on the cheap.
Draft need: Very low.
Fullback: Erik Lorig Is BLOCKING FOR GOD.
Seriously, when was the last time in the whole league did getting a fullback meant anything?
Free Agency move: not needed
Draft need: undrafted FA most likely.
Wide Receiver: We're good. We're too good. We're so good with Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams as the starters that I'm afraid Karma is gonna hit us on the rebound something awful.
Depth-wise we're okay but not outstanding. Tiquan Underwood as the No.3 receiver has his good days and bad, still way too inconsistent. Arrelious Benn hasn't panned out and could face the Turk's wrath this off-season. I'm not sure who else the Bucs still have at WR, so working the FA market for a reliable veteran backup might be a good idea. Not sure what the draft depth is like, but considering higher needs elsewhere I wouldn't count on it.
Free Agency move: Cutting Benn and shopping for a solid backup
Draft need: Very low (Sixth or Seventh Round)
Tight End: Dallas Clark may well re-test the FA waters and move on. Luke Stocker had some good games but not enough to impress as a full-time starter. So going after a reliable pass-catching/run-blocking TE is up there on the Must-Get List for the team.
Question is, how deep is the Tight End FA market this off-season? Drafting a Tight End may have to wait for the Bucs well into the Second or Third (or even Fourth) Round, at which point you're pretty much drafting another Luke Stocker (Fourth Rounder). If the Bucs are serious about getting a quality TE, it'll have to be in the Second Round, or maybe even in the First Round... but doing that causes serious concerns about other draft needs (CB DAMMIT CB).
Free Agency move: Likely, unless Clark signs on for another year.
Draft need: High (First to Third Rounds)
Offensive Tackle: Been beating the drums for a good while about getting rid of Jeremy Trueblood, and there's every sign that the penalty-plagued fiend of a Right Tackle may well be gone this off-season.
Getting Offensive Tackles in FA is a risky situation: a good OT NEVER gets cut or overlooked by teams, so finding one on the market is like finding polished silver on the sidewalk. Odds are, the Tackle available isn't the Left Tackle - the one needed to protect the QB's back - so finding a Right Tackle would be the best value the Bucs are looking for anyway. Still, it just can't be any ROT left out on the market, and the price could get higher than the Bucs can afford...
There's always getting fresh talent off the Draft boards. Right Tackles are rarely taken First Round, so waiting until the Second or Third to get a good ROT type blocker frees up using the First or Second round picks on higher needed positions. A good draft would be getting a starting CB in the First, a starting TE in the Second, and a decent ROT that can challenge for the starting job in the Third.
Free Agency move: Difficult, OTs don't come cheap.
Draft Need: Above Middle (Second or Third Round)
Offensive Guard: What hurt the Bucs in 2012 was losing both starting Guards - Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks - to season-long injuries. The team had the depth to fill those gaps, but the play wasn't that consistent and performance noticeably dropped during the 5-game-long losing streak to close out the year.
Depth is the major need here. Doubtful the Bucs would want to use Free Agency to sign up yet another Guard and put too much money into one roster spot like this. Questionable the Bucs can find a spot among their many draft needs to secure a bona fide backup type for G. Really depends on the depth of the draft pool for Tackle/Guards.
Free Agency move: Given the contracts already handed out to Joseph and Nicks, probably not.
Draft need: Low (Fifth or Sixth Round, if at that)
Center: The Bucs have been one of those teams that take their Guard backups and teach them how to hike the ball, meaning the team hasn't drafted or signed a pure Center in some time, not since Jeff Faine. I'm not sure the current Schiano regime will change that habit this off-season. It all depends on if the Center drafting pool is deeper than the Guards' pool.
Free Agency move: unlikely
Draft need: Very Low
Kicker: Connor Barth is doing very well thank you for asking. Drafting a kicker is verboten in my book at this point in time.
Free Agency move: nah
Draft need: NO
Next up: the Cornerbacks. More Cornerbacks. A SH-TLOAD OF CBs.
And maybe a DT NOOOOOOO MORE CORNERS DAMMIT.
Which Need Is Higher on Offense in the upcoming 2013 Rookie Draft?
Quarterback (1 vote)
Fullback (0 votes)
Tight End (19 votes)
Offensive Tackle (9 votes)
Offensive Guard (2 votes)
31 total votes