TAMPA FL - DECEMBER 19: Safety John Wendling #29 of the Detroit Lions tackles quarterback Josh Freeman #5 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the game at Raymond James Stadium on December 19 2010 in Tampa Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
Matt Williamson of ESPN has been grading every team's offseason, and one of those teams is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Yeah, I'm as shocked as you are that the Bucs are still considered part of the NFL by ESPN. Anyway, he gave the Bucs a B+. Why not an A? Well, I'm not sure, actually. He doesn't really give a reason for it, other than that there are some holes left to fill. That's obviously true, but you can't expect miracles in one offseason, can you?
The Bucs are going to get back to basics, which mean a heavy dose of the running game. Rookie Doug Martin should be instant contributor, and Nicks should help pave the way for this running game, while also improving the line to help Josh Freeman take shots deep to Jackson -- often off play-action -- when defenses are keying on the run. Also, while Luke Stocker should be taking over as the every-down tight end, the difference between Winslow and Clark is minimal if health isn't an issue. Both can still exploit most linebackers in coverage, but they aren't what they once were in this capacity. The difference is that Clark, like Nicks and Jackson, has won a lot of football games at this level -- and that is especially important to such a young club that has shown immaturity in the very recent past. This offense should be vastly improved.
While I like rookies Mark Barron and Lavonte David quite a bit, I still have major questions about the defensive side of the ball. Okoye and Gilberry are under-the-radar signings that could pay off, especially on passing downs, but it's still hard to know what Tampa Bay has in Gerald McCoy and Brian Price. Can they stay on the field?
Overall, Tampa Bay got noticeably better this offseason, but to me, this rebuilding project is more than a one-year project. A year from now, the Bucs could a contender. But Tampa Bay must get Freeman back on track. He has the potential to be a top QB in the league and he is clearly the key to Tampa Bay's future. By the offseason moves, it looks like the front office and Schiano recognize that.