There positives to build on this offseason. There's also a staggering list of needs. In debatable order, the Bucs have holes to fill in the following starting positions:
1 - CB#1
2 - CB#2
3 - Tight End
4 - Right Tackle
5 - Free Safety
6 - DT#3
7 - CB#3
8 - Strong Side LB
9 - Slot Reciever
10 - Tight End #2
With possible issues at:
11.Running back (Michael Smith didn't find the field, and Blunt may be gone)
12.Defensive End (Bowers's status is uncertain)
13.Strong Safety (Grimm has hit IR in 3/3 years)
These are holes at starting positions. Getting 2 corners, a starting tight end, and a right tackle is a tall order already. Even if Ronde comes back, there's a possibility he can't play anymore and is forced to retire during training camp. Somebody needs to be there to replace him either way, and Black is not that guy.
Our depth at DT is scary. We were lucky last year that McCoy and Miller lasted all season, as our depth vanished when Price and Okeye left the team during the preseason. Both DT's have had injury issues. Even if we resign Miller, drafting another DT in the 3rd round would be far from a luxury pick. Otherwise the Bucs will need a quality, 2nd tier free agent who is a servicable starter to play in rotation (what Okeye was supposed to be last year). Those guys typically run a couple million.7-8:
In today's NFL, your third linebacker and cb see about as many snaps, and one can argue the nickelback is more important - a strongside 4-3 linebacker is a system guy and is fairly replaceable. Since our superbowl season, the bucs have changed their SS linebacker every couple years with relatively little difference. Adam Hayward is the servicable and unspectacular guy who can play the role, though promoting him means we need to bring in more depth - preferably someone who can compete with him. Our nickel position should be played by a high draft pick, someone who can take over once a free agent cb's guarantees run out.
Underwood is better used as depth in case an outside reciever goes down, and Stocker was used as little as possible last year. The Bucs need someone to compete for the #2 TE spot. This has athletic but raw 5th round pick written all over it.
I think it's safe to assume atleast one of these needs becomes real. I didn't think DE was a need at all, unless you're a pundit who doesn't follow the team and spits out generic nonsense like "The Bucs need to improve their pass defense, and that starts with a better pass rush. They only had x amount of sacks last year, blah blah blah waste a first rounder on a DE even though you have 3 of them." However if they move on from Bowers or Bennet, that's suddenly a credible need.
I'd like to see the Bucs keep Blunt, though that looks likely he walks in free agency. Alternatively I'd like to see them place a third round tender on him, then trade him for a lesser pick. Either way, we'll need a running back. Or two. Can't remember Smith doing a whole lot.
That makes 6 immediate needs(cb,cb,fs,rt,te,dt) of starting caliber players, and probably about 5-6 needs for quality backups(cb,lb,te,wr, possibly rb,de,or ss). That says nothing for other areas that could use depth - we could always use another offensive lineman or corner.
Starting rookie corners never works, so the Bucs will have to break the bank for free agents. After resigning their own guys and rookies, that doesn't leave a lot of room for splash signings.
addressing 3-4 starting positions and a half dozen other players in the draft is impossible without trading down. We don't have that many picks. We don't have that much money, and you don't build a team with free agents anyway. It might be our best bet to trade back, moving to the back of the first round or even the early second. We have too many needs.
For those of you who each year fall in love with a certain guy in the first round, just stop it. Ask yourself how helpful Clayton, Williams, Joseph, Adams, Talib, and Clayborn were last year. We can't afford to put that many eggs in a single basket. Injuries and busts are going to happen. Then what?
Remember how many of you wanted us to put all our eggs in baskets named Trent Richardson or Luke Kuechly last year? I'd take Lavonte David and Doug Martin over just one of those guys any day. Matter of fact, they've had way more impact than Mark Barron, the second highest drafted guy on this team after Mccoy. Take a moment and think about that.
Trading down could net us one or two mid round picks. I think we have the right players to be great, but their offset by a bunch of holes. We don't need stars. We need to fill all our holes so our current stars can meet their potential. Trading down is the best way to do that. In later years, we can spend high draft picks replacing the guys that don't make it - drafting high to replace a few holes when we have that luxury. We probably won't end up with the next Ronde Barber or John Lynch (both 3rd round picks). But we have enough great players to win. We need to fill the holes that hold the team back. We need good players for them to play next to. We can't afford to go into this season with holes on our roster.
Given the holes we have, we almost definately can't afford to trade up. We probably can't afford not to trade down either.