Buccaneers are free agency winners once again

Jeff Gross

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were active in free agency, but can we really call them winners?

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the winners of the 2014 NFL free agency period, according to SB Nation's Jason Chilton. No other team improved itself as much as the Bucs did, supposedly.

The 2013 Chiefs showed the impact that simple competence at QB can have on a team's fortunes, and the Bucs will look for a similar resurgence with the arrival of Josh McCown. While Mike Glennon wasn't a disgrace and McCown won't find things as easy without Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey on hand, he still represents a significant upgrade. And he's not alone - Tampa Bay took a step up at left tackle (Anthony Collins replacing Donald Penn) and center (Evan Dietrich-Smith replacing Jeremy Zuttah) while bolstering the D with high-end pass rusher in Michael Johnson and a quality run-stuffer in Clinton McDonald. New corner Alterraun Verner isn't the equal of Darrelle Revis, but Verner's talent should at least let him approximate the impact of the mis-deployed Revis that Tampa fielded last season.

It's true that the Buccaneers were very, very active in free agency, but it's fair to ask how much better they are. Alterraun Verner, Clinton McDonald and Michael Johnson are terrific additions, but do they weigh up against the loss of Darrelle Revis -- still one of the best overall defensive players in the NFL. Anthony Collins and Evan Dietrich-Smith are solid players, but the team also lost Jeremy Zuttah, Donald Penn, Ted Larsen and Davin Joseph, and the interior offensive line is a mess.

Meanwhile, the skill positions were barely addressed. Brandon Myers looks like just a guy to me, at tight end. Of course, that's better than what the Bucs had, but it's hardly the kind of move that's going to help. With Mike Williams still on somewhat thin ice, Vincent Jackson's the only reliable pass catcher on the roster.

The Bucs were active, but there are too many question marks to truly call them winners. Every single free agent had some question marks: Michael Johnson's lack of sacks, Alterraun Verner's ability to play man coverage, Clinton McDonald's ability to hold up as an every-down nose tackle, Anthony Collins' run-blocking and durability, Evan Dietrich-Smith's value.

These were not slam-dunk signings the way Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks were. Not even the way Dashon Goldson was. Of course, the subsequent problems Goldson and Nicks faced may make you doubt the value of such slam-dunk signings. But at least those players had played at a high level, consistently over many years before signing with the Bucs. We'll have to wait and see whether  these free agents can help the Bucs build a better team, or whether we'll have forgotten all about them in two years' time.

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