The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a new coach, a new GM, and have spread a new sense of optimism with a lot of fans, who believe the team is better now than it was under Greg Schiano. And while a change in coaching will certainly help the Bucs take a step forward in the upcoming season, is the roster in better shape than it was under Schiano, Mark Dominik and company?
This series will take a position-by-position look at the roster in Tampa Bay, and consider if the Bucs are better off now than they were just under a year ago at this time. (For consistency purposes, I have used the OurLads 2013 depth chart from June 1st, 2013 as a basis for last year's roster.)
We finish the position previews today with the safeties.
Then Versus Now
At this time last year, this is what the safety depth chart looked like:
Goldson was the big money addition to the defense, and combined with Darrelle Revis to begin the "No Fly Zone" era in Tampa. Mark Barron was seen as slightly disappointing but improving, and figured to be better with Revis in town.
A year later, the depth chart has some striking similarities:
Not much changed over the offseason, as veteran Ahmad Black was replaced by veteran Major Wright, and Cody Grimm was replaced by midseason pickup Kelcie McCray.
Barron improved in some ways in 2013, but he hasn't lived up to his draft position quite yet, while Goldson didn't live up to his contract at all in 2013, providing more frustration than excitement.
But there's still plenty of talent and potential at the position, both now and looking ahead.
Well, I say "at the position," but I really mean for Barron. Goldson is in his prime, and is somewhat of a known quantity at this point. Being more familiar with his role and being in a better scheme should help him in 2014, but he's not the long-term free safety for the Buccaneers.
Barron, on the other hand, will have a chance to thrive as the John Lynch in Lovie Smith's defense. Lovie's Chicago teams were known for having pretty poor safety play by the end of his tenure there, mainly due to a lack of talent. But Chris Harris and Mike Brown, among others, were able to stand out and earn plenty of accolades for their play in Smith's Chicago defenses.
So the biggest question as we look ahead is about the free safety spot. We can assume that Goldson isn't going to stick around past the guarantees on his contract, because he's getting paid far too much to not be an elite talent at his position. Will a draft pick replace him, or will Smith opt for a veteran to join the ranks?
Or is the replacement already in house? Major Wright played for Smith in Chicago, and his arrival might be allowing him an in-house audition to take over the role once Goldson is expendable. He was let go from the Bears for a reason, but could Smith rejuvenate his career?
I'd guess no, but adding Wright on the cheap was a smart move all the same, as it provides him a chance to work with the coach who led him to his best seasons as a pro. But he's not a young, promising player anymore, and isn't going to be any more of a "long-term" solution than Goldson would be.
Major Wright is a better backup than anyone on the 2013 depth chart, and for that reason alone, the Bucs are better off at safety than they were at this time last year.