The 2009 season is in the books, capped off by a loss to the Falcons to put the Bucs at 3-13. Not exactly a stellar record, but after starting 0-7, 3-13 almost seems like a miracle. For those that watched the Bucs most of the year, we saw a team that was in disarray, that had huge holes at key positions and that seemed to lack the necessary playmakers to compete week in and week out.
Now that the offseason has arrived for Tampa Bay, where do we go from here?
There's no way any one of us can give a complete run down on what the Bucs need to do to fix the issues at hand, but we can highlight a few keypoints of need across the board.
Coaching Staff/Front Office - There seems to be doubt as to whether the fans want Morris back or want to bring in a fresh
chin face. I dont see Morris being let go, but I do see changes being made. For one, we will need a new special teams coach if Bisaccia does indeed leave. Dominik and Morris need to get on the same page and probably would be best served bringing in someone to assist in the interviewing and selecting of coordinators. Seriously.
Quarterback - All reps to Josh Freeman. We probably will pick up a 4-5 year veteran to be the 3rd QB. No biggie. Olson, or whoever is the QB coach will need to spend time with Freeman going over progression, decision making and develop some way to stop throwing the high ball.
Running Back - Have to make a tender offer on Caddy. Probably 2nd round tender. It seems it would be in the Bucsbest interest to bring back all 3 backs (Caddy, Ward, Graham) as the odds of all of them staying healthy are slim to none. Then, get Askew healthy, find a backup FB (Pressley may work) and stay at status quo here. We have other needs, no need to splurge or force moves at RB.
Receiver/Tight End - This is a curious position. We know K2 is set, but I won't be surprised to see Stevens out of here and another blocking TE brought in. We have Gilmore, but could use another physical tight end to offset K2's disastrous blocking. You have to make a decision on Bryant. If both parties agree to a contract, then great, you can focus on a physical #2 receiver (2nd round pick imo) that can catch (sorry Clayton). Your slot guy is Stroughter and your #4 guy is Stovall.
Offensive Line - Get Sears back in playing shape is priority #1. Im sure we bring in some OL depth during the draft (think 4th-5th round). You tender Penn at 1st and3rd round compensation and you start looking for cheap pickups that can play RT and Guard. The OL has to develop some consistency. Either go full speed ahead on zone blocking, or beef up and become road graders. But for the love of everything, please start blocking someone.
Defensive Line - Draft comes into play here. You have to go DL if at all possible in first round. You dump Sims, coach up Miller, and now, you have to shop for a DE. With Wilkerson blowing out his knee, no guarantee he comes back. Kyle Moore showed nothing this season, so you can't rely on him. There are some viable free agents, and a few guys who are tagged, but the cost in terms of draft picks might be too much. We don't need a stud at DE if we go free agent route, but have to upgrade the line across the board.
Linebacker - Until yesterday, I wouldve said stand pat, anddraft for depth late in the process. But Quincy Black looked questionable at best. I still think he can become a good player, but he needs to put it together now. His draft bio read something like this "Raw talent, but physically gifted. Must be coached up" He has the tools, but has no idea how to use them. He got better, but still must improve. And what happened to seeing him rush the passer? Dont think we saw it once. Ruud will be fine at MLB if we stay in the Tampa Two (he racked up 17 tackles on Sunday). Must beef up a bit, but he has the quickness to cover and fits nicely in that scheme. Geno Hayes is a man child, as long as he shows up on time.
Cornerbacks - Ronde, you've been a great player, but the time has come to slide inside to the nickel spot. 2ndor 3rd rounder will have to be spent on the future at CB to team up with Talib. Mack has shown progress but has almost zero instinct it seems on when to play the ball. He may develop into a solid guy, but at this point, you may be better off going draft. We have a few guys on IR who may be able to play and Roberson looked decent when he saw the field.
Safety - Make sure T-Jack stays clean, say goodbye to Flip, and go safety either at 1st (if no DT there) or 2nd round. Sabby is a lost cause it seems. Great for depth, special teams, but his inability to tackle someone and his poor decision making (i.e. bad angles) can't be in our secondary. He was a train wreck. We all know it.
Kicker/Punter - Barth may get a look in camp, but I'm all for competition here. At punter, either bring back Bidwell or find someone not named Dirk Johnson.
There is still a lot to be figured out. With no salary cap (as of this writing) it opens up the door to some interesting possibilities. Remember though, that even without a cap, there will almost certainly be a cap at some point in the future, so while spending like crazy seems like a good idea now, you have to make sure you don't screw yourself 2-3 years down the road. The key is going to be developing the players we have now (Freeman, Stroughter, OL, Miller, Black etc), acquiring a few free agents to plug and play and hitting on 70% of our draft picks.
One thing is for sure, it's gonna be a fun offseason to watch and discuss.