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Rod Marinelli expected to be Buccaneers defensive coordinator

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Rod Marinelli should return to Tampa this year -- and that should be a big boost to the Bucs' pass rush, and probably the defense too.

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have a new defensive coordinator soon, according to Pro Football Talk. They're reporting that Rod Marinelli is "expected to become" the Bucs' new defensive coordinator, though they didn't exactly specify who is expecting that.

Marinelli was just kicked out of the playoffs by the Green Bay Packers with his Dallas Cowboys, and his contract with the Cowboys runs out in seven days, according to Pewter Report. Marinelli and Lovie Smith tried to hook up last year, but the Cowboys weren't willing to let Marinelli leave and instead made him defensive coordinator. That contract obstacle now out of the way, he's free to come to Tampa.

This wouldn't be the veteran's coach's first stint in Tampa: he was the team's defensive line coach from 1996 through 2005, serving as the assistant head coach for the final four years of his tenure. He coached players like Warren Sapp, Booger McFarland and Simeon Rice to great heights before become the Lions head coach. He failed there, and his tenure included the only 0-16 season on record in 2008. But he turned to Lovie Smith after that, serving one year as defensive line coach and assistant head coach, and another three as Lovie Smith's defensive coordinator in Chicago, leading some of the best defenses in the NFL.

Marinelli's former players all rave about him, especially former defensive linemen like Stephen White and Warren Sapp. He consistently gets the most out of a pass rush unit, and knows how to scheme a defense, too. This past year, Marinelli did a good job turning the worst defense of 2013 into a respectable unit for 2014, even though his units were hard-hit by injury and arguably lost talent overall.

If the Bucs do hire Marinelli, they'll have to decide what to do with Leslie Frazier. Tampa Bay's current defensive coordinator started off the season horribly, but had the Bucs defense playing well by midseason despite a slew of injuries. Frazier could be demoted to defensive backs coach, or simply let go to seek employment elsewhere -- like, say, with the Cowboys.

If Marinelli does come to Tampa, he may take some free agents with him. Most notably middle linebacker Rolando McClain. The former first-round pick had a very good season in his return to the NFL, and the Bucs have Mason Foster likely leaving in free agency. They could move Danny Lansanah to middle linebacker, but McClain is probably a better fit.