Last year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tried to rebuild their roster in one fell swoop, signing multiple premium free agents and churning their roster throughout the year at a rate no other team could match. And as a result, they now have to that all over again.
ESPN's Matt Williamson thinks the Buccaneers have to first find a franchise quarterback, then rebuild their offensive line, improve their pass rush and build up their secondary. In that order.
That's a pretty solid list. It's also pretty daunting. Finding a franchise quarterback has been a priority throughout the Bucs' history, so that's really nothing new. It's something every bad team needs to get fixed, and the Bucs are in position do so -- provided they think either Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota can be the face of their franchise.
More important is what the Bucs do after they find their quarterback. Or perhaps not more important, because nothing is more important in the NFL than having the right quarterback, but certainly the rest should not be neglected. Throwing a rookie quarterback behind last year's offensive line is a recipe for disaster. And without a constant influx of young talent, any team no matter how good will lose an edge -- and bad teams just get worse.
The Bucs are going to have to fix their offensive line. Again. They don't need to overhaul it completely, just as they didn't need to do that last year even though that's exactly what they did. They have a quality tackle in Demar Dotson, who can play on both sides of the line. They have an okay center in Evan Dietrich-Smith. They have an overpaid but starting-capable left guard in Logan Mankins. So they need to fill two positions on the offensive line: tackle, and right guard.
Similarly, the Bucs certainly have to improve their defense. But that won't require massive adjustments: the defense was pretty good towards the end of the year, and they have a promising edge rusher in Jacquies Smith. They'll want to add more talent, but that's not a make-or-break issue, especially if Michael Johnson can improve in his second year -- though Tampa Bay certainly shouldn't rely on that improvement.
I think Williamson oversells the idea that the Bucs must upgrade their secondary, however. I expect them to re-sign Major Wright, who was decent when starting at strong safety last year, while the young Bradley McDougald was promising at the same position. Johnthan Banks and Alterraun Verner were just fine toward the end of the season and should be good starting cornerbacks. The Bucs will want more depth and they may need to find a nickel cornerback, but it's not a massive problem.
That's not true of the free safety position. Certainly Dashon Goldson can start there, but he's not a difference maker and is massively overpaid for what he brings to the team. The Bucs will want to move on from if they can find a quality alternative -- or just a cheaper one. if the New England Patriots let him walk in free agency, Devin McCourty would be a very good fit for the Bucs' defense.
And almost all of that will have to happen through free agency. Relying on third-round picks and later to start as rookies is always a very risky endeavor, and the Bucs don't have the volume of draft selections to press multiple rookies into starting positions.
The Bucs have a lot of things they need to address this offseason, and they'll have to get to it pretty quickly.