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George Johnson trade just the latest result of poor planning by Buccaneers

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Bucs trading for George Johnson is a pretty solid move at first glance. They trade down two rounds at the end of the 2015 NFL draft and give him a moderately-sized contract in exchange for some key depth and possibly starting material at a position of need. And yet, this move is symptomatic of the problematic way the Bucs have gone about roster-building over the past two years.

The move to trade for Johnson wasn't the team's first option at defensive end. They first courted Trent Cole, but he signed with the Indianapolis Colts. They went after Derrick Morgan, but he re-signed with the Tennessee Titans. They even went after domestic abuser Greg Hardy -- but he skipped town to go to Dallas instead. That left the Bucs with no real options to add a defensive end, something they needed to do, especially after releasing Michael Johnson.

The Bucs could have simply drafted someone: there are plenty of edge rushers in this draft, and the top of the second round would have been a nice spot to add one for Tampa Bay. Unfortunately, the Bucs need to add at least two starting offensive linemen as well -- and at least one of them needs to come out of the draft. The team can't reliably address all of those holes with rookies.

And unsurprisingly, the Bucs' holes along the offensive line are caused by the same problem: a failure to address the position at an earlier stage this offseason. They could have overpaid for an offensive lineman -- something they can still do. Instead, their only move of note was releasing Anthony Collins. Justifiably, sure, but that's not exactly making the team better.

The Bucs faced the same issue last year, when they failed to address the offensive line, were forced to trade for Logan Mankins during the preseason to address a massive hole at left guard, and they still ended up with the worst offensive line in the NFL. Jason Licht and Lovie Smith have now demonstrated a repeated pattern of failing to address holes on the roster in a timely manner, leading to moves born of desperation -- and those moves never represent good value.

None of these moves are particularly bad in and of themselves, not even the trade for Logan Mankins and his expensive contract. They provide useful and needed players at necessary positions. And the costs are a bit too high, but the Bucs can easily afford to pay them. They have plenty of cap space, and none of these moves are going to cripple the Bucs individually.

The problem is that moves like this are caused by poor long-term planning, and repeating poor-value moves like this over a prolonged period will eventually cost the team. Their resources are limited: they only have a finite amount of cap space which carries over from year to year, and a finite number of draft picks. The fact that the Bucs can afford to pay that salary now doesn't mean that they won't need some extra space to sign a coveted free agent, or re-sign someone like Mike Evans in a couple of years.

Worse yet, the continued trading away of draft picks will eventually leave the Bucs with a dearth of young talent. The draft is not a game of quality picks so much as it is a game of quantity of picks: no team is able to hit on picks consistently, over a longer period of time. To offset busts, you simply need more picks. There's a sense of diminishing returns there (you can only keep so many rookies on a 53-man roster), but it's been years since the Bucs have truly had a surplus of picks.

We've all seen what can happen when a team fails in the draft and hemorrhages cap space: you turn into the 2003-2008 Buccaneers, where the roster gets older and older, the team can't afford to re-sign valuable veterans and the results are mediocre at best. Or just look at this year's New Orleans Saints, who have traded away half their roster - including Jimmy Graham, arguably their best young player -- because for years and years they kept trying to use poor-value, short-term fixes to get their roster up to snuff. And all for naught.

That doesn't mean all is lost for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and perhaps some of these moves are simply motivated by the fact that Lovie Smith and Jason Licht are still building the roster to fit them, rather than the previous regime. And for now, these moves aren't crippling the team. But if the Bucs keep this up -- if they don't find a way to reverse this spiral -- they will face the same problems over and over again.