The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are optimistic about next season, which is why Lovie Smith still has a job. They're not the only ones, though. ESPN talked about the non-playoff teams most likely to bounce back in 2016, and the Buccaneers made the list. Mostly because they have Jameis Winston and what seems like a solid basis on offense, but also because the team can take some big steps on defense with the right offseason moves.
Tampa Bay needs to find a pass-rusher to take the next step. The Buccaneers whiffed on Michael Johnson in free agency two years ago. They understandably used the first pick of the 2015 draft for Winston instead of pass-rusher Dante Fowler Jr. If they can find an effective outside rusher with the ninth pick in this year's draft or through other means, they'll be a giant step closer to having the personnel needed to run coach Lovie Smith's scheme
They need more than just a pass-rusher, though: they also need to revamp essentially their entire secondary. That's a big ask for one offseason, though perhaps a coaching change for that position group could help as well. The Bucs have talented players, after all -- they just played some terrible football this past season.
This offseason will be crucial for the Bucs' immediate future. It will be Lovie Smith's final chance to prove he can still be an effective head coach, and if he can't many of the Bucs' most important defensive players are likely to find themselves in a new scheme that may not fit them as well in 2017. More than that, we may even see (yet another) blown up roster and
So let that be a warning to everyone on the roster, I guess: play well in 2016, or you're likely to be out in 2017. Have fun!