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Buccaneers can't just rely on the draft to fix the defense

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John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Job one for the Bucs this offseason: get the defense fixed. They fired Lovie Smith because he couldn't get it done, so now they'd better give defensive coordinator Mike Smith the tools to get it right -- or we'll be looking at yet another wasted season.

The Bucs fixed their offense last year almost exclusively through the draft. They got three new starters: quarterback Jameis Winston, and offensive linemen Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet. All three of them worked well, but you're not going to get three quality starters every year. You'd be lucky to get three starters in any draft, let alone three good ones.

That means the Bucs are going to have to dip into free agency to help Mike Smith build his defense. That's a tough ask. The last time the Bucs really hit big on a defensive free agent was probably 2001, when they signed Simeon Rice. They've tried repeatedly to bolster their defense with veteran players since then, but it never quite worked -- and recent experience has been particularly disastrous.

That doesn't mean they need to stop trying, though. A few free agents would look good in pewter and red: Mario Williams will almost certainly hit the market, and he has some quality pass rush left in him. Eric Berry could provide a huge boost to the secondary, though it remains to be seen whether the Chiefs will even let him walk. Von Miller would be a ridiculous signing, but I'd be absolutely flabbergasted if the Broncos don't re-sign him. And Olivier Vernon, William Hayes or Robert Ayers would help the team's pass rush as well.

Whatever the Bucs do, though, they can't afford to sit still in free agency and trust that their draft selections will pick up the slack. That rarely works.