Over the past couple of years, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been high rollers in free agency. They spent a pretty penny on Bruce Carter, Michael Johnson, Anthony Collins, and Alterraun Verner to make this team better. While that list shows how badly the Buccaneers have been in free agency, there is another list that many people don’t recognize. It includes Clinton McDonald, Sterling Moore, Chris Conte, and Joe Hawley. They aren’t the best players at their positions but they provide quality depth. And that’s why the Buccaneers need to continue to look at players in free agency.
The second round of free agency isn’t about finding starters but finding players who could be a good fit on the team. The Buccaneers need help at defensive end, defensive tackle, and offensive line.
At defensive end, the Buccaneers signed Robert Ayers to a three year deal for $21 Million. But to me, that is not enough. The only solid defensive end the 2015 Bucs had was William Gholston and he is a run stopper. The Buccaneers need pass rushers and there are a few still out there. Greg Hardy is a great NFL player but a terrible person. Junior Galette is coming off injury and has his own personal concerns. Aldon Smith is suspended due to his issues with drinking. But the guy I am interested in is Quinton Coples. He hasn’t lived up to his draft choice but he has put up quality numbers except last year. With an average of five sacks, ten tackles for loss, and seventeen QB hits a season from 2012-2014, he would be DOUBLING William Gholston’s production and putting up similar numbers to Robert Ayers while being five years younger. With his recent releases from the Jets and Dolphins, I think he could sign a one year $3-$4 Million prove-it deal.
Injuries dominated the defensive line last year. The Buccaneers lost Akeem Spence, Clinton McDonald, and even Gerald McCoy for a few games. Now with Tony McDaniel and Henry Melton not being resigned, depth is limited at defensive tackle. For a smaller DT, look no further than Nick Fairley. The last two seasons, he hasn’t played more than 40% of defensive snaps. But when healthy, and with Ndamukong Suh, he put up 11.5 sacks, 20 TFL, and 32 QB hits. With Gerald McCoy at his side, Fairley may have another year similar to his first two. Last year he was signed to a one year $5 Million prove-it deal that didn’t work. I would expect his price to be closer to $1.5-$2 Million this year.
Given reports that the Bucs targeted Mitchell Schwartz, Andre Smith, and Nate Chandler, it seems the Bucs front office is also taking a look at offensive line depth. Smith's time with the Bengals has been two-faced. He can run block like crazy but pass protection is sketchy at best. Three options could be Byron Bell, Byron Stingily, or Brandon Mosley. Each has similar issues as Smith but they are younger and inexpensive. However, that doesn't change the fact that Demar Dotson and Gosder Cherilus are still on the roster.
While the Buccaneers may not be done in free agency, I hope they see that there are many quality players available. I went over some of the Buccaneer’s needs, there are a few other players that intrigue me. Players like RB Alfred Morris, LT Kelvin Beachum, WR Rueben Randle, and FS Rahim Moore. So let’s hope this is the start of gaining some quality players in the start of the second round of free agency.