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Buccaneers 2016 NFL draft preview: Linebacker depth needed

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Linebackers currently on the roster: Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander, Daryl Smith, Darius Eubanks, Jeremiah George, Adarius Glanton, Josh Keyes, Jermauria Rasco,

What happened in 2015

The linebacking corps in 2015 was incredibly inconsistent. The Bucs had signed Bruce Carter to replace Mason Foster at middle linebacker, but he lost his job to fourth-round pick Kwon Alexander by the end of training camp. Danny Lansanah then beat out Carter at strongside linebacker, while Lavonte David continued to hold down the fort no the weak side.

Those three starters had an up-and-down season: David started out poorly, in part because he was covering for Alexander, but got back to form by midseason. Alexander made numerous splash plays, but struggled to drop back deep enough in coverage. He also missed the final four games with a PED suspension. Lansanah didn't stand out all year, and Carter actually looked good in a starting role when he had to fill in for Alexander.

2016 outlook

With Alexander having shown great potential, and Jason Licht and Dirk Koetter publicly praising him, the Bucs wanted to keep him at middle linebacker. That meant Bruce Carter, though capable, was overpaid and cut for cap reasons. Lansanah was not retained either, and new defensive coordinator Mike Smith brought in veteran Daryl Smith to fill the strongside role.

The Bucs have an outstanding group of starting linebackers. David and Alexander have speed, instincts and the ability to make impact plays both in every phase of the game. Alexander does need to get more consistent, but that shouldn't be much of a problem given the fact that he was just a rookie last year. Those two are a little undersized, though, which means the Bucs can't consistently ask them to stack and shed offensive linemen -- no two-gap schemes here. Daryl Smith also brings something different -- he's very close to the end of his career, but Smith has seen everything there is to see, and is a little more stout than the other two linebackers.

What the Bucs lack here is depth, but that's easily remedied. Finding competent 4-3 linebackers isn't all that difficult, and the Bucs have long done well bringing in new undrafted players every year. Myles Jack might tempt them at the top of the draft, and they could find a way to fit in hybrid linebacker/edge rusher Leonard Floyd, but they don't really have the room to do much with them. Instead, expect maybe a late-round pick and lots of undrafted free agents to provide depth.