2017 NFL free agency opens in just over two weeks, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are likely to try to fill a few needs there, as they’ve done in recent weeks. They could target any number of players, though, and it’s difficult to sort through who they’re likely to sign, and who would be a good fit.
One of my favorite free agency series every year are the film breakdowns Greg Cosell does for the Philadelphia Eagles’ official site (ew). So far they’ve released four, and the most relevant of those breakdowns for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is the one about free agent safeties.
It’s probably worth noting that Bradley McDougald, the Bucs safety who’s set to hit free agency, isn’t even mentioned by Cosell. One player he does talk about extensively is the Arizona Cardinals’ Tony Jefferson, and he sounds like an intriguing option for the Bucs.
“He’s become a really multi-dimensional player. They’ve asked him to do more and more each year and he’s done a good job with it. This year he’s really improved his coverage. He’s an excellent blitzer, he’s very good near the line of scrimmage. You remember him coming out of Oklahoma, there were concerns about his ability to play man coverage or to play on the back end. As I said that’s where he’s really improved.
“The big question with him if you’re looking for a safety: is he a scheme player, or do you feel by now he can do enough that he’s a really good starting safety. That’s a question teams will have to answer, but his career path has gone up. He’s a much-improved player each year.”
Obviously, signing Jefferson as a starter would be a bit of a risk. The question is to what extent he’ll need to adjust to the Bucs’ scheme, and to what extent he’s actually capable of being a full-time starter rather than a role-player.
But those are exactly the risks Jason Licht likes to take, in part because it means those players will come a little cheaper. Jefferson’s speed and athleticism would also add a new dimension to the Bucs’ back-end, one they’ve been sorely missing for years and years.