The Tampa Bay Buccaneers came out of 2017 NFL free agency with some key additions at important positions. It’s gotten them some pretty universally positive reviews, so it’s no surprise that Pro Football Focus named them one of five NFL free agency winners.
The Bucs have added a pair of extremely nice pieces to their roster without breaking the bank to do it, and at spots that have been an issue for multiple seasons now. This team has been looking for a nose tackle to play next to DT Gerald McCoy since they drafted him, and Baker is an excellent fit to do that. He earned a top-20 overall grade (82.2) in his second straight season of excellent play, and that represents a significant upgrade over Akeem Spence’s 39.2 grade from 2016. When you consider that Baker notched 42 total QB pressures—just seven fewer than McCoy—to go with his stout run defense, this looks to be a fine signing, made into one of the best-value deals in the entire free agency period.
They also had plenty of nice things to say about DeSean Jackson, but those have become pretty commonplace: Jackson is fast, the Bucs needed speed, the contract is solid and easy to get out of, A+ signing all around.
Baker’s more interesting, in part because he’s less well-known, in part because he’s versatile enough for several roles and it’s not entirely clear how the Bucs see him — other than the somewhat generic rotational defensive tackle role.
As for winning free agency — that’s a mixed blessing. It is, of course, better to do well than to do poorly in free agency. But offseason evaluations are imperfect at best, and the list of free agency ‘winners’ who were regular season losers is very, very long and includes many, many Bucs teams.
The Bucs’ investments in free agency this year were limited, though, and they have enough depth to compensate even if these signings turn out to be best — especially if they do well in the 2017 NFL draft.