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The Buccaneers are gambling on J.J. Wilcox

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Replacing Bradley McDougald with J.J. Wilcox is a risky move.

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NFL: Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers swapped out safety Bradley McDougald for Dallas Cowboys safety JJ Wilcox. Safety is the weakest of all Bucs positions according to many. The Bucs strengthened that position by adding Justin Evans in the draft, too. There is one hitch in the drafting of Evans: he is a project.

So Wilcox is more likely to replace McDougald than Evans is. Wilcox was injured for part of 2016, but what exactly did the Bucs get in exchange for McDougald?

McDougald was the team’s second leading tackler, behind LB Kwon Alexander at 108 solo and 145 total. Wilcox had only 33 solo tackles last year in an oft-injured season. In previous years, Wilcox has put up higher tackle stats, but not as high as McDougald.

As for passes defensed, McDougald is much higher than Wilcox. The problem here is that McDougald started all 16 games and Wilcox did not. So what gives?

Pro Football Focus did a write up on secondaries recently and stated the following:

The safety position could be a strength as new addition J.J. Wilcox finished last season with the 14th highest coverage grade (84.2), while Keith Tandy was the highest-graded safety over the final five weeks of the season, allowing a passer rating of just 34.3 into his coverage over that span.

There is a possibility that Wilcox will probably be fighting for a starting spot against Conte. Conte struggled in Mike Smith’s defense early, but turned the corner before getting injured as PFF ranked him 90th out 91 safeties in 2016. Here’s Conte’s PFF ranking in 2015:

Now, let us inspect contracts.

Apparently, the league does not think much of McDougald. Wilcox had a much bigger pay day and it seems as though the Bucs are betting the house on Wilcox to help increase the effectiveness of the secondary play from 2016.