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Bucs 2018 Free Agency Prep: The Defensive Line

Bucs Nation takes a look at free agent options for Tampa Bay by position.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The defensive line underperformed in 2017. That is honestly a kind way to put it.

With a constant rotation that did not help and a scheme that only made things worse, the push up front was non-existent. There was no edge rush. There was no run stopping ability. They didn’t make the secondary’s lives any easier.

In this edition of Bucs 2018 Free Agency Prep, we take a look at potential targets on the defensive line that’ll help bolster Tampa Bay’s defensive front.

Defensive Tackle

Gerald McCoy continues to be the only consistent force Tampa Bay has inside and along the defensive line. The Chris Baker experiment came and went and was a huge waste of a season. There continued to be hope for veteran Clinton McDonald but injuries dampened those expectations. The 2017 Buccaneers Man of the Year is set to hit the open market when free agency opens.

The defensive coaching staff attempted to rotate others into the interior at times, like Robert Ayers and William Gholston, but nothing worked.

Tampa Bay was 22nd against the run, allowing 117.2 yards per game. McCoy did what he could with 13 tackles for loss which ranked him 21st in the league in that category. The next Buc to post TFLs were linebackers Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander with 7.

The depth for true defensive tackles isn’t there for the Bucs entering 2018. With uncertainty surrounding McDonald, this position has to be addressed in free agency. Some names to consider are Carolina’s Star Lotulelei, Seattle’s Sheldon Richardson, Atlanta’s Dontari Poe, and Tennessee’s DaQuan Jones.

Richardson’s past may prevent a signing from happening unless the team can look past it but the others could be viable options. This regime has to be careful so the safer route may be best considering there are so many on hot seats.

Defensive End

There’s no way to sugarcoat it. Tampa Bay had no outside rush. PERIOD.

Noah Spence will be returning after sustaining an injury nearly halfway through last season to cut his 2017 campaign short. So far, Spence has provided updates on his offseason workouts via social media in a push to return to full strength. But that’s just one guy.

While there is still promise for Spence, hope is somewhat lost for the rest. Robert Ayers and William Gholston didn’t do much of anything to deflect criticism while Ryan Russell and Will Clarke were merely rotational guys.

The draft is the best place to improve this position. However, the draft holds lots of question marks and it’s better suited for building for the future. Unless you are fortunate enough to land an immediate starter.

With that said, free agency can provide great depth or perhaps a starter although this year’s crop of defensive ends is thin. New York’s Muhammad Wilkerson and Carolina’s Julius Peppers are names that immediate jump out. They can play in a 4-3 base defense which puts them ahead of other candidates since top tier candidates are outside linebackers suited for a 3-4 base.

But Wilkerson’s troubles could shy general manager Jason Licht away from bringing him in and Peppers is up in age (38). Some other names to keep an eye on are New Orleans’ Alex Okafor, San Franciso’s Tank Carradine, and Atlanta’s Derrick Shelby.