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How Tampa Bay’s free agency decisions are impacting their draft strategy so far

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Tampa Bay will have options with the seventh pick.

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL offseason is in full swing and the fun has only just begun. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers re-signed some of their marquee players to long term deals such as Mike Evans and Cameron Brate and also brought back 35-year-old Brent Grimes on a one-year deal. These were moves that needed to happen and the Bucs did a great job of securing these deals before the free agency period officially began.

Tampa Bay has also been active in the early part of free agency striking a deal with defensive tackle Beau Allen, who was a key piece for the Eagles run defense last year which finished first in the NFL. The team also signed defensive tackle Mitch Unrein from the Chicago Bears whose specialty is also stopping the run. Both players signed three-year deals and it is evident that Tampa Bay wanted to get more physical on the defensive line. Another three-year deal was given out to kicker Chandler Catanzaro, who kicked last year for the New York Jets. Catanzaro went a perfect 29/29 on Extra points and finished 25/30 on field goal attempts.

The big free agent acquisition for Tampa Bay was center Ryan Jensen, who signed a four year deal worth $42-million with $22-million in guarantees. Offensive line help was needed and Jensen was the team’s top target from the beginning. Not only does the team improve at center it also allows them to move Ali Marpet back to guard which is his natural position. Every team’s goal during free agency is to fill as many holes on the roster as possible so when the draft rolls around they can select the best player available. The Buccaneers are putting themselves in a position to do just that.

The Buccaneers currently hold the #7 pick in the 2018 NFL draft and it’s looking more and more likely that either Bradley Chubb or Quenton Nelson will be available for Tampa Bay. The Cleveland Browns will take a Quarterback with one of their first two picks and the New York Jets — who now hold the third overall pick — will also be taking a quarterback. Other teams who may take a quarterback are the Denver Broncos, who pick fifth, and the New York Giants who select second. The Buffalo Bills have also been positioning themselves to make a move into the top five to select their franchise Quarterback. The best situation for Tampa Bay is to have a run on quarterbacks before they are on the clock. When April 26th rolls around I expect four quarterbacks to be taken in the top 6 picks.

Who the Buccaneers take in this draft really depends on one team, the Indianapolis Colts. I expect both Nelson and Chubb to still be on the board for the Colts at pick No. 6. Whichever one they don’t pick the Bucs should take. Adding Bradley Chubb would instantly help their pass rush and take some of the pressure off of six-time pro bowler Gerald McCoy. On the other side of the spectrum, Quenton Nelson would be a Day 1 starter at Left Guard. He would solidify their offensive line and in my opinion make the unit as a whole top 10 in the league.

In a scenario in which both Chubb and Nelson are off the board by the seventh pick, I can see the Buccaneers adding to their secondary. Some names to keep an eye on are Denzel Ward — who is a cornerback from Ohio State, Derwin James — a safety from Florida State, or Minkah Fitzpatrick — a dynamic player who can play anywhere in the secondary.

The Buccaneers have quietly had a very good offseason up to this point and if the draft plays out how I think it will, it’s only going to get better.