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Three defensive backs the Buccaneers must look at in free agency

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Improvement must be on the top of the list for the back end of the defense heading into 2019

NFL: Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

It’s no secret, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers need to add talent to the secondary. They started to last year by drafting Carlton Davis, M.J. Stewart and Jordan Whitehead, but it simply isn’t enough and I hope the front office realizes that.

The rookies had their moments, especially Davis and Whitehead, but it needs to be better and that’s why addressing the position in both free agency and the draft is a nust.

Now, the Buccaneers aren’t a team that has $80 million dollars to spend this off-season, but they will have significant money to spendbafter cuts are made, which will give them the opportunity to add a few impact players across the board.

On the last episode of Overtime, myself and Evan Winter were discussing some possible options that the Buccaneers will have when Free Agency hits at the beginning of March and the Buccaneers are in luck because this is a pretty good free agency class for defensive backs.

The first option we discussed was Ronald Darby. Darby, is coming off of a torn ACL suffered in early November, so that is obviously an area of concern, but their is no debating the fact that Ronald Darby, when healthy, is a very good football player. After being acquired by the Eagles in the summer of 2017, Darby racked up four interceptions and 21 pass breakups in 17 games.

According to Pro Football Focus, Darby was the 39th ranked cornerback last year and finished with a grade of 70.6. However, in 2017, Darby finished with a grade of 78.3. Again, injury is a concern with Darby, but he could be brought in on a one year prove it deal with the new regime in Tampa Bay. According to Spotrac.com, Darbys’ market value is at $13.4 million, but no team is paying close to that coming off an ACL tear. Expect a 1 year deal between $7-$8 million for Darby.

The second player discussed was Bryce Callahan from the Chicago Bears. Set to be an unrestricted free agent, Callahan would be a great get for this Buccaneers team. Callahan is only 27 years old and has been a really solid player for the Bears secondary over the last couple of years. Like Darby, callahan also suffered a foot injury in early December that ended his season, but it isn’t that much of a concern moving forward.

Many fans might assume that Vernon Hargreaves III is going to regain his starting nickel corner job next year, but not so fast. VH3 has missed the majority of the last two seasons and hasn’t lived up to the hype of being the 11th overall pick back in 2016. He’s still young and will likely be on the team next year because of his salary number, but if the Buccaneers can find an upgrade at nickel corner, you do it immediately.

Callahan according to PFF, was the 7th ranked slot corner in 2018 and finished with an overall grade of 81.4. He struggles a little bit in the run game (57.8 grade), but makes up for it with his coverage (81.3) and pass rush ability (86.6). His market value is currently set at $7 million per year according to Spotrac.

The final player we discussed was safety Tyrann Mathieu. Many people have already begun to draw the connections between the Honey Badger and Bruce Arians from their times in Arizona and that certainly is worth discussing, but the Buccaneers also need an upgrade at safety and he would be an ideal fit for Todd Bowles defense once again.

Mathieu was given that second chance by Arians and his staff in Arizona and if Arians wants Tyrann now, it’s hard to picture him not at least considering it. He would immediately come in and start on this defense and give a much needed boost to the back end. He was the 21st ranked safety in the NFL last season and finished with an overall grade of 75.1. The individual grades are as followed, run defense (83.9), pass rush (67.1) and coverage (70.6). Now, 21st overall isn’t a number that jumps out at you, but compares to Justin Evans (48th overall) and Jordan Whitehead (63rd) overall, it would be an immediate upgrade. That is not debatable.

So what about money with the honey badger? Well, he made $7 million last season with the Houston Texans and will probably command about the same salary this upcoming year, maybe a little bit more. Expect a 3-4 year deal in the $28-$34 million dollar range depending on the length of the contract.

Upgrades are needed in the secondary and players will be available.

It’s your turn Jason Licht.