There is no doubt that one of the main focuses for Todd Bowles and his defensive staff this off season will be to improve the overall talent and depth on the defensive line.
Now, it isn’t as big of a need as the secondary, but games are won in the trenches and the Buccaneers must improve the front end because it will only help the back end.
When you look at the current cap situation for Tampa Bay, it isn’t all that pretty. According to overthecap.com, the team has about $8.4 million dollars in cap space as things stand right now. That simply isn’t enough to do much of anything come early March. Now, this is purely specualtion on my end, but with the cap situations being the way it is and the defensive line free agent class being very top heavy, I expect the Buccaneers to go defensive line in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. To simply put it, It’s a stacked defensive line class.
Moves will be made, there is no doubt about that, but I don’t expect a big move to be made along the defensive line in free agency because the Buccaneers simply don’t have the cap space to afford any of the top tier guys. Depending on the cuts the Buccaneers do indeed make, the team can have anywhere from about $45 million-$55 million dollars to spend in free agency.
Some of you may say “well that’s plenty of money to go get Frank Clark or Trey Flowers”, but in reality, Tampa Bay has so many holes to fill, you just can’t throw a huge contract at someone right now.
In the most recent episode of Overtime, myself and Evan Winter discussed some possible free agent targets. Evan took the wide receivers, while I took the defensive lineman. In case you missed the episode and don’t have the time to listen, here are three players along the defensive line I would like to see Jason Licht target come March.
1. Romeo Okwara: Okwara is a 23-year-old defensive end who spent the 2018 season with the Detroit Lions after spending the first two years of his career with the New York Giants. Okwara, was signed as an undrafted free agent back in 2016, but was largely unproductive in New York. He seemed to have turned over a new leaf during his time in Detroit, which will likely result in a modest pay day day for the former Notre Dame player. Okwara finished the season with eight sacks and 14 QB hits while only playing 418 pass snaps. He would have ranked second on the Buccaneers in sacks last season and at 23-years-old, there is obviously a ton of upside. Okwara only made $545,000 dollars last season and as a RFA this year, he will definitely be up for a pay raise. Jason Licht should throw an offer sheet at Okwara and force Detroit to match it, but the production is their which is why he needs to be at the top of the list.
2. Aaron Lynch: Coming off the highest graded season of his career according to PFF, Lynch is slated to be an unrestricted free agent at the start of the new league year. Lynch is an interesting player that probably won’t cost a ton, but the production and consistency is there. Lynch, was graded as the 28th ranked edge defender with an overall grade of 73.6. To put that into context, the highest graded edge defender on Tampa Bay, was Carl Nassib with an overall grade of 69.2, which ranked him 47th. Lynch isn’t the greatest pass rusher in the world, but he is very good at stopping the run and is excellent in coverage as well. He ranked 6th in stopping the run and 9th in coverage. With Lynch most likely commanding a contract between $5-$6 million, the Buccaneers should look to add solid depth and a potential starter in Todd bowles new system.
3. Brandon Graham: Now, this would be a Home Run get for Todd Bowles and his staff. Graham, is coming off a season in which he was the 8th ranked edge defender and at 31-years-old, that is pretty damn impressive. It is certainly possible that the Eagles are going to let Graham test the market and if that is the case, expect his phone to be ringing with a call from Mr. Licht. Graham did only have 4 sacks and 11 QB hits, but he is a really good football player who a year ago had 9.5 sacks. So, the 8th ranked edge defender is going to cost a ton right? Well, not so fast. With Graham being 31, I don’t expect any team to throw a crazy long-term lucrative contract at him. He only made $6.5 million dollars last season and while I do expect that to increase, it won’t go through the roof. His former teammate in Philadelphia, Vinny Curry, can be cut by the Buccaneers this off season and the team would save $8 million dollars by doing so. I think that move is inevitable and replacing Curry’s $8 million cap with say Graham for $10 million would make the Buccaneers a better football team.
Stay locked on to https://www.bucsnation.com/ for more episodes of Overtime as we will continue to preview positions of needs for the Buccaneers and touch on things around the National Football League.