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Free Agent Spotlight: OLB Aaron Lynch

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Could he find his way into the rotation?

Green Bay Packers v Chicago Bears
Lynch could be a nice piece in a 3-4 front.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Outside of the quarterback position, edge rusher may be the most important position on the football field in today’s NFL.

A good pass rush can confuse and derail any competent quarterback. The key to the demise of Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers over the years has been the ability to generate consistent pressure.

For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it may be a difficult task finding players who can provide that spark. A lack of personnel, a switch in defensive philosophy, and new coaching in general are just a few of the obstacles in the way of becoming a good defense.

The Bucs potentially have an inside presence when it comes to the likes of Vita Vea, Lavonte David, and (possibly) Kwon Alexander or Kendell Beckwith. The outside, however, is a different story.

Enter Aaron Lynch, a former EDGE rusher for the San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears. He has complied 18 sacks in five years and will be an unrestricted free agent in 2019.

Should the Bucs take a look at Lynch?

AARON LYNCH’S CAREER

Lynch’s career has been a mixed bag of results since he was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

He came out and recorded 12.5 sacks in first two years, but a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy and an ankle injury limited him to just seven games in 2016. A back ailment and a calf injury caused him to miss nine more games in 2017 and essentially sealed his fate as a free agent.

He accumulated just 2.5 sacks in 2016 & 2017, but it was enough to warrant a one-year, $3.9 million contract from the Chicago Bears. He finished the 2018 season with 16 combined tackles, three sacks, four TFLs, seven hurries, and six quarterback hits on 33% of the team’s defensive snaps according to Pro Football Focus.

His 73.6 overall defensive grade was also a career-high. Lynch was a focal point of the pass rush in San Francisco, but he appeared to find a niche as a role player in Chicago.

Now, a lot of that could be due to the presence of former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Fangio was part of the 49ers when Lynch was drafted in 2014.

Regardless, Fangio used Lynch primarily as a pass rusher in Chicago, where he played 58% of his snaps at either ROLB or LOLB, but he was effective when it came to stopping the run as well, evidenced by his 87.0 grade in that department.

At 6-foot-6, 270-pounds, Lynch has the perfect size of speed, length, and athleticism off the edge – and the Bucs need edge rushers in a bad way.

How about that? A perfect segue….

WHY THE BUCCANEERS NEED HIM

This one is simple: the Bucs need pass rushers and Lynch can provide that at a decent price.

There are still a ton of questions/scenarios to play out before we really get an idea of what this defense can or will do, but there is no question that the Bucs will need all the help they can get when it comes to pressuring opposing quarterbacks.

Right now, Tampa Bay has Jason Pierre-Paul and Carl Nassib as the main edge rushers. There’s no reason to think that Lynch wouldn’t be able to find a home on this team.

He has plenty of experience in a 3-4 system and has shown flashes of potential throughout his career.

But his suspension, injuries, and weight issues are all red flags that this franchise must consider as well. That is a talking point that Jason Licht and co. could bring to the table if there is any interest from Tampa Bay’s side.

Lynch would definitely be more of a rotational player. The Bucs can’t afford to make the same mistake and expect - and pay - a rotational player to perform like a starter a la Vinny Curry in 2018.

WHAT WILL LYNCH COST?

He shouldn’t be very expensive at all and I wouldn’t expect him to demand much, but teams will pay a premium price for pass rushers these days. If Lynch and his agent could stir up a good case, then he could very easily price himself out of Tampa Bay’s budget.

If he can stay between the $2-$4 million number, then I’d say go for it. Anything over $4 million is too rich for my blood, though.

WILL IT HAPPEN?

For the right price? Sure.

The Bucs need all the help they can get on defense. Former defensive coordinator Mike Smith wasn’t the sole cause for everything, this defense has multiple holes everywhere. Whether it be the starters or the backups, there are serious changes that need to be made if this teams wants to stop anyone in 2019.

Lynch isn’t known as a great locker room presence and he isn’t bringing in some sort of stellar career, but he could be a “diamond in the rough” that Bruce Arians spoke about during his introductory press conference back in January.