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Free Agent Spotlight: IDL Sheldon Richardson

Could the Buccaneers set their eyes on a different interior defensive lineman this off-season?

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings USA TODAY NETWORK

The quickest way to the quarterback always has been and always will be, up the middle. Warren Sapp was the original. Gerald McCoy has been the recent. Could the Buccaneers be looking into the future for the next man already?

Gerald McCoy has been the standard in Tampa since he entered the league at getting to the quarterback from the defensive interior. With McCoy not getting any younger and Richardson being in his prime, a potential move may be there to be made.

For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it may be a difficult task finding players who can provide the pressure up the middle like Gerald McCoy consistently has.

The Bucs potentially have a dynamic up and coming nose tackle of the future in Vita Vea but he will need a new stable of running mates at some point in the near future.

Enter Sheldon Richardson, a former 3-4 lineman for the New York Jets, Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings. He has complied 23.5 sacks in six years and will be an unrestricted free agent in 2019.

Should the Bucs take a look at Sheldon Richardson?


Richardson’s career has been a mixed bag of results since he was drafted by the New York Jets in the first round (13th overall) of the 2013 NFL Draft.

He came out and recorded 16.5 sacks in first three years, but struggled the following two before putting together a solid season for the Vikings a year ago.

Richardson graded out well a season ago ranking 56 out of 129 qualifying interior lineman with a Pro Football Focus grade of 72.2.

Richardson ranks as the third overall interior defensive lineman currently in free agency according to Pro Football Focus.

Richardson has played both defensive tackle and defensive end over his career in the NFL in both 3-4 and 4-3 alignments.


Gerald McCoy’s price tag is up there, the team salary cap isn’t in the greatest of shapes, Richardson is younger and has proven to be versatile in multiple schemes. That about does it right?

Nobody is entirely sure as to what will happen with Gerald McCoy leading up to this season but make no mistake about it, if Gerald is here then there is zero reason for the Buccaneers to look Richardson’s way.

Richardson has plenty of experience in a 3-4 system and has shown flashes of potential throughout his career. His second season in the league for the Jets we saw Richardson post a career high with 8 sacks. A season later as a 3-4 end, Richardson finished with 5 sacks in a turbulent year that saw him only make it through 11 games. The talent has always been there and at the age of 28, that may be too intriguing of a situation to pass up for the Buccaneers defensive staff and front office.


This is a bit tricky given the other talent available along the defensive interior. Grady Jarrett is surely to set the bar incredibly high with rumors of a potential deal paying out around $16-18 million a season. Ndamukong Suh commanded a $14 million deal a season ago, be it only for a year and Richardson himself grabbed $8 million on a 1 year deal before having a “come back” year.

The overall likelihood is that Richardson is priced out of the Buccaneers range of realistic possibilities. North of $10 million is a possibility for Richardson and that simply is too rich for Tampa Bay and what Richardson brings to the table.


Highly doubtful.

The Bucs need all the help they can get on defense but in order to get Richardson that would most likely mean cutting McCoy and for every bit you cut in costs you also will lose in production. McCoy has consistently been a top flight interior tackle and that places him a step above Richardson. As long as Gerald is in Tampa Bay, Richardson is simply not needed.

Much like Aaron Lynch in our sites Free Agent Spotlight yesterday, Richardson has been a noted locker room cancer in New York for the Jets. The lineman made things personal with former Jets receiver Brandon Marshall and played a big role in his own demise that saw him get traded to Seattle prior to his final year on his rookie contract. Let’s not forget that the man in charge of that Jets team, Todd Bowles, is now in Tampa and was none too pleased with Richardson’s antics with the Jets. That spells a recipe for disaster as well as an open and shut door case on his possibilities of rejoining the very man that exiled him in the first place.