A lot has changed since the team last stepped off a NFL playing field. Let’s put it all together and see how the Bucs stand as of today compared to when the off-season began back in January.
BEST ADDITION: LB, DEVIN WHITE (1ST-ROUND OF 2019 NFL DRAFT)
Without a real star addition in free-agency, it almost had to be the team’s first-round selection who earns the title as being the best addition to the team up to now.
Free-agency is over for the most part and even while there will likely be some veteran’s released in the near future to make room for some rookie replacements, it’s highly unlikely White will be unseated as the best new addition to the Buccaneers roster in 2019.
BIGGEST LOSS: LB, KWON ALEXANDER (UN-RESTRICTED FREE-AGENT TO THE SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS)
This one was fairly simple as well. The ‘heart and soul’ of the team as described by several coaches and former teammates, losing Alexander was predictable, but still unfortunate and even downright painful.
It’s hard not to root for a man who meant so much to the franchise in such a relatively short period of time, but seeing him flying around Raymond James Stadium in 49ers gear is not going to be a fun way to kick off the season.
Here’s hoping a win for the Bucs makes it all go down a little smoother.
BIGGEST ANSWER: QB, JAMEIS WINSTON
If we lived in a world where Dirk Koetter wasn’t fired following the 2018 NFL season, then I strongly believe we would have lived in a world where questions were risen during the months of January and February about the future of Jameis Winston.
Not as the franchise quarterback. But as a quarterback with the franchise at all. Had Koetter stayed, it’s likely we would all have speculated as to the future and status of Winston’s fifth-year option which was only guaranteed against injury (which he had none) up until the start of the new league year.
With Kyler Murray committing to football, Dwayne Haskins being a high projection as a consolation, and even Daniel Jones with his subsurface love as a NFL caliber quarterback; would Tampa have tried to trade Winston to replace him? Perhaps Flacco would have landed with the Bucs instead of the Broncos. Keenum in Tampa?
Safe to say, with the arrival of Bruce Arians and his 100% support of Winston as the future of this franchise, it saved us all a whole lot of quarterback speculation this off-season.
BIGGEST QUESTION REMAINING: DT, GERALD MCCOY
Early reports were McCoy was definitely coming back. Then nobody would commit to this fact at the combine. Then GMC was asked not to report. Then he was openly welcomed to voluntary workouts, which he still didn’t go to.
Commercials with no jerseys, suspiciously low activity on his social media accounts and national rumors the team was aggressively shopping him as late as this past weekend.
Now, there doesn’t seem to be a logical replacement drafted for him, yet the team needs to clear a substantial amount of cap space just to sign their draft picks.
Will McCoy stay, or will he go? The answer is almost as easy to figure out as is the one pertaining to who will end up sitting on the Iron Throne.
I don’t have solid answers for either, but I do have some theories.
BIGGEST GAIN IN THE 2019 NFL DRAFT: KICKER
One might figure the secondary had the biggest gain as it had the most additions. But in fact, it’s the kicker position.
Matt Gay out of Utah has all of the accolades and stats to support his potential as a successful NFL kicker.
Playing the position which scores the most points from a single player makes it important. Round five might have been a bit higher than most (read: anyone) expected the Bucs to draft a kicker, but it gives the team two reasonably good chances to find a leg who can put up those much needed points come 2019.
BIGGEST SHORTFALL IN NFL DRAFT: OFFENSIVE LINE
I understand coach Arians and others said prior to the draft they thought they had an offensive line good enough to get the job done.
But I didn’t think it meant they’d completely ignore the group in the NFL Draft.
Zero offensive linemen drafted means Earl Watford will enter training camp as my favorite to take over for Caleb Benenoch at right guard. Meanwhile, Benenoch becomes my early favorite to be tagged as Demar Dotson’s understudy at right tackle.
Now, I’m not going to get all doomsday about it, but I would feel more comfortable if Watford had more than just Alex Cappa pushing him for the right guard job.
BIGGEST POTENTIAL MOVE STILL TO COME: DT, GERALD MCCOY
No picture. No long paragraph. We’re all watching for Gerald McCoy news until it breaks or late July comes around.
BIGGEST POTENTIAL ADDITION STILL TO COME: EDGE, EZEKIEL ANSAH
Ansah was a name gaining steam as a guy Bucs fans wanted added to the roster in 2018. He was ultimately franchise tagged by the Detroit Lions, and went on to suffer a season ending injury about midway through the year.
Now, he’s an unrestricted free-agent who will be 30-years old by the time the season rolls around.
The Buccaneers did add Iowa defensive end Anthony Nelson to the mix, and the team is confident he can play as a down lineman as well as standing up as a 3-4 edge defender.
Adding Nelson to Jason Pierre-Paul, Shaquil Barrett, Carl Nassib and Noah Spence makes the group feel fuller. But, if he’s healthy enough to get on the field and considering the discount Jason Licht could probably work for him on a one-year deal, he might be too good to pass up.
BIGGEST POTENTIAL SURPRISE REMANING: SIGNING CORNERBACK, MORRIS CLAIBORNE
Bucs fans, almost in unison would likely exclaim, “ANOTHER ONE!?”
Adding yet another cornerback to a now overflowing room of cover specialists, would not be the most obvious move Tampa Bay could make.
But, we know the team talked to Claiborne before the NFL Draft, and if I had to bet whether Claiborne wanted to return to the Jets or play again for Todd Bowles, I fell confident the second option would win the day.
Reports were Claiborne left the table with Tampa earlier because of money. If he’s not getting any more offers higher than what Licht is willing to pay, then he may just take it.
This coaching staff has already proven they like adding veterans who know the scheme already to help their young guys learn faster. This could be a big one in the secondary if it falls into place.
Yes, even though they have eight cornerbacks on roster already.
CURRENT STATUS: UNPREDICTABLE IS GOOD
For the past three years Bucs fans have toiled under a staff whose draft strategies, coaching theories and play-calling were all too predictable.
In fact, there were moments this weekend where I felt bad for not predicting draft players or at least positions correctly. In past years, our collective predictions panned out more often than they honestly should have being people outside of the war room.
This predictability then bled into camps, where position battles were predictably resolved, and into the season where play calls and game strategies were painstakingly obvious, and into even more foreseeable ends during games and the season in general.
So right now, we have no real clue as to the state of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense. Offense, we have a better idea.
Which is new. And new is scary sometimes. But it’s a good thing. I promise.