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Could Buccaneers pursue Leonard Williams?

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The soon-to-be 25-year-old might not be long for New York. Would acquiring him make any sense for Tampa Bay?

Green Bay Packers v New York Jets Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

We’re nearing the end of May, but it doesn’t feel like the Buccaneers have been able to take care of all of their pressing offseason issues. There’s still plenty that can — and will — unfold for Tampa Bay throughout the summer.

With that in mind, could a trade for Jets defensive end Leonard Williams make sense? ESPN’s Rich Cimini wrote Sunday that Williams, among others, might be on the trading block now that front office changes have resulted in more control for Adam Gase. Here’s what Cimini had to say on the potential reasoning behind New York moving on from Williams:

Does Gase want to pour more resources into the D-line by giving a massive extension to Leonard Williams? The most likely outcomes: They use the franchise tag in 2020 (estimated at $18 million) or let him walk as a free agent (receiving a compensatory pick in 2021) or do a tag-and-trade. The latter choice has become a thing in the NFL (see: Frank Clark and Dee Ford). They could try to sign Williams to a team-friendly deal before next offseason, but why would he agree to that? A side note: Former coach Todd Bowles, trying to be proactive, had been pushing for two years to extend Williams.

The Jets already have Henry Anderson and Quinnen Williams — this year’s No. 3 overall pick — in the middle of their defensive line. New York has $17 million guaranteed to Anderson and once its top 2019 pick signs, the team will have $32.5 million committed to him. So, as Cimini writes, Gase may not want to put even more money into the defensive line.

But Williams can surely be a fit elsewhere. The last part of the above excerpt is where the Bucs might enter the conversation. Todd Bowles, who helped draft Williams at No. 6 overall in 2015 and then coached him for the last four seasons, is Tampa Bay’s new defensive coordinator. With the whole Gerald McCoy situation unresolved, the Bucs should be exploring other options for their defensive line. Considering Bowles has significant history with Williams and the USC product fits in the scheme, that might be an option.

McCoy wouldn’t be plausible in a trade package with the Jets, considering they’re pretty set on the defensive line and the veteran’s contract would make no sense to take on. But if the Bucs are able to trade McCoy elsewhere or cut him outright, they would potentially clear space for Williams. But then again, here’s where the Bucs might not be a fit: Williams is in the final year of his contract, and he’s due to be paid $14.2 million.

The Bucs are already lacking cap space. Getting rid of McCoy would clear space, but they need that space to sign their draft class. So, to take on $14.2 million, Jason Licht and the front office would have to make some other moves as well. Where that could make sense is if Tampa Bay does see Williams as a guy worth $14.2 million.

It seems clear that the Bucs don’t think McCoy, at 31 years old, should get $13 million this year. Or maybe it’s the fact that he’s due $13 million in 2019, $12.5 million in 2020 and nearly $13 million in 2021. It could also be because he’s not a sure fit in Bowles’ defense, with Vita Vea set to occupy the interior of a three-man front. There’s obviously a reason why the Bucs haven’t acted elsewhere to clear room for both McCoy AND their draftees.

But the team probably feels desperate at defensive end. If it thinks Williams is worth the cap hit, maybe the front office acts elsewhere to make things work. Maybe it’s a number of small moves with guys like Will Gholston, Beau Allen, Evan Smith, Cairo Santos, etc. Or maybe it’s something big involving Jason Pierre-Paul or maybe a Cameron Brate. Moves could be made, but it’s all about whether the Bucs see Williams being worth said moves.

What do you think, Bucs Nation? Is Williams a fit? Or is his cap hit just another potential trouble for the front office?