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Free Agent Spotlight: Free Safety, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

We continue our free agent spotlight series with a look at an experienced free safety that has Florida ties.

The Buccaneers saw their secondary make some massive leaps forward during the second half of the 2019 season, but the safety group is still lacking some clarity heading into the 2020 offseason. There isn’t much of a veteran presence at the safety position nor in the secondary as a whole, so Tampa Bay may look to add one this spring.

HA HA CLINTON-DIX’S CAREER THUS FAR

2014 NFL Draft Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix played his prep football at Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando before spending his college years at the University of Alabama. After being a part of two Crimson Tide National Championship teams and earning All-American honors in 2013, he was drafted by the Green Bay Packers with the 21st overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Clinton-Dix had a solid rookie year, capping it off with a two-interception game against the Seahawks in an NFC Championship Game loss. He was named to the PFWA All-Rookie Team after posting 85 tackles (58 solo), one sack, six passes defensed and an interception. He followed with another strong season in 2015 before being named to the Pro Bowl in 2016. After spending the early part of his career with Green Bay, Clinton-Dix was traded to Washington on Oct. 30, 2018. He played the rest of the season with the Redskins, then signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Chicago Bears last offseason.

In his one year with the Bears, he totaled 75 tackles (59 solo), five passes defensed, two interceptions and a touchdown. In his six NFL seasons, he has played 96 games (90 starts), racking up 522 tackles (417 solo), 5.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, 33 passes defensed and 16 interceptions. He now heads into free agency for the second straight year.

WHY IT WORKS

The Bucs are in need of a veteran presence in the secondary, and Clinton-Dix checks that box. Another box the 27-year-old checks is for durability. He has played in all 16 games each year of his career, starting every game in each of the last five seasons. This past year, he played 1,067 of the Bears’ 1,073 defensive snaps. That by itself should be appealing to Tampa Bay, considering the questionable injury histories of their safeties. Jordan Whitehead has shown he is plenty capable of playing the strong safety position, but he ended the 2019 season with an injured hamstring. Justin Evans and D’Cota Dixon, two guys with intriguing upside, missed all of last year with their own injuries.

And even aside from that, the need for a proven free safety seems to be there. Mike Edwards didn’t really claim the role as a rookie, splitting time with Andrew Adams, who is now a free agent. It’s no sure thing that the Bucs will entrust the starting free safety position to Edwards right off the bat in 2020 and it’s unclear if another guy on the roster is ready to step in and assume that spot from day one. So, with so much uncertainty at the position, adding a veteran like Clinton-Dix could work.

BUT...

The safety group, no matter how banged-up and unproven, is pretty crowded. Whitehead has a starting role on lockdown, surely. Edwards is a guy the Bucs invested a third-round pick in just last year, while Dixon is someone Bruce Arians mentioned by name recently as someone he wished he could’ve seen more of in 2019. And Evans is the wild card of the group, as he certainly has the talent to be a difference-maker if he can fully recover from injury, get back on the field and stay healthy.

When Arians was asked about the safety position prior to the offseason getting underway, he didn’t sound overly concerned with going out and adding a big-name free agent safety such as Clinton-Dix. He had this to say:

“I think we could still look at a safety. But I loved D’Cota Dixon and he was possibly going to be our starting strong safety until he knocked out his shoulder, so getting him back – hopefully getting Justin Evans back – I’m not sure we do [have a need]. We’re fine at corner. But again, if there’s somebody on the board and he’s the best player on the board at that position we’ll take him.”

That doesn’t sound like a coach who is going to go out and spend precious cap space on a free agent safety unless it’s at a reasonable price. And it’s hard to see Clinton-Dix coming at a reasonable enough price, given the Bucs’ cap situation. Tampa Bay could very well be happy with starting a combination of Whitehead, Dixon, Edwards and Evans in 2020. Or, they could address the position in April’s draft.

WHAT’S THE COST?

There’s no telling right now just how much Clinton-Dix will be asking for in his new contract. Spotrac doesn’t yet have a market value estimated for the veteran, but that $3 million deal he took last year was very much a prove-it deal for him, and he had a pretty good season. So, he’ll be looking for a much bigger payday this offseason. A recent AL.com article noted as much, with Clinton-Dix saying he thought this past year was one of his best as a pro.

With that kind of feeling about the year he had, he could very easily price himself out of the Bucs’ range. Tampa Bay’s priority is keeping its current defense together, plus it needs to pay a quarterback. Once all of that is taken care of, might the team have enough money to give Clinton-Dix what he wants? Maybe, but it all depends on what the market has in store for him. There are a couple of safeties that may land bigger contracts than him, but he’ll likely get a pretty hefty payday. Given Arians’ thoughts on the safeties he has, that payday coming from the Bucs seems like a stretch.

WHAT WE DON’T KNOW

We really don’t know if the interest would be there on either side. Clinton-Dix has said he would love to stay in Chicago and play alongside Eddie Jackson for the rest of his career. But with that being said, the Bears have virtually no cap space to work with. Dallas is a potential landing spot that has been speculated about, given the fact that Mike McCarthy—the coach that drafted Clinton-Dix in 2014—is now at the helm there. The Cowboys do have a lot of cap space, so it could work.

If the Bucs do find a way to keep their defense together, sign a quarterback and still have the money Clinton-Dix is looking for, that could be interesting. Maybe the money and the ability to return to his home state would be enough to draw him to Tampa, despite the fact that it doesn’t appear that he has any direct ties to the Tampa Bay coaching staff. Money talks, and if the Bucs have it and offer it up to him, he may very well take it.

MAKE THE DECISION

Los Angeles Chargers v Chicago Bears Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

So, given the uncertainty of the Buccaneers’ safety group as it is and the potentially sizable contract Clinton-Dix may command—what should Tampa Bay do?

Vote in the poll and feel free to discuss the possibility in the comments down below!

Poll

When it comes to Jack Conklin, the Buccaneers should...

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    Sign Him, No Matter What
    (86 votes)
  • 44%
    Make An Offer, But Keep It Reasonable
    (262 votes)
  • 18%
    Invite Him For A Cup Of Coffee And See Where It Goes From There
    (107 votes)
  • 9%
    Call Him Up If We Have A Need After The Draft
    (57 votes)
  • 13%
    Don’t Need Him
    (79 votes)
591 votes total Vote Now

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