The Buccaneers have had themselves a massive offseason thus far. As we hit the month of June in a couple of days, the team has addressed most of its big needs, leaving just a few more to cross off the list before the start of training camp later this summer.
Of those remaining needs, though, running back depth shouldn’t top the list. In fact, it probably shouldn’t even be second on the list.
Rumors regarding Tampa Bay and former Falcons running back Devonta Freeman hit Twitter on Thursday. An initial report even mistakenly said the Bucs had made an offer to the Florida State product, but The Athletic’s Greg Auman quickly dispelled that:
Just to put out a fire: Bucs have not made any contract offer to free-agent running back Devonta Freeman, as has been reported.— Greg Auman (@gregauman) May 28, 2020
Even still, talk has persisted about the possibility of adding Freeman to an already-talented roster. But, while it could be fun, running back simply can’t be much of a priority right now.
Let’s start with the running back group as it is. The Bucs have Ronald Jones II—a guy who general manager Jason Licht and head coach Bruce Arians have continuously restated their trust in—leading the backfield right now. To complement him, the team drafted Ke’Shawn Vaughn in April’s draft. And beyond those two, there’s still a group of depth pieces like Dare Ogunbowale, T.J. Logan, seventh-round pick Raymond Calais and Aca’Cedric Ware.
So, adding a veteran like Freeman would immediately push Vaughn—a third-round pick—down to the No. 3 running back role. And despite the opinions of some that he was a reach in the draft, he was still a third-round pick who was selected to complement Jones. It would be a surprise to see the Bucs turn right around and sign someone else for that role just one month after the draft.
And to be clear, none of this is a knock on Freeman, as he would bring a boost (both talent and experience-wise) to Tampa Bay’s running back room. If he was added to the mix, the coaching staff and front office would presumably make it work.
But there are bigger needs the Bucs should be prioritizing over adding a seventh running back to the roster, even if it’s a talented one like Freeman. Namely, there isn’t much depth in the front seven of the defense, particularly off the edge. Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul are a fantastic duo to have, but beyond those two, the Bucs are thin at the position. Anthony Nelson could take a step forward and serve as Carl Nassib’s replacement, but what if he doesn’t and—knock on wood—one of the top two guys has to miss some time? The rest of the options on the roster are even more unproven than Nelson. Having a veteran presence in a depth role would be a massive step up.
Some of the same can be said about the interior of the defensive line. Vita Vea, Ndamukong Suh, and William Gholston all return in 2020. Rakeem Nunez-Roches and Jeremiah Ledbetter, plus rookie Khalil Davis, are in the mix to assume depth roles. But could Tampa Bay stand to add another vet to the mix? Potentially, right?
Now, what about the offensive line? Joe Haeg was brought in for depth earlier this offseason and his versatility is key, but the depth could stand to be upgraded there as well.
So, now we get to the big factor in all of this, which is cap space. The Bucs don’t have a lot of it. Right now, as Auman noted in a tweet on Thursday, the team doesn’t have room to offer anyone much more than the league minimum right now. Moves could be made to create some room, but even then, depth off the edge and in the trenches, to me, has to take precedence over more running back depth.
Thoughts, Bucs Nation?