One of the key positions the front office should be looking very closely at this off season is the defensive line. When Vita Vea went down with the fractured ankle, the defense appeared to take a dip in overall performance, so they were forced to make some significant changes.
They acquired Steve McLendon from the Jets in week six, incorporated more blitz packages from the outside taking a man away in coverage, and moving to four and sometimes five-man fronts. Vea’s return off of IR at the end of the season reignited the defense allowing more coverage downfield, in the middle, and up front.
We continue our free agent spotlight series with Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle, Hassan Ridgeway.
Hassan Ridgeway’s Career Thus Far
Ridgeway is a product of the University of Texas at Austin where he played 36 games, starting in only 18 of those. During his collegiate career he recorded 92 tackles and 9.5 sacks.
He entered the draft his junior year weighing 303 pounds, standing 6 foot 3 inches, with a 33 in. wingspan. He ran a 5.02 40-yard dash, his vertical jump was 32 inches, and he bench pressed 24 reps.
He was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the 4th round of the 2016 NFL Draft (116th overall). He played for the Colts for three years recording 414 tackles and 4.5 sacks. He was traded to the Eagles in 2019 for a seventh round draft pick. He remained on reserve playing behind Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson.
When Jackson went down with an injury, it allowed Ridgeway to come in and show what he can do playing next to Cox, an all-pro defensive tackle. However, it didn’t last long as he was also injured in a game against the Dallas Cowboys placing him on injured reserve.
Ridgeway’s first season with the Colts was the only season he played in all 16 games, starting in five of those. Although he only played a total of 14 games during his two years in Philadelphia, he made the most of it. He has total stat line of 60 combined tackles, 12 of those for loss, 15 quarterback hits, 1 safety, and 7.5 sacks.
Why It Works
The Bucs need depth up front should the inevitable occur again, and they lose another player due to injury. It’s also a seamless fit for Ridgeway to come in and play a similar defense he’s been playing under Jim Schwartz who runs a 4-3 scheme.
Bowles is no stranger to trying new things to keep offenses on their toes. He’s one of the best in the league to do it. Having reliable players up front to compliment Vea in 4-man and 5-man sets will help keep the pressure off of the outside to allow more penetration to disrupt the backfield.
There are still question marks about who will be returning in 2021. Although I’m sure he stays a Buccaneer, Suh could very well be hitting the free market. There are some doubts that McLendon and Nunez-Roches will resign. The Bucs like what they saw from Patrick O’Connor, so he’ll be returning, but Bowles will need to lean forward and start looking to fill some big shoes at a bargain price which Ridgeway can offer.
Ridgeway may not be consistent enough to be considered. Bowles needs equal or better players up front than the ones he is potentially losing. I’m not entirely certain he has to be starter material as he’s proven he can play with the best, but his inconsistent time out on the field should be considered.
He’s also another injury prone player having dealt with an ankle injury in 2019 and a torn bicep placing him on injured reserve this past season.
What’s The Cost?
Hassan Ridgeway is a bargain deal for the Bucs. He’s coming off of a one-year deal with the Eagles for $1,010,000 with a $25,000 signing bonus. His largest salary was $910,000 this past year.
Hassan Ridgeway (Eagles), one-year, $1.01M, $25K signing bonus, salary $910K, $50K first-game 53-man roster bonus, $900K sacks incentive— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) March 27, 2020
The Bucs have an opportunity to free up a lot in cap space if they decide to move on from Steve McLendon who made $3,000,000 last season. Rakeem Nunez-Roches made $1,500,000 which is likely in the ballpark of what Ridgeway would be looking to make with signing bonus and incentives built in.
So, there’s a potential to make a play for Ridgeway and save themselves $1.5 - $2 million.
What We Don’t Know
We don’t know if Ridgeway’s inconsistent time out on the field is a factor or not. He’s only played 14 games the past two seasons having been on IR in each off those seasons. We also don’t know if the Bucs are considering younger options deep in the draft.
I think it’s also fair to say that we don’t know if any other teams may be pursuing Ridgeway for a better price. When he’s out on the field, he performs, and the tape backs it up. The Bucs are not being pressured to pick up any free agents at this point, but if so they’ll likely be looking under market value.
Make The Decision
The Bucs have an interesting situation at the defensive line position? Do they make sure to keep Ndamukong Suh and build around him and Vita Vea? Can they afford to lose both Nunez-Roches and Steve McLendon?
Hassan Ridgeway would be a bargain for the Bucs to pursue should the option still be there to acquire him once the market opens up. It could end up being a wait and see situation should no other team be immediately interested. Although the Bucs are obviously interested in keeping the band together, not everyone will be asked to stay.
When it comes to Hassan Ridgeway, what would you have the Buccaneers do?
This poll is closed
Sign him, no matter what
Make an offer, but keep it reasonable
Invite him for a cup of coffee and see how it goes
Call him up if there’s still a need after the draft
Don’t need him