With free agency off and running, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have spent their time and resources securing their own players rather than pursuing others in their bid for a second consecutive Super Bowl title.
After locking up critical pieces like Shaq Barrett, Rob Gronkowksi, and even Ryan Succop, only a few notable players remain. While fans await word on the futures of Ndamukong Suh and Leonard Fournette, they might also want to keep an eye on other potential prospects.
Expecting big names at this point is highly improbable, but there are plenty of useful veterans on the market who would likely take affordable one- or two-year deals to take part in a championship bid.
Here are five names that aren’t talked about much but could nevertheless be useful in 2021:
1. Elijah Wilkinson, OT/OG
The Buccaneers are currently without depth at the offensive tackle spots, as Josh Wells remains unsigned and Joe Haeg recently agreed to a contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Wells will likely remain available for a while, but the Bucs might look to someone younger who could offer more potential, as well as inside-outside versatility.
One of the names left who fits that description is Wilkinson, who started significant snaps at both guard and tackle for the Denver Broncos over the past three seasons.
You’re not going to see many ringing endorsements of Wilkinson - his best grade of 65.5 from Pro Football Focus came in 2018 while playing guard - but he’s fine in spurts and provides the versatility that the Bucs could use at swing tackle and potentially jumbo tight end. He’s also just 26 years old, so it’s not unreasonable to expect improvement in a new situation with well-respected offensive line coaches like Harold Goodwin and Joe Gilbert.
His Over the Cap evaluation is about $5 million, but a two-year deal could likely drive the cap hit down some.
2. T.J. Carrie, CB
Both special teams ace Ryan Smith and key backup Ross Cockrell remain free agents, so the Bucs are likely doing their homework on other free agent cornerbacks.
The team does have Herb Miller, who they evidently like and even snagged an interception against Detroit this past season, but it never hurts to have veteran options further down the depth chart.
If Cockrell’s spot start performances earn him a higher paying role elsewhere, which is possible because he played quite well, Tampa could look to someone like T.J. Carrie. Carrie served in a near-identical role as Cockrell and played above expectations with Indianapolis, snagging two interceptions and grading out at 70.8 with PFF.
He’d be ideal outside corner depth, as he profiles well as a press-man corner who can handle heavy doses of zone coverage. If the Colts decide to lean more on their young players, it appears Carrie will have to seek his next veteran mercenary type of deal. It will be more than the $1 million he settled for in 2020, but something like $2.5 or $3 million to play for a Super Bowl contender shouldn’t be out of the question.
3. Tarrell Basham, EDGE
The Buccaneers locked up their golden goose of this year’s free agency period when Barrett agreed to come back on a four-year deal. With him and Jason Pierre-Paul on the edges, the Bucs’ starters at that position are squared away.
That said, they might not be opposed to adding some veteran depth there. With a weaker-than-average draft class, the Bucs could show more interest in addressing rotational depth concerns with a player like Basham, who emerged as a suitable situational rusher for the Jets in 2020.
The 27-year-old Basham started nine games and recorded 3.5 sacks with three forced fumbles and 23 pressures. He earned a respectable 64.6 grade from PFF, which is strong considering the complete lack of talent on the Jets defense as a whole. Basham has some experience with Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, as New York claimed Basham from Indianapolis in 2018 - Bowles’s last season as head coach.
A little familiarity helps, and the core of Barrett, JPP, Anthony Nelson, Basham, and potentially a rookie would make for a robust unit as the team looks to capitalize on its win-now window. Basham is coming off his rookie deal, so he’ll likely be looking for a decently healthy raise from the $800,000 he made last season. A two-year deal worth $5 or $6 million would likely get the job done, per Over the Cap.
4. Ryan Groy, IOL
The Buccaneers brought back playoff stand-in Aaron Stinnie, which helps out the offensive line depth. That said, they still need an interior line backup who has experience with playing center after A.Q. Shipley retired to join the coaching staff.
If the Bucs would like someone more seasoned to serve as Ryan Jensen’s primary backup, rather than drafting one, Groy presents a fine option with a lot of starting experience at center and guard in his seven-year career.
After entering the league with the Bears in 2014, Groy has seen starts with Chicago, Buffalo, and the Los Angeles Chargers - 20 total. His career was at its steadiest in Buffalo, where he posted a PFF grade above 70 twice.
However, his latest season with Chargers was upended by stints on the COVID-19 list and injured reserve. Groy will be 31 when the season begins, so he’s likely only short-term depth, but he’d be affordable depth around the contract figure of $1.5 million or so.
5. Kalif Raymond, WR/KR
Given Jaydon Mickens’s recent legal situation, the chances of him coming back are up in the air. With Kenjon Barner and T.J. Logan also free agents, the Bucs suddenly have a completely unsettled situation at kick returner.
While the latter two could likely be brought back at vet minimum, the Bucs might want to give someone else an opportunity. Barner was woefully ineffective on both kicks and punts when he was healthy, and Logan has barely seen the field in two years due to injury.
Enter Raymond, who played with Tennessee for the last two seasons. He’s small at 5-foot-8, but he’s incredibly quick and has shown some home run potential at receiver. While he’ll be unlikely to see major offensive snaps given Tampa’s strong receiver room, he held primary kick and punt return responsibilities for the Titans and did well.
He was solid in 2020 with a 9-yard return average on punts and an 18.3-yard average on kickoffs. Raymond was better in 2019 when he averaged 22.4 yards per kick return, which tied him for the 11th-best mark in the NFL. He also earned the eighth-highest grade among kick returners that year, Per PFF. OTC evaluated Raymond at about $1.5 million.
Which of these free agents should the Buccaneers be most interested in?
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