Now that the Bucs have announced that Brentson Buckner is their new defensive line coach, could his connections help shape Tampa Bay's search to upgrade their pass rush this offseason?
The chance to play for a familiar position coach can be a major factor in a free agent's decision process, and Buckner's five years with the Arizona Cardinals could help the Bucs.
One potential target is defensive end Alex Okafor, 27, who had eight sacks with Arizona in 2014 in his first full NFL season with Buckner as his position coach. Okafor signed with the Saints last year and played well, with 43 tackles and 4.5 sacks in 10 games before he tore his Achilles tendon.
Okafor's injury status is a potential obstacle, but he wouldn't be an expensive addition for the Bucs — he signed with New Orleans on a one-year, $2-million deal last year.
Arizona doesn't have significant free agents that could come to the Bucs, but if they sought a veteran familiar with Buckner's coaching, they could look at Frostee Rucker, who played the last five years in Arizona and is a solid run-stopping end. Rucker is 34, but would provide inexpensive depth, coming off a one-year, $1.08-million contract.
The long shot would be Carolina's Julius Peppers, who remains a productive pass-rusher at age 38, getting 11 sacks in 2017 in his return to the Panthers. Buckner and Peppers played as teammates in Carolina from 2002-05, when Buckner's final four seasons overlapped with Peppers' first four. But recent reports from Charlotte say Peppers would likely to return to Carolina if he were to continue playing for a 17th NFL season in 2018.
Other than Gerald McCoy, Robert Ayers was the Bucs’ best defensive lineman last season, Thomas Bassinger writes. #Bucs #Buccaneers @TBBuccaneers @tometrics @1_900_ayersjr @TB_Times https://t.co/llVexU7U6l— TampaBayTimesSports (@TBTimes_Sports) February 20, 2018
Contact Greg Auman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @gregauman