Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs' biggest needs in NFL draft

TAMPA

The Bucs have their GPS set for locating cornerbacks, whether it means trading for the Jets' Darrelle Revis or finding one early in the draft next week. • But they have plenty of holes to plug all over the field. Some of those vacancies have been addressed through free agency, albeit with lower-rung players signed to one- or two-year deals for minimal money. • Here are some positions of need other than defensive back the Bucs could address in the draft.

Defensive tackle

Player lost — Roy Miller

Player added — Derek Landri (No. 94, above)

Landri, 29, a free agent from the Eagles, is a rotational type player and not necessarily the answer to line up next to Pro Bowl pick Gerald McCoy. Veteran Gary Gibson, who had 18 tackles as a backup last season, would take the first rep if practice started today. At No. 13 overall in the draft, the Bucs could be in the range to consider Missouri's Sheldon Richardson or Utah's Star Lotulelei to give them more push in the middle. But, of the 22 positions, nose tackle might have the least amount of money budgeted for it.

Defensive end

Player lost — Michael Bennett

Player signed — George Selvie, below left

Bennett led the Bucs in sacks last season with nine but signed as a free agent with Seattle (one year, $5 million) despite needing surgery on a torn rotator cuff. The Bucs are putting all their eggs in the baskets of Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers, who have combined for 12 career sacks. A nickel pass rusher, and someone to occasionally spell Clayborn and Bowers, would be ideal. The Bucs could be looking at BYU's Ezekiel Ansah, who has played only three years of football since arriving from his native Ghana. His athleticism is on par with Giants and former USF star Jason Pierre-Paul. German-born Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner has visited the Bucs and might drop in the draft after a poor combine.

Right tackle

Player lost — Jeremy Trueblood

Player signed Demar Dotson, below left, to a three-year extension

Though Dotson is an incumbent starter, his new deal won't prohibit the Bucs from upgrading at the position. Alabama's D.J. Fluker, at 6 feet 5, 339 pounds, is a massive man and another potential road grader for coach Greg Schiano, who wants to run Doug Martin early and often. He won't sell tickets, but Fluker would be a solid pick.

Strongside linebacker

Player lost — Quincy Black

Player signed Jonathan Casillas, below left

Black was released after failing a physical, the result of nerve damage stemming from a tackle last season. Casillas, a free agent from the Saints, has primarily been a special teams standout but will compete with Adam Hayward and second-year pro Najee Goode. Many of the linebackers projected to go in the first round would be better suited for a 3-4 defense or perhaps a transition to defensive end. Notre Dame's Manti Te'o lurks in the bottom of the first round but is a true middle linebacker. If the Bucs take him, that would necessitate moving Mason Foster to the strong side. Unlikely.

Quarterback

Players lost — None.

Player signed Dan Orlovsky, to a one-year, $620,000 deal.

Schiano said he wanted competition for starter Josh Freeman. At this point, that most likely will have to come from the draft. If you rule out the first round, where only West Virginia's Geno Smith — and perhaps Southern California's Matt Barkley — will be selected, there are plenty of choices for the middle rounds. There might not be any candidates to challenge Freeman, but they could present an alternative for 2014. Here's a possible fit: Tennessee's Tyler Bray. At 6 feet 6, he has a big down-the-field arm that could function in the Bucs' offense.

   
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