Bucs having a heck of an offseason … even before Jason Pierre-Paul

The latest move of acquiring JPP adds to an already solid offseason.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Mike Evans and Cameron Brate laugh at a joke general manager Jason Licht told during a news conference at One Buc Place. (Alessandra Da Pra, Times)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Mike Evans and Cameron Brate laugh at a joke general manager Jason Licht told during a news conference at One Buc Place. (Alessandra Da Pra, Times)
Published March 22, 2018|Updated March 23, 2018

Happy now, Bucs fans?

Feeling better? Ready to stop your bellyaching and hand-wringing?

The Bucs finally gave you the splash move you've been yelling for all offseason. They went out and got themselves a pass rusher.

A real, honest-to-goodness, chase-down-the-quarterback-and-slam-him-to-the-ground pass rusher. That's something they haven't had since forever.

It comes with a cost — a third-round pick and a whole lot of dough — but that's the price you must pay if you want to get good football players. And Jason Pierre-Paul, that pass rusher they picked up, is a pretty good football player.

And now, suddenly, the offseason feels like a success for the Bucs.

But here's the thing: contrary to what much of Tampa Bay believed, it already was a pretty good offseason for the Bucs even before they picked up JPP.

Bucs fans, the majority of them, didn't think so. They were ready to toss general manager Jason Licht into a dumpster behind One Buc Place because they felt he wasn't doing enough to fix a broken team.

I actually thought he was doing a good job.

The most important players on your team — and the ones most difficult to acquire — are the ones who line up closest to the football. The closer you are to the ball on each snap, the more valuable you are to your team.

Well, look at what the Bucs have done this offseason.

They've completely revamped their defensive line, picking up a couple of Super Bowl champion Eagles in defensive end Vinny Curry and defensive tackle Beau Allen. Put those guys with the best player on your team, Gerald McCoy, and you have, potentially, turned a team weakness into a team strength.

On the offensive side, no one is closer to the ball than the center and the Bucs put their money where their mouth is and signed center Ryan Jensen to a four-year deal worth $42 million, with $22 million guaranteed, making him the highest-paid center in football. That allowed the Bucs to shift Ali Marpet back to his more natural position of guard, thus greatly improving an offensive line that struggled much of last season.

They then re-signed cornerback Brent Grimes, a critical move. They signed star receiver Mike Evans to a five-year extension. They locked up reliable tight end Cam Brate for six years. Heck, they even signed what appears to be a decent kicker in Chandler Catanzaro.

Now add Pierre-Paul to the mix and you have a team that is much better today than when they walked off the field at the end of last season.

Are the Bucs done? Has every hole been plugged?

No. Not even close.

They still need another cornerback. They could use some more offensive line help. They need a running back.

But here's the thing — and this was true before Thursday's trade — how about we let the entire offseason play out before we judge how the offseason has gone?

There's still time left in free agency. There's still time to make trades. And, most of all, there's a little thing called the NFL draft.

The Bucs have the No. 7 overall pick, and they will almost certainly get a 2018 starter — and maybe even a 2018 star — whether it be a cornerback such as Alabama's Minkah Fitzpatrick or a guard such as Notre Dame's Quenton Nelson or a safety such as FSU's Derwin James, or if the world went completely mad, a running back such as Penn State's Saquon Barkley.

Or, perhaps, the Bucs will trade out of the No. 7 spot, move back in the first round and pick up a draft pick to make up for the third-rounder they just traded to the Giants for Pierre-Paul. Or maybe they'll move up. They have other draft picks, too. Maybe they can find a starter in the second round.

Maybe they can find a hidden gem in a later round. Maybe an undrafted free agent will come out of nowhere.

Who knows?

That's the point. The Bucs don't report to training camp for another four months. The offseason is only half over. The Bucs still have a long ways to go to become a good team, but they still have a lot of time left to get there.

But Thursday was a big day. Pierre-Paul is good player. He will help the Bucs next season.

And make the fans feel a whole lot better about this offseason.