Advertisement
  1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Bucs

Ranking the Buccaneers’ most important moves (and nonmoves) of the 2019 offseason

Who will have the most impact? The veteran free agents? The rookie draft picks? The coaches?
Bucs coach Bruce Arians: “We have one goal every year, and that’s to win the Lombardi Trophy.” [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Bucs coach Bruce Arians: “We have one goal every year, and that’s to win the Lombardi Trophy.” [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Jul. 15, 2019
Updated Jul. 15, 2019

Is it training camp yet? No, but we’re almost there. Buccaneers rookies report Sunday, veterans report four days later and the first full-squad practice is July 26.

As you count down the days, let’s count down the team’s most important decisions of the offseason. Here are our definitive, indisputable, purely scientific rankings:

8. Signing punter Bradley Pinion

[CHRIS SZAGOLA | Associated Press]

Shortly after the free-agency period opened in March, Tampa Bay agreed to terms with Bradley Pinion, guaranteeing him $3.6 million. Soooooo, uh, what was the rush? Was it because he also can kick off? That’s plausible. Two months later, however, the Bucs spent a fifth-round draft pick on kicker Matt Gay, who most definitely has the leg for kickoffs. That would seem to negate the extra value Pinion provides. Worse, the signing likely costs Tampa Bay a compensatory pick in next year’s draft. (Compensatory picks are awarded to teams that lose more or better free agents than they acquire.)

[ RELATED: It’s not smart to draft kickers, but the Bucs haven’t gotten the message ]

7. Failing to add a reliable pass-catching running back

[MONICA HERNDON | Times]

Bucs running backs last season ranked 31st in percentage of team targets (14.2 percent), partly because of the offensive scheme and partly because of the lack of trustworthy options. Tampa Bay responded by signing Andre Ellington, who caught a total of 85 passes in 2014 and 2015 but just 66 since. Also, he didn’t play last season. Also, the last time he played for Bruce Arians (in 2017 in Arizona), Arians cut him halfway through the season. Though the Bucs didn’t draft anyone, they did sign undrafted free agent Bruce Anderson (above), who could emerge as the dual threat they need in their backfield.

6. Signing defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh

[DIRK SHADD | Times]

This was Tampa Bay’s splash move of the offseason, and while Suh is a recognizable name, he alone doesn’t transform this defense. Is he an upgrade over Gerald McCoy? Yes. In a way that significantly moves the needle? No. He’s a better run stopper but a comparable pass rusher.

[ RELATED: Are the Bucs better off with Suh? ]

5. Signing linebacker Shaquil Barrett

[RALPH FRESO | Associated Press]

It feels as if this move has flown under the radar a bit. Barrett had a solid 2017 with the Broncos, generating pressure on 13.3 percent of his pass rush snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. He’s not Khalil Mack, but that’s a healthy rate of pressure. By comparison, Justin Houston generated pressure on 12.6 percent of his pass rush snaps for the Chiefs. Barrett’s playing time decreased last season, though, after Denver drafted Bradley Chubb in the first round. Can he return to 2017 form? Tampa Bay is paying $4 million to find out. He could prove to be a bargain.

4. Drafting linebacker Devin White

[MARK HUMPHREY | Associated Press]

The Bucs were wise to let middle linebacker Kwon Alexander walk in free agency instead of handing him a top-dollar contract. Since 2015, his rookie season, he has missed 78 tackles, second most in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. Only Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith has missed more.

White, Tampa Bay’s fifth overall pick, will do more than replace Alexander. There has been a lot of chatter about defensive coordinator Todd Bowles using him as a blitzer (he will), but White’s range, explosiveness and mobility could make him an asset in pass coverage, where the Bucs need immediate help. Opponents relentlessly picked them apart over the middle last season. Granted, Tampa Bay simply didn’t have enough bodies. No team’s linebacking corps was as hard-hit by injuries, according to a Football Outsiders analysis.

3. Drafting three defensive backs

[DIRK SHADD | Times]

After a season in which the Bucs nearly allowed a record highs in completion percentage and passer rating, the No. 1 priority on defense was to restock a barren secondary. Tampa Bay did exactly that in April’s draft, selecting cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting (above) in the second round and cornerback Jamel Dean and safety Mike Edwards in the third round.

A better defense truly could help the offense, especially if it forces turnovers, which the Bucs seldom did last season. Tampa Bay intercepted only nine passes, tied with Dallas for 26th, and four of those came in one game. The result: The offense didn’t see many short fields. On average, the Bucs started a possession at the 26.3-yard line, the fourth-worst field position in the league.

[ RELATED: Bucs film study with Donnie Abraham: Todd Bowles, rookie defensive backs will surprise ]

2. Skipping the offensive line

[MONICA HERNDON | Times]

So the drafting of three defensive backs might not have been completely by design. There’s a good chance, based on offensive line coach Joe Gilbert’s postdraft comments, that Tampa Bay was targeting an offensive lineman with one of those picks.

“There were certain parts of the draft that were going on where we had the opportunity to possibly get a lineman at a certain time, and those guys got picked just prior to us going,” he said. “We were just a pick off from maybe getting a guy or two there, and it just didn’t fall the right way.”

He didn’t mention anyone by name, but the educated guess here is that he was referring to Oklahoma’s Cody Ford, whom the Bills drafted 39th overall, one spot ahead of the Bucs. Had Tampa Bay drafted Ford, he likely would have been the leading candidate to start at right guard. He also could have been the future replacement for right tackle Demar Dotson, who turns 34 in October. Instead, Alex Cappa and Earl Watford will compete for the guard job while Dotson hobbles around for another season. The Bucs could be looking for both a guard and a tackle next offseason.

Tampa Bay’s offensive line allowed 109 hits last season, tied for fourth most, and allowed running backs to be tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage on 24.7 percent of carries, the third-highest rate.

1. Hiring Bruce Arians to be the head coach

[MONICA HERNDON | Times]

You know the resume. A 58-33-1 record as a head coach. A two-time coach of the year (2012 and 2014). A two-time Super Bowl champion as an assistant coach (2005 and 2008). Mentor to Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck and Carson Palmer.

Question the wisdom of the Bucs’ tying their fortunes to Jameis Winston all you want, but given that they remain as committed as ever, Arians was a logical hire. Manning, Roethlisberger and Palmer all showed progress under his tutelage. And as the offensive coordinator of the Browns in 2002, he even squeezed a good enough passing game out of Kelly Holcomb/Tim Couch.

Winston isn’t Arians’ only challenge, of course. He and his army of assistant coaches are trying to install a new mindset. Some might label the bold claims emanating from One Buc Place as “swagger.” Some might call it “hype.” Others might call it “insanity.” Whatever you want to call it, there’s a new attitude in Tampa. Arians, 66, didn’t risk his reputation and trade in his golf cart — check that, he still travels via golf cart — to go 6-10 or 7-9.

“We ain’t playing for second place or just to get better,” he said in March. “We’re going after the Lombardi Trophy.”

Statistics in this report are from Football Outsiders, Pro Football Focus and Pro Football Reference. Contact Thomas Bassinger at tbassinger@tampabay.com. Follow @tometrics.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Colin Kaepernick, middle, kneels for the national anthem. He hasn't taken a snap in the NFL for three full seasons now.
    "Inspire Change'' campaign is a sanitized version of what Colin Kaepernick tried to get across by kneeling for the national anthem.
  2. New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) runs on the sideline in the second half of an NFL football game against Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. [ADAM HUNGER  |  AP]
    Manning: “From the very first moment I did it my way.”
  3. NFC cornerback Shaquill Griffin of the Seattle Seahawks gives a thumbs up during Pro Bowl NFL football practice, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020, in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Luciano) [STEVE LUCIANO  |  AP]
    Third-year Seahawks cornerback is being rewarded for his standout season, and is excited to share it with his family. “We all made the Pro Bowl.”
  4. In this Oct. 23, 2016, file photo, a New Orleans Saints helmet rests on the playing field before an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo. The Saints are going to court to keep the public from seeing hundreds of emails that allegedly show team executives doing public relations damage control for the area's Roman Catholic archdiocese to help it contain the fallout from a burgeoning sexual abuse crisis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File) [JEFF ROBERSON  |  AP]
    Saints attorneys disputed any suggestion that the team helped the church cover up crimes, calling such claims “outrageous.”
  5. NFC quarterback Drew Brees, of the New Orleans Saints, throws a pass during a practice for the NFL Pro Bowl football game Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020, in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) [CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP]
    The Bucs could be impacted as they decide on Jameis Winston, with Brees’ New Orleans backup Teddy Bridgewater as a possible option.
  6. Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (94) celebrates a sack of Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) during the second half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019. [REED HOFFMANN  |  AP]
    John Romano | The Bucs played well enough on both sides of the ball to be one of the top 10 teams in the NFL. One stat kept them from possibly being the Chiefs or 49ers.
  7. Former Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm could be an interesting option for the Bucs to consider, if they want to move on from Jameis Winston. [BILL FEIG  |  AP]
    As the Bucs possibly look into moving on from Jameis Winston, here’s what fans should know about this draft’s quarterback class.
  8. In this Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, file photo, then-Patriots receiver Antonio Brown roams the sideline during the first half against the Dolphins in Miami Gardens. Law enforcement authorities have issued an arrest warrant for Brown, who along with his trainer has been accused of attacking a man near Brown's South Florida home in Hollywood. [LYNNE SLADKY  |  AP]
    The troubled NFL wide receiver is accused, along with his trainer, of attacking a man in South Florida.
  9. NFC linebacker Shaquil Barrett (58) of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, hands Sean Silverthorn, of Largo, Fla., two tickets to the Super Bowl after a practice for the NFL Pro Bowl football game Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020, in Kissimmee, Fla. [CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP]
    At this time last year, he was a player without a team. Now, having earned his place among the game’s greats, the Buccaneers outside linebacker is making dreams come true for him, his family and a...
  10. In this Feb. 7, 2012 file photo New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning holds up the Vince Lombardi Trophy during the team's NFL football Super Bowl parade in New York. Manning, who led the Giants to two Super Bowls in a 16-year career that saw him set almost every team passing record, has retired. The Giants said Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020 that Manning would formally announce his retirement on Friday. [JULIO CORTEZ  |  AP]
    The two-time Super Bowl MVP is calling it quits after 16 seasons, all with the same team.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement