Versatile Deone Bucannon calls Bucs a ‘perfect match’

The former Cardinals linebacker had his best years in Todd Bowles’ defense.
Deone Bucannon, pictured during a 2017 game against the Seattle Seahawks. [AP Photo/Rick Scuteri]
Deone Bucannon, pictured during a 2017 game against the Seattle Seahawks. [AP Photo/Rick Scuteri]
Published March 15

TAMPA ―It’s not uncommon for new coaches to reach back for players they have had in the past to fortify one position or another.

But in the case of Deone Bucannon, the Bucs found a player who can fill multiple positions, from safety to linebacker to edge rusher, if necessary.

Bucannon, 26, who played under coach Bruce Arians in Arizona, was introduced by the Bucs Friday after signing a one-year, $4-million contract.

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Arians and the same coaching staff that drafted Bucannon is the biggest reason he found a home in Tampa Bay.

“It really was,’’ Bucannon said Friday. “This whole coaching staff is the coaching staff that drafted me. So when (Arians) called me, and I was talking to him, I just felt right at home immediately. And that’s just how coach is. He values you as a person before a player and that just kind of makes you feel good, and it’s somebody you want to go to war for. On top of that, this is a great place to play football. So it was a perfect match.’’

Bucannon played what was described as the ‘money-backer,’ position for the Cardinals. At 6-foot-1, 222 pounds (he says he will play around 215), it was part linebacker, part safety.

Since so many teams go to three receivers about 66 percent of the time, Bucannon comes down as an extra defensive back to play linebacker and cover tight ends, running backs and receivers.

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“I’ve played safety, I’ve played off the edge a couple times, I’ve played in the middle, and hopefully they have a role for the moment,’’ Bucannon said. “I can be as versatile as they want me to be, but at the same time I’m willing to do everything and anything — whether it’s from special teams, from blitzing to covering. Filling the gaps, taking on blocks, setting the edges. ... I’m willing to do it all. I’m looking forward to seeing what the coaches have in store for me, whether it be one of those things or all those things. I’m happy and I’m blessed to be here.

“It’s something that I’ve done before. I’m super comfortable doing that. I just want to be on the field as much as I possibly can and be part of this great team. I want to fit in just like water. I don’t want to ruffle any feathers; I just want to be able to come in, do my job, do my part and just be a positive influence on this team to makes us better.’’

Bucannon isn’t the only newcomer to the linebacker position for the Bucs. The team signed Broncos outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett to a one-year, $4-million contract that could reach $5-million with incentives.

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The 6-foot-2, 250-pound Barrett had 14 sacks in five seasons with the Broncos as an undrafted free agent from Colorado State. He also was a member of the Super Bowl 50 champions that beat Carolina 24-10.

There are bound to be some changes to the linebacker corps with new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles changing to a 3-4 scheme. The Bucs lost middle linebacker Kwon Alexander to the 49ers in free agency and did not offer to retain Adarius Taylor, who signed with the Browns. Noah Spence, who barely saw the field last season, could also be used as an outside pass rusher.

Both Bucannon and Barrett could prove to be situational players, but they will have a chance to earn starting jobs. Barrett is undersized at linebacker, but his coverage ability made him an important member of the sub package. In 2015, he finished with 109 tackles and three sacks.

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“It started with me being in on nickel, dollar, dime,’’ Bucannon said. “You know how the league is going to a more passing league. They went out of their way and created the money-backer role. Whether that’s implemented here, I don’t care.’’

The Bucs have signed at least four free agents to one-year “prove it” deals. But that doesn’t bother Bucannon.

“I don’t want to call it a 'prove it ‘year, because each and every time I step on the field, I’m putting out 100 percent,’’ he said. “Within the years at Arizona, there were ups and downs. Of course, as far as me proving it? I want to prove to my new teammates here, I want to show them I’m going to be a great teammate and a great player for them. That’s about as 'prove it’ as I’m going to get. I want to gain their trust.’’