By now, you all have heard that the Buccaneers went berserk in free agency, spending $140.55 million on Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks, and Eric Wright. And oh yeah, they signed QB Dan Orlovsky to a two-year deal as well. However, there is still uncertainty on the defensive side of the ball. If you watched any Bucs game last season, you probably realized that the front seven had trouble stopping the run.
Now, we can blame the lack of success on defense on many things, the fact that we had a long lockout, Bucs were very, very young on defense, and there appeared to be a lack of will and hustle at times under Raheem Morris’ regime. Oh, and I forgot to mention, Gerald McCoy was sidelined with an injury for the second straight season.
Many also point to Mason Foster’s somewhat disappointing season as the starting MLB. However, the aforementioned issues contributed to his “sub-par” play significantly. Foster, as a rookie, was forced to start without much preparation time, and he was also given the burden of calling the signals on defense. That’s tough for a rookie, there’s no question there. That being said, I think he handled it quite well. Foster finished the season with 84 tackles and one interception.
So, where do the Buccaneers go from here? Well, I have a feeling that the Bucs will have to address the linebacker position in free agency. I know, I know many of you have been lobbying for Curtis Lofton to come to Tampa. However, I don’t see that happening, unless he lowers his asking price. But, the man did have 147 tackles in 2011, which is substantially higher than Foster’s 84.
I have been an advocate of bringing in Stephen Tulloch, the former Lions LB. Tulloch is seen as a cheaper version of Lofton. Tulloch had a 111 tackles for the Detroit Lions in 2011, and would bring leadership to this group of young linebackers.
Moreover, the front four need to find a way to stay healthy. Adrian Clayborn had 7.5 sacks as a rookie. He really did play well in 2011. Da’Quan Bowers, another rookie, also had a solid season, though only finishing with 25 tackles and 1.5 sacks. The interior needs to stay healthy. Gerald McCoy can’t catch a break. He only played in five games in 2011. Also, the Buccaneers offered Michael Bennett a tender, which will keep him in Tampa Bay unless he refuses to play under those terms.
In conclusion, whatever the Buccaneers do with Foster, it appears he will only improve over last season. He will have a full offseason to prepare, and he will already have an NFL season under his belt.