The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have little else to play for in 2013 besides the fate of their coach and general manager, so as fans it’s time to set our sites on the offseason and start thinking about how the Buccaneers can turn a failed 2013 into a successful 2014.
So what are the biggest needs for the Buccaneers heading into next season? Setting aside the all-important position of “coach” (which I believe requires an upgrade), which positions should the Bucs target in free agency and the NFL Draft? Let’s take a look at some of the needs the Bucs will have this offseason.
These are the positions where the Buccaneers will have a 100% certain need.
- Defensive End
It’s clear that Da’Quan Bowers isn’t the answer as a pass rusher, and Adrian Clayborn is showing signs of being a run-stopper with a lack of ability to win one-on-ones in pass rushing situations. No defensive end for the Buccaneers has managed any kind of consistent pass rush, and that’s why getting a very good defensive end in the draft should be the top priority.
Jadeveon Clowney is obviously the best player at this position, but more options will emerge as the draft gets closer.
- Tight End
Tim Wright is a capable receiver at tight end, but the Bucs need a true on-the-line tight end who can block as well as he catches. Wright would be a great second tight end and an ideal option to use as the “move” tight end in a two-TE set. But the Bucs need a reliable blocker they can use on running and passing downs who also can get separation and is a true red zone threat. Austin Seferian-Jenkins comes to mind as an option the Bucs may snag in the second round.
- Slot Receiver
Unlike the masses of fans and mock drafters who seem to think the Buccaneers will select a receiver at the top of the draft, the Bucs have two very talented receivers in Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. They lack a threat from the slot, however, and that should be addressed this offseason. A shifty player like Odell Beckham Jr. from LSU would be a great fit if the Buccaneers pick up a third-round pick.
The Question Marks
These are the positions where the Buccaneers may have a need, but it’s yet to be determined.
Mike Glennon has posted some impressive numbers on the surface, but he’s yet to display repeatable skills that make him a reliable option moving forward. If he’s unable to make strides in the final four games, the Bucs will need to consider their options at quarterback this offseason. With Jay Cutler, Matt Schaub, Michael Vick and Kirk Cousins likely available as veterans, and multiple options in the draft, Tampa Bay will have chances to upgrade at QB if they feel the need.
- Right Guard
Davin Joseph is, by all accounts, a great guy, and he’s a leader of the Buccaneers as a captain and established veteran. But he’s simply not been good enough this season to merit the paycheck he hauls in, and if he’s unwilling to take a pay cut, he might not be back in 2014. Getting a new RG to replace him would be very important if he’s no longer around.
- Left Tackle
Donald Penn, on the other hand, has been pretty good this season. But his contract is quite large, and if there are changes in the front office in Tampa, his big money deal could be moved to make room for other players. The Bucs may opt to draft a tackle in the top-five picks in the NFL draft and move Penn to save some cash to spend elsewhere.
Mason Foster has been a surprise this season, but he’s still not the ideal middle linebacker. If the Buccaneers find an elite option at linebacker during the summer, they could move Mason to strongside linebacker and have a very fearsome trio of players at the position.
The Luxury Picks
These are positions the Bucs can take to help round out their roster.
- Backup QB
No more Orlovsky, please.
- Nickel corner
Johnthan Banks will develop into a good corner, but he needs some help on the non-Revis side of the field.
Erik Lorig is good, but the Bucs may find an equally talented fullback who is more of a threat in the running and passing game.
- Backup safety
The Bucs need a reliable backup for the suspension-prone Dashon Goldson.
The team could also choose to save money by getting rid of Connor Barth and Michael Koenen, and finding legitimate replacements for them this offseason.
These are the positions the Bucs don’t need.
- Wide receiver
Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams are among the best 1-2 duos in the NFL at WR. No upgrade needed.
- Defensive tackle
Akeem Spence is the perfect compliment to Gerald McCoy.
- Right tackle
Demar Dotson is a rising star.