Tuesday marks the official beginning of free agency in the NFL, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are almost certain to be active players in the feeding frenzy that will take place as soon as the new league year begins. But what exactly should the Buccaneers do to improve their roster?
To help provide a different look at the Buccaneers’ outlook in the offseason, I graciously given an opportunity to ask some questions of Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated’s “Audibles.” Chris gave his thoughts on Mike Glennon, Darrelle Revis and more. Check out what he had to say below, and then follow him on Twitter here to keep up with his latest work.
Leo Howell: One of the biggest questions in Tampa is about Mike Glennon and his future under center. What is your opinion of Mike Glennon, and do you believe he has a future as a starting quarterback in the NFL?
Chris Burke: Glennon was better than I expected him to be last season, but I’m still not sure I saw enough — or that Lovie Smith has seen enough since taking over — to recommend committing to him long-term. A key will be figuring out how many of the issues he had in 2013 are attributable either to him being a rookie starter or to having a revolving door of running backs next to him. With a full offseason as the No. 1 guy, he could take a decent step forward.
LH: No matter your opinion on Glennon, it’s clear that there are holes on the Tampa Bay offense. Put yourself in Jason Licht’s shoes, and tell us what you’d do to shore up the offense that finished dead last in the NFL last season.
CB: I think they have to consider heavily taking one of the top wide receivers or a tight end with their Round 1 draft selection (or trading down and then doing the same). The offensive line probably could use a couple new bodies, at least to provide depth, but until there are steadier options at the skill positions it might not matter. I’d definitely also look QB later on in the draft, if only to push Glennon a bit.
They should be able to find that O-line help somewhere in free agency. I wouldn’t break the bank chasing one of the top tackles at this point, but nabbing a couple of swing guys would go a long way.
LH: Defensively, the Buccaneers have a trio of superstars and some other decent talent scattered around the field. Just how good do you think the Tampa Bay defense can be in 2014?
CB: If there is one thing we know about Lovie Smith, it’s that he can coach ‘em up on defense. By that addition alone, the Buccaneers ought to be tougher to play against. You mention having a trio of superstars. I think the key point there is that there’s one at each level: Gerald McCoy up front, Lavonte David at linebacker and Darrelle Revis at corner. Add another star in the mix to turn one of those position groups from good to great, and this has the look of a top-10 defense.
LH: Darrelle Revis has been the topic of trade and release conversations all offseason due to being a cover corner for a “Cover 2 coach” and boasting a huge contract. What are your thoughts on Revis, his contract, and his role with Lovie Smith in Tampa?
CB: Well, I guess if the Buccaneers can trade Revis for any semblance of a decent return, it’s an option worth glancing at because of the possible cap savings. Otherwise, there is no reason to go back to the starting point at CB when one of the league’s top players there already resides on the roster. Smith will find a way to get the most out of Revis.
LH: Where would you rank Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David among their peers at their positions?
CB: McCoy was the best DT in football last season, and only Ndamukong Suh was even close to getting into the conversation. I’d still put him behind Geno Atkins overall when Atkins is healthy, but the Buccaneers should expect McCoy to be a top-three guy at his position each year.
I certainly think David has an argument for being the top player at his position in 2013, too. At least in terms of 4-3 outside linebackers, there was not another guy who consistently did everything well, like David did. No reason to think 2014 will be any different, unless the scheme change slows him down a bit out of the gate.
LH: Again, put yourself in Jason Licht’s shoes, and tell me how you’d address the Bucs’ need for a pass rusher this offseason.
CB: I’d attack free agency. There are enough names out there to make at least one upgrade there, whether it’s someone in his prime like a Michael Johnson or a veteran who still can get to the QB like Jared Allen or Justin Tuck. There’s a shot that Jadeveon Clowney or Khalil Mack is there in May, but by then the free-agent market will be picked dry if the cards fall a different direction.
LH: What is your take on Lovie Smith’s return to football? Do you think he’s capable of overcoming the flaws he had in Chicago and winning a Lombardi Trophy in Tampa?
CB: Every team that needed a coach the past two offseasons should have been looking at Smith. He’s an experienced coach with the type of demeanor that plays well in the NFL. Obviously, there are some questions about his ability to maintain playoff success, but I have no doubt that he can win.
LH: What are your expectations for an NFL offense run by long-time college coach Jeff Tedford?
CB: Good question. … And I’m not sure. Based on what we’ve seen from Tedford before, I assume it will lean toward a pro-style system, with the best aspect of his college resume being that he produced talent just about everywhere. Just look at the numbers Keenan Allen produced without any semblance of strong QB play to get a sense for how he works with his strengths.
The run game will be key, as it should be with a healthy Doug Martin and an unproven quarterback. But I expect him to be pretty diverse in how he uses the players on this roster.
LH: Give us your way too early thoughts on how the Buccaneers will fare in 2014.
CB: I’d expect them to be better. What does that mean in one of the NFL’s tougher divisions? We’ll have to wait and see, record-wise. My gut feeling is that they’re at least one year away from being a true playoff team — shifting to Smith’s vision and solving their personnel issues on offense won’t be an overnight fix. If I had to guess on a record right this second, I’d peg them somewhere around 7-9.