Oct 7, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Tennessee Titans defensive back Alterraun Verner (20) against the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome. The Vikings defeated the Titans 30-7. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

First Impressions: Grading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Free Agent Moves So Far


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been incredibly active in free agency thus far, adding five players to their roster who were on the market as unrestricted free agents.

And while there’s an entire offseason to speculate on how each player will fit into the Buccaneers’ scheme and how they’ll fare on a new team, here are my initial reactions to all of the moves so far.

Defensive end Michael Johnson, 5 years, $43.5 million

Grade: B

Michael Johnson is not the best defensive end in the NFL, and he wasn’t even the best at getting after the quarterback that was available on the market this year. So why does adding the former Bengal make sense?

Disruption. No player available on the market is quite as good at Johnson at simply being a disruptive force on the defensive line. He’s a solid run defender, he’s capable of batting down passes at the line, and he gets after the quarterback, even if he doesn’t always get the sack.

The Bucs have an interior disruptor in Gerald McCoy, and by adding an edge disruptor, they now have the makings of a very frustrating defensive line to play against.

There are still concerns as to just how well he can rush the passer on a down-by-down basis, but the overall talent that Michael Johnson possesses means he’s a huge upgrade from anything the Bucs had before.

Cornerback Alterraun Verner, 4 years, $24.5 million

Grade: A+

This is an incredible deal for one of the best corners in the league in 2013, and a player who just recently turned 25 years old. Verner is on the rise, and the Bucs have him for his best years.

Verner is better in zone than in man, but that’s something Lovie Smith will know how to work with and mold into a turnover machine. Verner has the ball skills to attack the football and either get a pass breakup or an interception, and nothing makes a player more suited for a Lovie Smith defense than creating turnovers.

He needs to become more consistent, but at the price he was signed for, and considering his age and raw talent, there’s no way to see this move as anything less than a total success. Don’t expect him to be Darrelle Revis, because that’s not his job. As he said at his introductory press conference, “I’m going to be the best Alterraun Verner I can be.”

Defensive Tackle Clinton McDonald, 4 years, $12 million

Grade: B

McDonald is unlikely to start with the Buccaneers, but his role will be vital. He’s the tag team partner for Gerald McCoy in passing situations, as he’ll either be asked to give McCoy a break by subbing in for the All Pro, or lining up next to him and creating chaos for quarterbacks.

McDonald isn’t a big tackle suited for playing the true undertackle role, although he may line up there from time to time. He’s a disruptive force, much like Michael Johnson, and that means his job will be to make life tough on opposing quarterbacks.

The price is a bit high for a backup, but considering how crucial his role will be, and just how many snaps he’s likely to play, it’s worth a bit of extra money to make sure opposing quarterbacks never get comfortable against the Bucs.

Tight End Brandon Myers, 2 years, $4.25 million

Grade: C

Myers doesn’t represent anything new from Tim Wright, as the former Giant and Raider isn’t a very good blocker (despite that being his claim to fame in college). He’s a capable pass catcher, like Wright, but doesn’t bring the Bucs the true dual-threat tight end they need.

He’s a decent player on a cheap contract, so this isn’t a bad move. But it’s not particularly exciting, nor does it fill a need.

Quarterback Josh McCown, 2 years, $10 million

Grade: B

Josh McCown is not the long-term answer at quarterback, but since McCown has been named the starter, that proves that Mike Glennon isn’t the long-term answer either.

McCown is capable, calm under pressure, and experienced. He’ll help mentor Glennon and whoever the Buccaneers select in the draft (and they will take a quarterback at some point during the draft). He’s the right guy to lead Jeff Tedford’s offense, and he comes at a good price for a veteran backup or lower-tier starter, which is exactly what he is.

He’s in the right system under Jeff Tedford to attempt to recreate his 2013 magic under Marc Trestman. But since he’s not a franchise quarterback, he’s not worthy of an “A” grade.

Overall Free Agency grade for the Buccaneers: B

The offense still needs work, and there’s still money left to spend. Jason Licht and Lovie Smith can earn an A with the right moves over the next few days, and that starts by locking up offensive line help and a receiver to compliment Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson.

Tags: Popular Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Tom Weissmann

    I would like Emmanuel Sanders in the slot rather than Ginn because of his route running abilities. Although Ginn is a great returner, Sanders is also good at returning punts. Hopefully Collins signs soon and McCoy re-signs before the draft. I’d say it’s been a pretty productive off season so far.

    • LeoTPP

      I agree on Sanders, while he’s not a perfect receiver, he’s more polished than Ginn, who is an athlete first and a receiver second. And I agree, it’s been productive, but there’s certainly still work to be done.

      • Tom Weissmann

        Oh of course. I’m hoping for Dietrich-Smith and Collins to sign so Penn is out the door. I’ve heard that if Dietrich-Smith is signed, Zuttah gets bumped to right guard. That would be good considering he plays better at the guard anyways. Is there still chatter about Tillman? He would be a great veteran presence in any corner spot in the secondary.