Within the last year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have gone from having one of the best receiving corps in the NFL to now having arguably the worst.
Think back to last off-season. The Bucs had Vincent Jackson coming off of a near 1400-yard season. Mike Williams finished four yards short of a 1000-year season. Between them they had 17 touchdowns.
In free agency, the Bucs went out and addressed a major need in their offense – a slot receiver. They signed Kevin Ogletree to a two-year deal. Eric Page was expected to be the fourth receiver heading into the season, but the signing of Tiquan Underwood after four games limited Page’s contribution in the receiving game.
Fast forward to today though. Jackson is still in town. So is Page (but likely not as a prominently used receiver). No one else is.
Williams was traded yesterday to the Buffalo Bills for a sixth round pick in this year’s draft. Kevin Ogletree was cut after four games into the season. Yes, four. Tiquan Underwood signed with the Bucs division rival Carolina Panthers in the off-season.
Williams only played in six games in 2013 after suffering a hamstring injury. Ogletree signed with the Detroit Lions and was just as ineffective in the Motor City for the rest of the season. Underwood, who played 12 games, put up 440 yards including four touchdowns yet was allowed to walk away in free agency.
It’s an incredible fall from grace. I argued vehemently last year that the Jackson/Williams duo was one of the NFL’s top three receiving tandems. Now, I can say that the Bucs have one of the worst three receiving corps in the league.
Jackson aside, who we all know is an elite receiver, the rest of the Bucs wideouts are as follows: Louis Murphy, Chris Owusu, Skye Dawson, Russell Shepard, Tommy Streeter, and Page. It doesn’t matter who is playing quarterback when those are your options at wideout.
The free agent market still includes receivers who could make a difference on the team next year: Miles Austin, Sidney Rice, Danario Alexander, and Damian Williams are possibilities who would upgrade the current options on the roster.
Now, it’s clear the Bucs will look for a high quality receiver in next month’s draft. Whether they’ll have the luxury to pick Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans seventh overall remains to be seen. This year’s receiving class is one of the deepest in draft history, so the Bucs will have multiple opportunities to draft an impactful wide out. They may even draft two.
The current wide outs, Jackson aside, could well be gone when the pre-season concludes. But for now, it presents a worrisome situation for the Bucs.