Opinion: Bucs Should Look Short-Term for Safety Solution
By Patrik Nohe
The big piece of Buccaneers news from yesterday was the release of Tanard Jackson. Jackson had his share of run-ins prior to his release, including two suspensions, one which cost him a year. The speculative reason was that he had chosen to rehab his shoulder injury away from Tampa and the Buccaneers’ team trainers and doctors. But this was as much of a message sender as anything else.
Regardless of the philosophical reasons behind the move though, the fact remains that from a personnel standpoint it was the equivalent of picking at a sore. The Bucs just made a pretty pressing need worse. Jackson was the team’s best safety, that was evident immediately upon his return last year.
Losing him makes the Bucs worse, even if it may help make the organizational culture better.
Here’s the rub with that, if the Buccaneers are going to spend their fifth pick on Morris Claiborne or even spend a high pick on a corner that will likely be pressed into a lot of playing time this season, they absolutely cannot have questions at safety. That is not conducive to helping a young corner develop.
Unfortunately, this class isn’t the best when it comes to safeties either. There are good safeties, but then you’re looking at potentially half or even three quarters of the secondary being rookies.
Unfortunately, the Bucs don’t have the luxury of letting their secondary take its knocks in a pass-happy division. They’re going to need to shore up their last line of defense if they want to address the corner position in the draft this year.
The Bucs would frankly be better off pursuing a veteran option, patching the hole up temporarily and addressing it down the road after they’ve had a chance to iron out some of the personnel issues currently facing the team.
The Bucs first two picks are fifth and 36th overall. Those are incredibly valuable and will be used to pick players who should be able to contribute immediately. Unfortunately only one safety grades out high enough to be worth those picks, he’d be a major reach at five and won’t last until 36.
After that the Bucs are in uncharted territory.
That’s why the team needs to find a stop-gap for now and try to develop someone you pick later in this draft or even down the line next year.
Frankly, if I’m Mark Dominik I’d be calling Drew Rosenhaus and gauging how much Yeremiah Bell wants. Bell is a Pro Bowl caliber safety who has a good injury track record and still has a little bit left in the tank, but more importantly he’s mentored young corners and been the leader of the secondary the past few years in Miami. The problem in Miami lately has not been the defense either, which under Mike Nolan (who will now irritate Bucs fans in Atlanta) was actually quite good.
Bell would be a good player to add to the locker room from a veteran leadership standpoint and he would be an upgrade over anything the Bucs have on their roster right now, or even had last season. That is if the price is right.
The Bucs could also look at Chris Hope, another guy who brings good leadership and comes from a winning program having played on good teams in Tennessee and Pittsburgh. Jim Leonhard and OJ Atogwe also represent intriguing options, Leonhard is the definition of a blue collar safety, an undersized guy whose high effort masks the fact he’s not the most athletic player on the field. He fits the mold of a Schiano style player.
I’d stay away from Atogwe and Brian Dawkins though, Atogwe struggled in Washington but will likely still command a high price and that’s a gamble, while Dawkins is finally on the decline and the leadership may no longer be worth the liability at some point next season.
Regardless of what the Bucs decide to do, it’s imperative they get at least one veteran safety to hold down the secondary or quarterbacks are going to love playing Tampa next year.