At the risk of getting ahead of ourselves, with the NFL Draft still a few weeks away and the high from the initial wave of free agency well behind us, hindsight is rearing its ugly head and it’s left me thinking of missed opportunities.
Quite recently this thought became more evident in the immediate wake of the release of Tanard Jackson, a player the Bucs had much invested in if time alone could be considered an investment (and it can), not to mention the money spent (as a reminder the Bucs resigned him to a 2 year deal last year, albeit a Buc/cap friendly deal).
The release of Jackson immediately exposed the lack of depth at one more position on the team: safety. With Jackson and the (to date) injury prone Cody Grimm as the only safety’s on the roster with starting experience, the short list of 2 has now become 1.
Before free agency if you were to look at the Bucs roster to find the glaring holes there would be a few areas that would stick out.
Linebacker might be one. Perhaps the secondary. The offensive and defensive lines, on paper at least, seem to have some depth. Post free agency we’ve seen that the Bucs added a #1 WR (Vincent Jackson) and a new starting LG (Carl Nicks), neither of which was among the greatest areas of need.
My understanding has always been you use free agency to fill holes and you use the draft to build your roster. Certainly you could argue that there were holes at LG and WR from a number one receiver aspect, and obviously the secondary. And you could further reasonably argue that there are holes all over the roster, but I digress.
Regarding the LB situation it was well established that Geno Hayes would not be re-signed. This left Quincy Black and Mason Foster and a glaring hole at either ILB (if you assume that Foster will be moved back to his natural OLB position) or OLB. If you wanted to go the ILB route there were several good options: Curtis Lofton, Stephen Tulloch and David Hawthorne to start. As we now know 2 of these guys were signed by the rival Saints. And Tulloch re-signed with the Lions for a not unreasonable amount of money. Further to this as evidenced by the recent acquisition of LB Keith Rivers, the trade route is also an option. The Giants acquired Rivers for a 5th round draft pick. That’s not a bad deal for a starting LB. the likelihood of the Bucs using this year’s 5th round pick on a LB who starts in 2012 is slim.
But there are many decent linebackers in this year’s draft. But will the Bucs fortify their LB corps in the oft mentioned ‘2nd wave of free agency’, that period after the draft where teams trim their rosters? And what quality of LB will be available there anyway? More and more it seems as if the Bucs are content to draft a LB or two, scour the waiver wires, throw it all against the wall during training camp and see what sticks.
So we’ll see what happens. Unless the Bucs have something up their sleeve I think they missed an opportunity to pick up at least one decent veteran. Of course the best defense is a good offense so perhaps they tipped their hand somewhat by adding Nicks and Jackson, and possibly Trent Richardson come April 26th.