The Tampa Bay Buccaneers need help at defensive end. This isn’t a secret. In three preseason games, the Buccaneers have six sacks with their true edge rushers (Larry English and George Johnson) accounting for only 2.5 of that total.
While we can only give the injured Jacquies Smith a pass for now, head coach Lovie Smith loves working a rotation, limiting his players’ snaps and keeping them fresh throughout the course of a game. Three reliable pass rushers isn’t an adequate rotation.
Plus, in order for the Tampa 2 scheme to work to its full potential, the front four needs to consistently put pressure on the quarterback. They don’t necessarily need to put up huge sack numbers. The line just needs to make the opposing QB feel uneasy in the pocket. The DTs appear to be a reliable group, but what about the guys coming off the edge?
“At 35, Freeney is a situational pass rusher. But that is exactly what this defense needs.”
This past Saturday, the Buccaneers weren’t able to put pressure on Josh McCown and it showed. The Browns quarterback carved up the Bucs’ defense, completing 17 of 23 attempts.
An effective pass rush causes errant passes and results in more turnovers. Case in point, look at how Andy Dalton fared in the Week 2 preseason game. Dalton had more incompletions (7) than completions (6) and threw two picks in his limited time on the field.
The Buccaneers are 10 days away from their season opener against the Tennessee Titans. In the meantime, the team should bring in Dwight Freeney for a visit, get him to sign on the dotted line and help him get acclimated to the defense. At 35, Freeney is a situational pass rusher. But that is exactly what this defense needs.
As a situational pass rusher with the San Diego Chargers last season, Freeney had 3.5 sacks. The sad reality of the Buccaneers pass rushing woes is the fact that his total would’ve been the fifth-highest on the team. Even at his age, Freeney can still get it done.
Throughout the offseason, the Buccaneers have been frugal. After having two big money signings turn into absolute busts, it makes sense that ownership would take a more penny-pinching approach the following year. However, over the last few weeks, the team has been more willing to open up the checkbooks, signing veteran players, like Da’Quan Bowers, Tony McDaniel, Gosder Cherilus, and possibly Tim Jennings.
Aug 24, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end George Johnson (94) sacks Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) during the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
In 2014, Freeney signed a one-year deal with the Chargers worth $2.5 million. Essentially, it was a show-me contract. The Bucs are taking that same approach this year with Bowers, McDaniel, English, Chris Conte, Henry Melton, Sterling Moore, Mike Jenkins and more. Freeney would be just another low-risk, high-reward player to add to the payroll.
If Freeney doesn’t pan out, the Bucs can take solace in knowing they didn’t break the bank for him and they will have him off the books in 2016. If the Freeney signing works, he’ll be a solid addition to Lovie’s defensive line rotation and his presence will help in the development of the team’s younger edge rushers (Johnson, Smith and T.J. Fatinikun).
It’s a win-win situation. Now, go ahead and pick up that phone.
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