As the Buccaneers continue their search for their next head coach there is football still to play. Wildcard weekend starts on 09 January 2016 and it all starts with the Kansas City Chiefs visiting the AFC South Champion Houston Texans.
As Buccaneers fans settle in for another postseason void of their favorite team, there may be hope on the horizon in the form of future Buccaneers taking the field this weekend. You can bet general manager Jason Licht will be paying attention to upcoming free agents who set themselves apart, and here are a couple of those players they should be watching:
Kansas City Chiefs:
CB, Sean Smith – A 2nd round draft pick in 2009 by the Dolphins, the 28-year old defensive back will garner plenty of attention on the free agent market. The Chiefs’ defense has been just one factor leading the team to a playoff berth this season, and the 9th ranked pass defense is the reason players like Smith and all-pro safety Eric Berry will be some of the most sought after players come March.
There’s no doubt the Chiefs will look to keep both Smith and Berry, but Berry seems most likely to receive the franchise tag which would leave Smith free to seek out a contract and situation which fits him best.
Smith is physical enough to play press man coverage, and smart enough to play in a zone scheme. With playoff experience and the youth to play with high energy, but experience to lead by example, Smith could be a key free agent acquisition who would help bring the Buccaneers pass defense to relevance.
More from Bucs Free Agency
- Buccaneers lose free agent starter to Kansas City Chiefs
- Buccaneers free agent tracker: Who’s coming and going in 2023?
- 5 Buccaneers who probably won’t be back now that Tom Brady has retired
- Buccaneers are taking first step in the right direction for the offseason
- Why the Buccaneers should consider a near roster blow-up
On Saturday afternoon Smith will be facing off against a Houston Texans passing attack featuring DeAndre Hopkins, one of the best receivers playing today. Nate Washington is currently listed as the Texans number two receiver, and with Marcus Peters playing cornerback opposite of Smith he’s likely to see more match ups with Washington than Hopkins.
However, what’s most intriguing to see is how Smith plays against passes out of the backfield. The NFC South has several running backs capable of catching passes and turning them into big plays. Similarly, the Texans currently list two running backs in their top five for receptions so Smith will have an opportunity to show his play recognition and ability to help contain running backs involved in the pass game.
G, Brandon Brooks – As a third round draft pick by the Texans in 2012, Brooks has started 44 games in the last four years, and is one of the main contributors on an offensive line which allowed Brandon Weeded the time needed to come in and lead the team to its third AFC South Championship in five years.
On the year, the Texans rank 14th in allowing their quarterback to get hit. Given the reputation of some Texans quarterbacks to hold the ball too long, those hits may not be entirely representative of the talent on their offensive line, but either way 82 quarterback hits is still much lower than the 108 hits Buccaneers rookie Jameis Winston took in 2015.
If Winston is the franchise leader – and he his – then the Buccaneers have to continue to find pieces to put in place for his protection. Rookie linemen Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet played impressively throughout the season and appear to possess the potential to man the Buccaneers O-line for years to come. Left Guard Logan Mankins is nearing the end of his career and may even retire during this years’ off-season. When the 2016 season starts, Brooks will be 27 and could provide a boost of youth and reliability to the offensive line as they look to build on a season which produced a 4,000 yard passer and all-pro running back.
Brooks and his teammates will be facing a dominating Chiefs defense which will be looking to shut down any semblance of a Texans running game and harass their quarterback as they look to earn a trip to the divisional round of the playoffs. Pro-Bowlers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston will surely blitz their fair share and the young guard will have to rise to the occasion to keep his teams’ playoff hopes alive.
With more than $50 million available in their 2016 cap, the Buccaneers have the ability to make a big splash in free agency and build on a promising young roster with talent in a lot of key positions. These two pieces would be big additions to the team, and will showcase their talents for all suitors to see on Saturday, 09 January 2016, at 4:15 EST.