While the NFL Playoffs continue, the Buccaneers are looking towards free agency, and their strategy for player acquisition and development. Division rivals possess players teams are very familiar with, and one can argue, they have better insight into what they’re getting when pursuing those players.
As the Panthers take their incredible regular season success into the post-season they’ll be looking to bring a Super Bowl title to the Carolinas for the first time. The Buccaneers could be looking to take some of their free agents this March, as they look to strengthen a six-win roster. There will be some other candidates, but these are two they are more than familiar with, who look to be on the market.
RT, Mike Remmers:
Remmers began his career in Tampa, and the two may look to reunite after a season in which Remmers started all 16 games for Carolina.
As a team, the Panthers rushed for the second most yards in the NFL, and allowed quarterback Cam Newton to be sacked just 33 times. The line also protected and produced two Pro Bowl players in Newton, and running back Jonathan Stewart.
In terms of penalties, Remmers did tally 11 total penalties this past season, the same amount as Buccaneers’ right tackle Gosder Cherilus. While it may seem on the surface the Buccaneers would be trading one hindrance for another, when you take in to account offensive linemen are more susceptible to penalties when playing with running quarterbacks, Remmers’ are a little more explainable.
With a full season of starting under his belt, there’s no reason not to believe Remmers’ penalty problems could shrink when playing with experience, and in front of a quarterback who prefers to throw instead of run.
With the uncertainty surrounding the right tackle position throughout 2015 it would benefit the Buccaneers to find a right tackle who has no serious injury concerns and the youth to be coached, versus aged veterans who continue to commit drive killing penalties despite seven years of experience.
CB, Josh Norman:
The crown jewel of this year’s Panthers free agent crop will be Norman. Since being drafted in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Norman has developed into one of the league’s premier cornerbacks, and most provocative figures on the field.
With an attitude and fearlessness akin to Buccaneers’ great Warren Sapp, there’s no doubt adding a personality like Norman’s would immediately bring a passion to the defense which looked lackadaisical near the end of the year.
Beyond attitude and spirit, Norman finished the season seventh among cornerbacks with four interceptions, and tied for sixth with 18 passes defended. Both surpass numbers any Buccaneers cornerback has achieved since Ronde Barber had 14 passes defended and four interceptions in 2011.
Like the Buccaneers’ own Doug Martin, Norman has turned his contract season into a Pro Bowl season. He will demand big money on the open market which tends to push the values of players up, as teams join in on bidding wars looking for key players to bring championships to their franchises.
Norman will be no different, and his tour of teams would be entertaining for sure. However, the Panthers have no problem using their franchise tag, with the last time being in 2014 for defensive end Greg Hardy. There’s little reason to believe the Panthers would avoid the franchise tag if necessary to keep Norman in Carolina, but stranger things have happened. Jason Licht would be remiss if he didn’t at least look at Norman for his young secondary, even if the fiscal commitment doesn’t prove reasonable.
New Buccaneers defensive coordinator Mike Smith will be looking for pieces to improve on one of the leagues least consistent units, and head coach Dirk Koetter will be trying to provide stability for the franchise cornerstone, Jameis Winston. General manager Jason Licht may be making the personnel decisions now, but all three will have their eyes on the plethora of talented players available, and these two Panthers are just part of the pool.