I’m a bit surprised how little attention the defensive tackle position has gotten over the last two years. While Gerald McCoy has been terrific as always, the quality of play next to him at nose-tackle has been inconsistent and at times non-existent. Clinton McDonald and Akeem Spence have been the two primary tackles playing with McCoy, with defensive ends Will Gholston and Robert Ayers moving inside and contributing at times. While they’ve shown flashes of being a quality group, a combination of injuries and poor play have left a lot to be desired.
Given Gerald McCoy’s injury history this fire seems particularly dangerous. We’ve seen the Buccaneer defense hit absolute rock bottom without their All-Pro tackle in the line-up, so making sure that they have adequate depth here is especially important.
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The Bucs have some flexibility in their decision making with Akeem Spence and Clinton MacDonald both free agents. They can choose to bump defensive tackle up the priority list and move on from both, or they can re-sign them both to team-friendly contracts and keep things together. While it’d be exciting to see the Bucs pursue a big time nose tackle like Dontari Poe, the likely scenario is bringing back Spence and McDonald.
The Buccaneers value their locker room cohesion, and both Spence and McDonald are important parts of that. Re-signing Spence proves to younger Bucs that the team is focused on drafting and developing their own players, while McDonald has a well known leadership role among the players. The team can continue to have Robert Ayers and Will Gholston (provided he’s re-signed) help get interior production and put defensive tackle on the back-burner for one more season.
The wild-card player to consider here is Calais Campbell. The nine year veteran is still playing at an extremely high level and, given the relative need and Jason Licht’s history in Arizona, could be the type of player the Bucs make a surprise splurge on.