Ignore the contract, ignore the return of Chris Conte – Keith Tandy will be a starter for the Buccaneers in 2017.
There’s a lot of worry among Buccaneers fans when it comes to the safety position. The Bucs addressed safety by signing former Cowboy J.J. Wilcox and re-signing Chris Conte. It appears Bradley McDougald won’t be returning and the Bucs will likely draft a safety within the first two days. That means – as it stands now – Keith Tandy will be a week one starter.
Chris Conte was a depth signing and was a wise decision strictly based on knowledge of the system and a veteran presence. He didn’t play well enough to garner a starting role and he likely won’t get one. Tandy signed, essentially, a two year “prove it” deal last off-season and will make a little over $800,000 in 2017. His 2016 performance will be the reason he tops the depth chart early on.
Tandy finished the year with 41 solo tackles, nine passes defensed, four clutch interceptions, and a fumble recovery. He, like many of the defensive players, continued to improve as the season went on.
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Which is exactly why a rookie safety – no matter if he’s taken in the first round or not – won’t start at the beginning of the season.
We watched the defense get shredded in the first half of the year. That’s why the return of Conte and Tandy was so vital. They know the system. Mike Smith‘s defense is not an easy one to learn. Once the defense got their assignments down, they started clicking and went on a tear that showcased them as one of the best defenses in the league for a five game stretch.
It doesn’t matter that Wilcox and Conte make more than Tandy. If Tandy had been a free agent this year, he would have garnered more than either of them. He’s now in another “prove it” season and will be out to show that he’s worth a bigger investment and a bigger pay check.
Any rookie that comes in will need to sit back and learn for at least the first half of the year. Putting them in the lineup immediately will likely cause them to be susceptible to big plays and blown assignments given the complexities in Smith’s system. There’s no need to put a rookie into that situation when it’s not absolutely necessary like it was with Vernon Hargreaves.
The Buccaneers still need to draft a safety, there’s no question about that. Despite Tandy’s sudden rise, there are still upgrades to be had in that corps. However, thinking Tandy won’t be a week one starter is foolish at this stage. He’s good enough to start and he’s earned the opportunity.
Yes, the Tandy Man can.