Buccaneers Off-Season Position Preview: Running Backs
Potential Free-Agent Targets
One way to try and provide an immediate boost to the Buccaneers running game would be through free-agency.
There are two of their own though which they need to address before they decide on how to proceed when approaching external free-agents.
Charles Sims doesn’t seem like a wise investment. However, there’s a part of me that feels Koetter values him a bit more than he should. Still, at the end of the day, I don’t see how the team brings him back if they’re serious about improving their running game.
Peyton Barber has to come back. The young man from Auburn has grown exponentially in the two years he’s been with the Bucs, and his final stretch of 2017 definitely shows he has the capability to produce even more.
As an exclusive rights free-agent, Barber is at the mercy of the Bucs contract wise. However, it’d be a wise decision to lock him up for a few years at a reasonable price for both sides.
There are other names out there. Let’s take a look at two of them.
Previous Team: Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings have $56 Million in expected salary cap space themselves. So there’s nothing to say the team won’t bring McKinnon back themselves to pair with Dalvin Cook once he returns from injury in 2018.
However, if he hits the open market his price tag is going to inflate so quick Minnesota won’t be able to justify paying it.
So, this leaves teams like the Buccaneers. With a running back with so little experience, it’s hard to justify paying starting money.
The 25-year old had barely more carries than Martin did but did rush for a full 160-yards more. Where he’s really going to make some money this off-season is in his receiving ability.
With 52 catches and 421-yards receiving, McKinnon totaled nearly 1,000 yards of offense despite the fact he officially only started one game.
Minnesota found success pairing him with Latavius Murray in 2017, and Bucs fans would sure like to see if he can replicate his production paired with Peyton Barber.
Previous Team: Cincinnati Bengals
After being selected in the second-round of the 2014 NFL Draft, Hill impressed early and often with his 1,124-yard rookie year. He added another 215 in receiving yards and led the league in rushing touchdowns the following season.
Going from eight starts in his rookie year to fifteen in his sophomore year, he somehow gained just one carry between the two seasons.
In 2016, the only game he missed was the season finale as the Bengals placed most of their talent on injured reserve or inactive to save serious injury for the future. Hill’s season carries fell back down to his rookie year total, but his catches climbed back into the 20 range.
Then, the team drafted Joe Mixon. If it wasn’t obvious before drafting Mixon the team wasn’t dedicated to Hill as their feature back, it was now.
His time with the team ended abruptly as he opted for season ending ankle surgery.
He’ll be healthy for 2017 and has shown the ability to stay healthy and productive despite playing on an offense which had no intention of making him a focal point.
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Guys like Dion Lewis are other – more obvious – targets for the Buccaneers, but names like Jeremy Hill deserve their own look as well.
At the end of the day, I feel like the team will be in the hunt for McKinnon but may get outbid.