Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Post-draft 53-man roster projection
By Bailey Adams
Defensive Tackles (4)- Gerald McCoy, Vita Vea, Beau Allen, Mitch Unrein
As much of an overhaul as the offensive line received, the defensive front got an even bigger upgrade. Both the interior spots and the edge positions look different. To start with, the inside continues to be led by veteran Gerald McCoy. Last year, he was supposed to receive help from the signing of Chris Baker. That didn’t come close to working out, leading to Baker’s release in February. Clinton McDonald, who was consistently productive in a rotational role over the last few years, is also gone. As a result of those two departures, there are a few new faces on the inside of the defensive line.
In free agency, the Bucs added Beau Allen, a member of the Eagles’ Super Bowl from a year ago. He, along with former Chicago Bear Mitch Unrein, were brought in to strengthen Tampa Bay’s 23rd-ranked run defense. Even after the additions in free agency, Tampa Bay drafted Vita Vea with the twelfth overall pick in the draft. Vea, a University of Washington product, should help both the run defense and the pass rush. McCoy, Allen, Unrein and Vea should be in the rotation to start the season, without a doubt. Tampa Bay could choose to keep Stevie Tu’ikolovatu as a fifth defensive tackle, but in this projection, he barely misses the cut.
Defensive Ends (5)- Jason Pierre-Paul, Vinny Curry, Noah Spence, William Gholston, Will Clarke
The overhaul of the defensive line continued with the outside spots. Robert Ayers was let go in favor of another former Eagle, Vinny Curry. The Bucs didn’t stop there, as they then dealt for USF product Jason Pierre-Paul. They landed Pierre-Paul from the Giants in a deal that included draft picks. He is coming off an 8 1/2-sack season, which is six more sacks than Tampa Bay’s leading defensive end had in 2017. The expectations for the newcomers are high, as the team finished dead last in sacks last year by a full three sacks. As a result, the secondary suffered and ended up as the last-ranked pass defense.
As for the other edge rushers, Tampa Bay is banking on Noah Spence remaining healthy after missing most of 2017. The 2016 second-rounder has the physical tools to be an elite force off the edge, but he has struggled to stay on the field in his first two seasons. Will Gholston is back as well, likely slotting in as a rotational guy instead of a consistent starter. As far as a fifth defensive end, it makes sense for Will Clarke to take it. He led Buccaneer defensive ends in sacks last year with 2 1/2. His role won’t be nearly as large this year, but he should be a nice depth piece.