William Gholston shouldn’t go anywhere. And yes, he is the second-best defensive lineman on the team.
The days of William Gholston slander are coming to an end. The boxscore watching and using stats as the only metric of success are causing the fanbase to ignore an extremely successful 2020 season from one of the cheaper linemen on the team, and it all stops here.
If hearing that Gholston is second on the line only to Vita Vea causes you to think that someone is crazy, this is a wake-up call. Stats are not everything, especially not sacks from the interior of the defensive line. Ndamukong Suh may show up on the stat sheet more, but Gholston brings far more to the table for the Buccaneer defense.
This isn’t to say that Suh is bad, nor should the Bucs let him walk if they can help it, but at this point in their careers, Gholston is the far more valuable player.
Given this past season and the remainder of his contract, Gholston brings more against the run than Suh, wins at a higher rate in pass-rush situations, and should be approximately three million dollars cheaper in 2021. The only area that doesn’t show an advantage to Gholston is sacks in the box score.
With four fewer starts than Suh, Gholston finished with more quarterback hits, one less tackle for loss, the same number of total tackles, and three fewer sacks. Sacks are not the primary determinant of an interior lineman in a 3-4, and cutting Gholston to re-sign Suh has no backing outside of one metric out of many.
The advanced metrics for William Gholston tell the real story
According to PFF TB Buccaneers on Twitter, Gholston had the fifth-most total pressures amongst all defensive linemen by December 1st with 40. Gholston took a massive step forward as a pass-rusher, and his production only dropped off as the Buccaneers transitioned to more even fronts.
Even though the Buccaneers moved on from Gholston in most nickel sets, he and Vea would be a perfect duo on the inside, with Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul on the outside. Gholston has proven that he brings a higher level of production than Suh, and his cheaper contract would save the Buccaneers from the cap struggles that they will face.
In addition to his stats at the start of December, Gholston also set himself apart via more in-depth metrics throughout the entirety of the regular season. According to Tweet from Seth Walder that shows a graph depicting pass rush win rate versus double team rate, Gholston set himself apart with one of the highest pass-rush win rates in the NFL while still facing double teams more than half the time.
When looking at the above chart, how many players near Gholston have fans saying their team should move on from them for someone else? How many deserve to have their contracts restructured to make less money?
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Defensive linemen like William Gholston fly under the radar in horrible defensive schemes, but the change under Todd Bowles was all Gholston needed to emerge as one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL.
Given his time with the Bucs and the best season of his career, the Buccaneers have absolutely no business disrespecting Gholston one iota by undervaluing him. No, he should not be a trade candidate. No, the Bucs shouldn’t look at cutting him. No, he is not being overpaid.
If the Buccaneers did have to move on from a defensive lineman, which they should try not to do either way, why wouldn’t they move on from the more expensive, older player who performs at a lower rate now?
There are plenty of players on the Buccaneers right now that should be perfect options to move on from to free up cap space, but William Gholston should never show up on these lists from any reputable sources.
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