One Buccaneers Free Agency Target from Each AFC West Team

Tampa Bay Buccaneers headquarters in Tampa, Florida (Photo by OCTAVIO JONES / AFP) (Photo by OCTAVIO JONES/AFP via Getty Images)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers headquarters in Tampa, Florida (Photo by OCTAVIO JONES / AFP) (Photo by OCTAVIO JONES/AFP via Getty Images) /

This is the next in this series of articles highlighting one available free agent from every other NFL team who would be a strong fit for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The guideline for this exercise, for those who have not read the previous articles, is: The only limit to this list is that, to avoid repetition in the choices, only one member of each position group has been chosen per division. This means that if, for example, someone like Allen Robinson appears on the list then Davante Adams could not, because they play the same position and share the same division.

Previous articles in this series: AFC North, NFC North

Alright, with the rules out of the way, lets start talking about the AFC West.

Denver Broncos: Melvin Gordon – RB

It would be sad to see Leonard Fournette go, but “Playoff Lenny” could very well be heading for different pastures. If that proves to be the case, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should absolutely try to sign veteran RB Melvin Gordon.

The Bucs haven’t had the best of luck recently in signing veteran backs to take over some of the offensive workload – LeSean McCoy, Giovanni Bernard, and Le’Veon Bell all rode the bench far more than they played. But Gordon could be the tendency breaker.

As a longtime star for the Chargers, turned workhorse back for his first year in Denver, turned backfield committee member with rookie sensation Javonte Williams, Melvin Gordon has had a very successful seven years in the league. Now his value seems to be turning downward, as the Broncos have essentially relegated him to a backup role by drafting the emerging superstar in Javonte Williams.

But that doesn’t mean that Melvin Gordon has stopped being the playmaker that he was with the Chargers. In fact, Gordon put up some of the best numbers of his career while in the backfield split with Williams this past year. He had 1131 scrimmage yards and 10 touchdowns, marking the fifth time in six years that he has gone for over 1000 yards with double digit touchdowns.

Now heading into his eighth year as a pro, it may not be in a team’s best interest to sign Gordon to an expensive long term deal, but if the Buccaneers can acquire Gordon for even a league average salary it would be a tremendous move by the front office. Lets hope a deal gets done.

Los Angeles Chargers: Ryan Smith – CB

This would be a pickup based purely on need. The Buccaneers will struggle to get Carlton Davis back on the team, and if he leaves the depth of the Buccaneers’ secondary will be severely tested.

Ryan Smith would be a patch piece, designed to provide depth and give the starters a couple snaps off. And he would be a great depth piece. Despite being mired amongst the third stringers on the Chargers, Smith hasn’t been bad during his time in the league.

Holding on to basically a rock steady 62 PFF grade, Smith is more than capable of being a contributing member on a playoff team. And for the Buccaneers, who spent so much of last season stuck rotating between bad DB options, the security of a solid backup piece could be crucial down the stretch. Especially for the low price he will command, the Bucs should commit to a backup plan in Ryan Smith.

Las Vegas Raiders: K.J. Wright – OLB

Those Bucs fans with a particularly good memory might recall the name K.J. Wright as a member of the short-lived Legion of Boom. Though not made into a household name by those Seahawks teams of the early-mid 2010s like Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, and Earl Thomas, K.J. Wright achieved what none of those three could – longevity. And with that longevity comes experience and a veteran mindset that could be particularly valuable on a team with a still-young secondary, like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Much like how Richard Sherman was invaluable to the depleted secondary last year with his smarts and incredible football IQ, Wright brings that same energy to the front seven. He also brings a rock-solid PFF grade of 63.7, and the ability to give Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul a breather now and again.

Like many free agents this year, Wright has had a very good career until the previous season. For Wright, the fluke change was his durability. He missed half the season last year, but that was only the second time in the last 8 years that he had missed more than one game.

As Tampa Bay gets closer to losing JPP and Suh on the defensive line, the presence of longer-lived LBs could be extremely helpful for the development of the young Joe Tryon (and whomever we potentially draft to pair with Vea once Suh leaves).

Kansas City Chiefs: Tyrann Mathieu – S

Tampa Bay’s secondary needs some juice. Jordan Whitehead, Andrew Adams, and Carlton Davis are all hitting the free agency market, and the Bucs could certainly use a tremendous tone-setting player to lead whatever the defense looks like when the season starts. And Tyrann Mathieu is that player.

He’s passionate, fiery, smart, and most importantly he still plays at a very high level. He has been the anchor of a much-improved Chiefs defense these past several years, and is likely looking to sign with a team that can use his talents to get him back to the big game. The Bucs can be that team.

Without the impassioned veteran leadership of the insanely competitive Tom Brady, the Bucs need another player like that to keep the energy up and to make big plays. There has been no one better than Mathieu at that in his storied career.

To Jason Licht and the Bucs, the only hesitation should be price. If the price is reasonable, Mathieu would be a game-changing addition to the Buccaneers’ defense in 2022.

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