Buccaneers will be fine without Jordan Whitehead thanks to planning ahead

Mike Edwards, Antoine Winfield, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Edwards, Antoine Winfield, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /

The loss of Jordan Whitehead hurts the fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but doesn’t hurt the roster of the Buccaneers as much.

It was never possible for the Jason Licht and company to recapture the offseason magic for the Bucs they did a year ago. Tom Brady retiring then denying it, then retiring, then un-retiring, along with Ali Marpet’s CONFIRMED retirement (that should stay that way) certainly put a stamp on that. Then, guard Alex Cappa signed with the Cincinnati Bengals followed by safety Jordan Whitehead joined the New York Jets. Both were admittedly good signings for their new teams, but both also stung the Buccaneers fanbase, especially Whitehead.

Whitehead became a huge fan favorite with his hard-nose play on the back-end of the defense, with hit tackling ability matching his coverage ability. The thing is, the Bucs always had their succession plan ready.

Mike Edwards had always generally been a reserve safety, but had always been a bright spot for the Buccaneers defense. He gradually saw his role expand more and more as his career regressed, as the contract of Whitehead regressed.

Edwards was one of the unsung heroes for the Buccaneers during their Super Bowl championship run in 2020, performing with great aplomb when called upon when the team needed him most. In 2021, his nose for the ball kept sniffing.

In the Buccaneers’ week two win against the Atlanta Falcons, Edwards was able to record two pick-sixes in a four minute span in the fourth quarter. In doing so, Edwards joined Ronde Barber as the only two players in Bucs history to record two pick-sixes in a single regular-season game. Of course Dwight Smith more famously accomplished this in Super Bowl XXXVII as well.

Edwards also became just the tenth player in NFL history to have two pick-sixes in the same quarter, the last being the New York Jets’ Otis Smith in 1997, against the Bucs ironically enough, shoutout Trent Dilfer. For those keeping score, Edwards also became the 27th player ever with two pick-sixes in a game in NFL history, and the first since then-Tennessee Titans linebacker Zach Brown in the 2012 regular season.

Historical anecdotes now out of the way, let’s talk the upcoming season.

Whitehead is a solid football player. That said, the Bucs knew he was one of the more likely casualties once the salary cal chickens came home to roost. That’s why Edwards stuck around as a solid backup plan in the present for depth, and the future for succession.

Whitehead and Edwards are virtually the same sizes, with the 205 pound Edwards actually outweighing Whitehead by seven pounds.

They also have almost equal productivity in some areas despite unequal playing time. Whitehead obviously had more tackles in 2020 and 2021 due to starting the majority of the games, but things get interesting as far as coverage goes. In 2020, both Whitehead and Edwards both had a fumble recovery, two interceptions, and Edwards actually had five passes deflected to Whitehead’s four. In 2021, Edwards had three interceptions with a forced fumble and seven pass deflections while Whitehead has two picks with a forced fumble and eight pass deflections. Whitehead did miss time with injury, but Edwards also missed time with a suspension.

The two safeties had very similar tackle production in the playoffs as well, with Whitehead having two more tackles and one more tackle for loss (13 to 11 and 2 to 1) but Edwards being the only one with an interception.

At the end of the day, any loss will sting somewhat, with some more than others, and the fan-favorite Jordan Whitehead is a tough pill to swallow. Once it is swallowed though, it’s much easier to take when you realize that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be able to plug and play Mike Edwards at safety and keep chugging along.