Just last week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers proved that they are still actively scouting the free agent market as they signed veteran defensive lineman Akiem Hicks to a deal to bolster our scary front-seven.
Let’s take a dive into some of the players that Tampa Bay should still be targeting this offseason to add impact players to the team this year at a low cost based off of the team’s salary cap status.
Rob Gronkowski, TE-
Let’s start with the obvious! Tom wants Gronk in Tampa, and it’s pretty well known that if Gronk is playing this year, he will be suiting up for the Buccaneers. But does he intend to play? While this time away may make it seem like he is leaning towards retirement, I think it is far more likely that he is simply preserving his body and keeping it away from the brutal NFL offseason routine for as long as possible, enjoying the semi-retired party life, but keeping himself in shape before returning later this offseason to run it back.
I expect Gronk to return to play in what could be Tom Brady’s last year so that he doesn’t look back at the missed opportunity.
Kyle Rudolph, TE-
If Gronk did decide to retire, I believe we should still be looking to add one more established pass-catcher that can also be a mentor to the two up-and-coming tight ends that we took in the recent iteration of the NFL draft.
Rudolph spend last year in New York with the Giants in an absolutely abysmal offense before being cut this off-season to save salary cap space. Rudolph has averaged 43 receptions per year in his career, which is not far off of Gronk’s career pace of 52 receptions per season, and Rudolph has not had the luxury of playing with the GOAT. Good quality, potential-low cost substitute if Gronk does not return.
Ereck Flowers, G-
One of the biggest remaining needs on our team is a guard to start opposite of Shaq Mason, who was acquired earlier this off season. Losing Ali Marpet and Alex Cappa both this year will be a major hit to our line, and Mason was probably about as good of a replacement as we could have found and should prove to be a top level guard for us this year, but who is going to hold down the other side of our line?
Right now it’s slotted to Aaron Stinnie(as Luke Goedeke will likely get playing time at the position as well), who would likely step in and be serviceable, but if we could get Ereck Flowers at a reasonable rate, we should pounce at that opportunity. Flowers ranked 6th out of all guards last season at run block win rate, which would create a pretty intimidating force when teamed with Mason, who ranked 9th.
That pairing, along with Donovan Smith, Tristan Whirfs, and the anchor to it all Ryan Jensen? That would be one of the best offensive lines in the league, bar none.
Desmond Trufant, CB-
Listen, I get it…. the Buccaneers have a group of talented corners. Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean, and Sean Murphy-Bunting have proven that they have the potential to be one of the best cornerback groups in the NFL, and have added a ridiculous athlete in Zyon McCollum to that group.
At the same time, the Bucs ranked 21st in the league in pass yardage given up last year. Our defense ranked 16th in the league in completion percentage given up. Tampa ranked DEAD LAST in the NFL last year in completed passes given up. That can’t all be blamed on the cornerback group, and I know that, but as talented as our corners are, the results have to be there.
Trufant is an older CB, but he has proven that he gets those results. The guy has confidence and moxie in spades, and could likely bring the elevating presence that we hoped for from Richard Sherman. He doesn’t have to take away all of the reps from the young guys, and at this stage in his career, we wouldn’t want him on the field as a full time starter, but he could step in against deep receiving corps, lock down shifty slot receivers, and steady a side of the field when it starts to shake.
Carl Nassib, DE-
It’s time for the former Buccaneer to return to Tampa! Nassib has 22 career sacks, but his most productive seasons came in the Bay. Carl Nassib would be a great rotational piece to add that doesn’t have to take snaps away from Joe Tryon-Shoyinka but can be a situational rusher to come in to add solid depth to the team. He has been in Las Vegas and was a consistent player for the Raiders, tallying up 45 tackles and four sacks for them over the two seasons, but his previous two seasons in Tampa resulted in 58 tackles and 12.5 sacks. Quite a difference, and it just shows what he can be in the right system!
Xavier Rhodes, CB
Julio Jones, WR
Jason McCourty, S
T.Y. Hilton, WR
Everson Griffen, EDGE
Please keep in mind, this list isn’t necessarily the free agents that I think are the best, they are who I think pair well with our team, meet a need, and could likely be gotten on affordable deals.
Who do you think we should be targeting?
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