Ryan Neal, S
No player on the Buccaneers roster was more polarizing than Ryan Neal, nor did anyone experience the sort of fall from grace that he did.
Neal came to Tampa Bay in free agency and was lauded as a potential sleeper that we'd look back at as an offseason steal. Things were lined up for that to be the case, as he came over from a brooding Seattle Seahawks defense where he was passed over in favor of Julian Love and walked into a situation where he'd be the No. 2 guy next to Antoine Winfield Jr., who makes everyone look good. There was also the scheme fit, as Todd Bowles saw something in him that felt like he'd be able to unlock a level that the Seahawks couldn't see.
What ended up happening was so much worse than anyone could have anticipated. Time after time Neal was out of position or on the wrong side of a big play. He failed to finish a tackle on Jameson Williams in Week 6 that might have prevented a touchdown, he got cooked by Kyle Pitts a week later to set up a game-winning field goal for Atlanta, and he was out of position on a play that allowed Dalton Kincaid to score in Buffalo.
The latter of those two mistakes came in games the Bucs lost by a touchdown or less, which made the errors even more critical than they already were. Todd Bowles defended him like a son, despite the mistakes, and rightfully pointed out that he was still settling into a system where everyone else was already familiar.
Bowles backing Neal could be an indication he gets another shot next year, but the Bucs have money to spend elsewhere. Tampa Bay's ability to mine the rookie class for talented safety depth doesn't help his case, as guys like Christian Izien and Keavon Merriweather could be given a chance to step up if Neal is allowed to walk in free agency.