There are plenty of questions surrounding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this summer, but don’t get too distracted by what’s happening at quarterback.
Despite how many times you’ve seen a grainy practice video of Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask missing throws, that’s not the only place the Bucs are focusing their attention when putting together what the coaching staff hopes is a competitive roster.
Heading into the offseason the Buccaneers had just one safety under contract. Outside of Antoine Winfield Jr., everyone else left in free agency and not a single player returned.
Mike Edwards signed with the Chiefs, Keanu Neal signed with the Steelers, and Logan Ryan remains a free agent. To replace them, the Bucs might have hit a sneaky home run by poaching Ryan Neal from the Seattle Seahawks but even with him next to Winfield the depth chart is pretty barren.
The position wasn’t addressed int he draft, either. The Bucs passed on Brian Branch at No. 19 overall and missed out on other safety prospects like Florida State’s Jammie Robinson and Jordan Battle, Branch’s teammate at Alabama.
Instead the Bucs dipped deep into the undrafted free agent pool to mine for potential gold, and it appears they might have found some.
Antoine Winfield has high praise for Bucs UDFA
The Bucs ended up with Rutger’s Christian Izien, Iowa’s Kaevon Merriweather, and Delware’s Kedrick Whitehead. All three were at OTAs in May but only one of them caught the eye of a Bucs star.
While speaking to the media during his appearance at OTAs, Winfield took the time to shower Izien with praise going as far as to say he see a bit of himself in the undrafted rookie.
“He reminds me of myself,” the 5-foot-9, 203-pound Winfield said to Matt Matera over at Pewter Report. “We’re kind of similar stature. He’s put into the same roles that I was in so it’s good seeing him out there. He’s learning, he’s a smart player, but he’s learning.”
Winfield is no doubt one of the Bucs best personalities, but he’s never been one to BS anyone. To hear him praise Izien like that is a massive endorsement of the rookie’s talents and should excite Bucs fans for what he might bring to the team.
There are going to be some tough decisions to make when it comes to trimming down the 53-man roster during training camp, but it was already looking like Izien was in line to make the team. The Bucs need safety depth, and Izien fits right into that plan — as does one or two of the other UDFAs.
Jason Licht has shown a knack for being able to find talent in the draft, which Winfield is evidence of. The fact that he might have hit another home run in the UDFA pool is just icing on the cake for the front office.