What Buccaneers recent free agent moves tell us about their NFL Draft plans

Jason Licht is already cooking, but free agency is only the first course.

NFL Combine
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We're through the first wave of NFL free agency, and it was busier than it seemed for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Most eyes were focused on the transaction wire for players being added, while the Bucs were hard at work trying to bring back as many of their own players as possible. Retention was the main focus of Jason Licht and the front office, and the mission was absolutely accomplished.

Baker Mayfield and Mike Evans -- two of the top free agents set to hit the market -- were brought back on new deals before the legal tampering window even opened. The Bucs also franchise-tagged Antoine Winfield Jr., and other veterans like Lavonte David and Chase McLaughlin were re-signed despite other teams being allowed to speak with them.

Tampa Bay didn't only bring back its own players, although its first official signing was another reunion. Jordan Whitehead was rumored to be potentially returning to the Bucs, which he did after agreeing to a two-year deal. The Bucs also added some offensive line depth, signing a pair of former NFC East linemen: Ben Bredeson and Sua Opeta.

All of these moves help improve the roster, but also gives us insight into what the Bucs' draft plans might be in a month.

What Buccaneers recent free agent moves tell us about their NFL Draft plans

Heading into the offseason the Bucs had three pretty clear areas of need:

  • Interior offensive line
  • Edge Rush
  • Safety

Signing Jordan Whitehead helped address the need at safety but the room is still a little thin. Winfield and Whitehead will be the starters with Christian Izien and Dee Delaney getting looks as depth, but it wouldn't be shocking to see Tampa Bay dip into this year's safety class during the draft.

Given how saturated the free agent market was at the position this year, the chances the Bucs land some high-end talent are pretty good.

Two new needs have popped up that will likely get addressed in the draft. Trading Carlton Davis III means the Bucs need to look at potentially taking a cornerback, even after signing Bryce Hall, and letting Devin White go creates some room to draft a linebacker.

Cornerback is the bigger need than linebacker as the Bucs boast some nice depth with guys like K.J. Britt, SirVocea Dennis, Yaya Diaby and veteran Lavonte David. Tampa Bay already seems to be leaning toward adding even more depth, as it has a workout scheduled with Texas A&M star Edgerrin Cooper.

Signing Bredeson and Opeta, as well as bringing back Justin Skule, adds interior line depth but doesn't solve any top-line problems. The guard market quickly got expensive and seemingly priced the Bucs out, but the idea all along may. have been to sign some depth and then draft potential starters of the future.

Jason Licht knows how to pick out stud offensive linemen, and this year's draft class is deep at the position. guys like Cooper Beebe, Sedrick Van Pran-Granger, and Mason McCormick could all be targets now that the Bucs have four picks in the Top 100.

Tampa Bay has never really used free agency to build the core of its roster, so it's not surprising that the team dipped deep into the pool before pivoting to the draft. Licht has put together some masterclass work recently, and everything seems to be lining up for him to do it again.

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