3 Buccaneers players who can't afford to take a step back in 2024

These three players may be nearing the end of the road in Tampa Bay if they have a disappointing 2024 season.
NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Philadelphia Eagles v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Philadelphia Eagles v Tampa Bay Buccaneers / Perry Knotts/GettyImages
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Jamel Dean, CB

For the past four seasons, Carlton Davis III and Jamel Dean formed a formidable 1-2 punch at cornerback and was a key anchor on the Buccaneers' solid defense. Just weeks into the offseason, Tampa Bay traded Davis III to Detroit for a 2024 third-round pick, creating a glaring hole in one of their two starting spots.

Heading into the 2024 season, it's expected that Dean will be the veteran presence as one of the Buccaneers' outside corners, alongside breakout candidate Zyon McCollum. Like White and Mauch, Dean is another player that could see his tenure in Tampa Bay end after this year behind a poor performance and vast supply at the position.

Dean, the No. 94 pick in the 2019 NFL draft, has played his entire five-year career in Tampa. In 70 career games (51 starts), Dean has recorded 254 tackles, six tackles for loss, 45 pass breakups and seven interceptions. In 2021, Dean was great, finishing the season with 53 tackles, seven pass breakups and two interceptions, while allowing 319 yards and zero touchdowns on 48.5% completion when targeted, per Sports Reference.

Even so, Dean's availability has become a major concern over the past few years. Dating back to 2019, Dean has missed 15 games due to injury or as a healthy scratch. For a team's No. 1 cornerback to miss an average of three games per year and never secure over three picks in a season while getting paid $13 million a year is concerning, to say the least.

At 27 years old, Dean is nearing the end of his playing prime and will likely not repeat the standout success he had as a rookie. Dean is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2027 after his four-year, $52 million contract expires, but Tampa Bay could cut ties with the five-year veteran if he struggles as the No. 1 cornerback without Davis III.

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