Phase one of Free Agency has come and gone. Unlike previous years when the Bucs paid big money contracts to guys like Desean Jackson and Michael Johnson, Tampa Bay focused on re-signing their own players and adding some role players to their team.
But have they improved? Let’s take a look.
It’s never sexy, re-signing your own players – but say you were the New York Jets. At wide receiver, you just signed Mike Evans to a mega deal. Then you signed Brent Grimes and Cameron Brate. But wait – you weren’t done. You added a dependable third receiver to compliment Evans in Adam Humphries, a solid young running back at cheap price in Peyton Barber, a veteran safety in Keith Tandy and a nice role playing linebacker in Adarius Glanton.
If your the Jets, that’s one hell of a haul. You might have even won free agency (and that’s before we talk about who the Bucs added outside of the organization). I know what you’re thinking – these are the guys the Bucs just went 5-11 with. They are, but they’re not the reason Tampa Bay went 5-11.
You see folks, to become one of those franchises that is contending for playoff spots each and every year you have to draft well. If you’re signing your own guys to second contracts – that’s a very good thing. It means the Bucs are at least doing something right.
Free Agency is a tool to supplement the draft, not supplant it. You sign big money free agents to make up for terrible drafting. The Bucs haven’t been terrible at drafting. In addition to the guys they’ve already signed, Kwon Alexander, Ali Marpet, Donovan Smith and the biggest fish of them all, Jameis Winston, are lining up for their own paydays.
This is a good thing and yes, it improves the team. Players never stay the same. This isn’t Madden. You either get better or you get worse. Players like Mike Evans and Brate – their careers are just going into their prime. This is when you want to have them.
Who The Bucs Have Signed
The big names were all over the stratosphere. Truimane Johnson, Tyrann Mathieu, Richard Sherman, and of course, Ndamukong Suh. Teams like the 49ers and Browns were wheeling and dealing. The Jets signed 50,000 quarterbacks and still may draft another. The Browns made about 20 trades in 24 hours. The Bucs? Who the hell is Mitch Unrein and Beau Allen?
Buc Fan Twitter exploded with anger, demanding GM Jason Licht’s head on a pike and accusing the Glazers of being the reincarnation of Hugh Culverhouse. OMG! THE BUCS AREN’T DOING ANYTHING! WE’RE LOSING IN FREE AGENCY! YOU GUYS SUCK!
Let me tell you something. No, Mitch Unrein and Beau Allen aren’t going to move the needle the way Desean Jackson did but they may make just as much, if not more, impact. Allen and Unrein are glue guys. These are dudes that grab their lunch pails and go to work. Not only that, they’re really good at their niche, which is stopping the run. No, that’s not going to get to the quarterback but this just in, as terrible as the Bucs were are stopping the pass, they weren’t very good at stopping the run, either.
If you stop the run, you force longer down-and-distance plays where the quarterback has to hold the ball a second or two longer, giving the pass rush a chance to get to the quarterback.
Truth be told, there weren’t any elite pass rushers available. I guarantee if DeMarcus Lawrence and Ziggy Ansah had hit the market, the Bucs would have been the first in line. But they weren’t. Most of the guys out there aren’t much better than what the Bucs already had. Is the top pass rusher on the market, Adrian Clayborn, all that much better than Noah Spence or Robert Ayers? We know what Clayborn is. Solid player. Good guy. Is he worth $10 million a year? Hell no. Someone will pay it. Would you want that to be Tampa Bay?
Truimane Johnson would absolutely improve the Bucs’ secondary – but at $14.5 million per year? Since when did that dude become Darrelle Revis?
Jerrick McKinnon would have been a solid addition to a weak running back core and replace Charles Sims as a 3rd down back. I’m sorry, I’m not paying a 3rd down back $7.5 million a year.
Suh will be in double-digits. Would he and McCoy look great together? Yeah. Talk about nightmares for offensive coordinators – but who plays nose tackle and draws the double teams? What would it do for team chemistry? (right now Fournier is reading this like a proud papa)
Would I love to see Tyrann Mathieu here? Absolutely. But he’s not the Honey Badger of a few years ago. Do we want the Bucs to pay for that name just to have a name?
So far, the only deal the Bucs have made I’m a little iffy on is Chandler Cadanzaro, the kicker. I thought they overpaid and honestly, he’s a little too streaky for my taste.
Still To Come
One big fish the Bucs have been after is Ryan Jensen, the center from Baltimore. Jensen left Tampa without a deal yesterday and that was bad news for the Bucs but they’re still in the running. We’ll have to see how it plays out. ESPN’s Jenna Laine reported the Bucs might have an interest in recently released Dolphins center Mike Pouncey, depending on his price tag.
The Bucs had Alex Okafor in for a looksee, so they’re not done on the defensive line either. They reportedly were interested in Mo Claiborne before he re-signed with the Jets, so corner may still be on their radar.
I know it’s been a tough few days Bucs fans but don’t lose heart. The off-season champions rarely go to the playoffs. Heck, the Browns have been winning the off-season for years and they’ve won 1 game in the last two years.