The Bucs continued their work on the defensive line and run defense, signing another veteran, former Bears DE/DT Mitch Unrein, whose forte in the NFL has been setting the edge and stopping the run. The signing was reported first by the Tampa Bay Times’ Rick Stroud.
#Bucs agreed to terms with Bears DE Mitch Unrein
— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) March 14, 2018
Can Unrein make an impact for Tampa Bay?
Unrein was an undrafted free agent, with stints in Denver and San Diego before establishing himself as a starting defensive end with the Bears. The 30-yr-old is in his eighth year in the league but as with fellow free agent signee, Beau Allen, Unrein isn’t going to give the Bucs much in the pass rush department. Ironically, Unrein was second only to his new teammate in run stop percentage, putting in 10.8% stoppages of interior runs.
We posted this graphic from Pro Football Focus for Allen, who was number one on the list. Now Tampa Bay has the number one and number two on this list.
Beau Allen’s run stop percentage was tops among UFA interior defenders in 2017! pic.twitter.com/DxA79Bw8v5
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) February 21, 2018
Unrein has played in 95 games, 126 tackles, 4.5 sacks and a fumble recovery. Unreins an underrated player who has maximized his abilities to become a key contributor in the league.
How Unrein Fits With The Bucs
Unrein is expected to play defensive tackle for the Buccaneers in their base 4-3 formation and at defensive end when they play in their 3-4 lineup. If you assume Allen takes the spot of Chris Baker, Unrein probably fills the space vacated by Clinton McDonald.
In a pinch, Unrein can play fullback, as in his rookie season, he actually caught a touchdown pass from Peyton Manning and it was against the Bucs.
— Brad Biggs (@BradBiggs) March 14, 2018
At $3.5 million a year, the price tag is about $1.5 million more than Clinton McDonald was making, so it’s a significant investment by the Bucs in Unrein’s ability. Is he that much better than McDonald? We’ll have to see.
If you can’t fix the pass rush, at least you can fix the run defense. Look, neither Allen or Unrein will move the needle for Bucs fans. These signings aren’t going to solve the Bucs pass rush issues. However, Tampa Bay had many more issues than not getting to the quarterback. After ranking 23rd in the NFL against the run, many of those rushes going right up the gut against the Bucs defense, Tampa Bay is focused on eliminating that issue.
If the Bucs are better against the run, it forces 2nd-and-long, 3rd-and-long and better opportunities to get to the quarterback.
So no, it’s not sexy but the Bucs needed guys like Allen and Unrein.