The Five Most Indispensable Buccaneers

June 9th, 2017


Sportswriters love lists, and I’m no exception.

But let’s be honest, many of these lists are silly. For example, any scribe who suggests his seven-round mock draft has value is kidding himself.

In fact, it’s the very definition of having too much time on your hands. How do you know who will still be on the board at pick No. 117?

I’ve come up with a list that can tell you a lot about the state of the 2017 Buccaneers. Let’s call it The Essentials, a ranking of the five most indispensable Tampa Bay players as we await the start of training camp in late July.

Before we open the envelopes, here’s a few very good players who didn’t make the cut — Gerald McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Ali Marpet and Lavonte David.

Let the arguments begin, Stick Carriers.

No. 5 – Brent Grimes

By signing Grimes in 2016, the Bucs broke with their traditional strategy of ignoring any free agent older than the age of 30. Grimes responded with a superb season, topping the NFL with 28 passes defended and adding four interceptions and a forced fumble.

That’s four consecutive years with at least four picks for Grimes, and Tampa Bay’s secondary would suffer quite a blow if he were sidelined. Just ask Vernon Hargreaves, who was tested repeatedly as a rookie, partly because of the respect opposing offenses had for Grimes.

“Vernon was targeted a lot,” said defensive coordinator Mike Smith. “When you have a Brent Grimes on one side, it’s not talking about Vernon’s talent, it’s talking about Brent’s talent.”

No. 4. – Donovan Smith

Smith isn’t knocking on the Pro Bowl door, but he hasn’t missed a snap in two years, protecting Jameis Winston’s blind side and holding his own against some of the league’s premier pass rushers. There isn’t proven depth behind him if Smith goes down.

“He is an unbelievable talent,” offensive line coach George Warhop says of Smith. “He literally could be one of the top two or three tackles in the league. That’s just my opinion. I love the guy.”

No. 3  – Mike Evans

Yes, Jackson is a serious deep threat, and yes, Chris Godwin has looked impressive in OTA sessions, but Evans is the stud Winston will continue to look for in key situations.

Want proof? Evans was targeted 175 times last fall and the 81 first downs he generated were 15 more than any other wideout. Only Jordy Nelson caught more TD passes than Evans, who improved his concentration markedly after an erratic 2015 season.

It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Evans finds the end zone another 12 times this year, especially if Winston improves his deep-ball accuracy.

No. 2  – Kwon Alexander

We saw Alexander’s value at the end of his rookie season, when the 6-6 Bucs went 0-4 while he served a suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing substances.

The only defensive player drafted by Jason Licht in his first two seasons as Buc GM, Alexander easily topped Tampa Bay with 145 total tackles last year. His 108 solo stops led the league and he closed with a flourish, posting 41 tackles in the final three games.

That includes a 21-tackle effort at Dallas, where he was one of Tampa Bay’s few defensive standouts. The Bucs drafted Kendell Beckwith to provide quality depth behind Alexander, but the LSU rookie is coming off a torn ACL.

No. 1 – Jameis Winston

No surprise here, as the dynamic face of the franchise needs to stay healthy for the Bucs to have any credible chance to end a nine-year playoff drought.

Winston’s presence gives everyone around him confidence, and he has been quite durable through two seasons. Veteran backup Ryan Fitzpatrick is 46-69-1 as an NFL starter, but his experience could keep the Bucs afloat if Winston is sidelined for a short period.

Tampa Bay’s only Pro Football Hall of Fame voter, Ira Kaufman, the most beloved and esteemed columnist in town, has hung his hat at world headquarters since July 2016. His columns pop here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and his award winning podcasts fire Tuesdays and Thursdays.

16 Responses to “The Five Most Indispensable Buccaneers”

  1. German Buc Says:

    Agreed, Ira.
    But does it say something, that not a single pass rusher made the list and not even the list of guys that didn’t make the cut?

  2. RayJameisStadium Says:


    All brought in by Licht!

    Noah will be knocking on the door by the end of the year!!!!

    Go Bucs!!!

  3. The Buc Realist Says:


    What , no NS57????? The man can not even get an honorable mention????? I know he was a huge reason why the defense started to click last year!!!!!!! He was seeing double teams pretty often and got actual pressure on QB!!!! He shortened coverage times for the secondary!!!!!!! Watch the tape!!!!! Give the man his due!!!!!

    GO BUCS!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Tnew Says:

    No GMC. He’s the best player on the defense, so we’ve been told.

  5. Tnew Says:

    But I couldn’t disagree at all with the list– except maybe switch grimes with McCoy… but that’s a big maybe.

  6. Bucsfanman Says:

    Indispensable= If they get injured, we’re in trouble says Capt. Obvious. And about that D-line, much to the chagrin of posters like tmax, if any of the starters get hurt (including GMC) we won’t be as effective, just look at last year.

  7. MarineBucsFan Says:

    Great Article Ira!! I absolutely agree with this list. You could make a good argument for some of the other great talents on this team but I think the point here is that this are the 5 guys that would be the most difficult to replace and still have success (Win) on game day.

    I see this article going for 100 responses. Should have saved this one for after OTA’s, outstanding off season topic for debate!

  8. Pickgrin Says:

    Its hard to argue with your list Ira – although when McCoy was out/playing hurt and Ayers was out – the Defense did not play well at all. Getting most of our Dlinemen back together on the field and healthy was the key that sparked the defensive resurgence that led to the 5 game win streak in 2016.

    If McCoy, Ayers, Spence and Jack Smith can all stay relatively healthy this year, then I think the pass rush we’ve been missing for over a decade shows itself to be formidable and catapults this team to a 10+ win season. We had a solid pass rush for a 2-3 game stretch last year for the first time in what seems like forever. Need to see that all season if we hope to make some real noise this season.

  9. tmaxcon Says:

    jack smith staying healthy… mccoy staying healthy… Pickgrin breaking out the jokes this morning.

  10. Bucsfanman Says:

    @tmax- The whole D-line was injured at one point or another. What’s your point? Until anyone proves otherwise, the whole line is “injury-prone”.
    If healthy, we can go a long way.

  11. tmaxcon Says:


    oh i agree sir… The leader of the losing culture and founding father of the “Frageile 3” at DT bucs have no durability or toughness on dline. i like ayers but he needs to stay on the field. Noah Spence is going to breakout this year and free himself of the bad mojo from spending a year. bucs still have some garbage to take out on dline mainly the overpaid crybaby

  12. MarineBucsFan Says:

    I thought there would be much more traffic on this topic?? I came back surprised.

    I think its because Ira “Nailed It” with the 5 players picked. Its hard to argue against this group.

  13. Bucsfanman Says:

    Well said my Jarhead brother! It really is hard to argue players more impactful.
    Good job Ira!

  14. Doctor_Berto Says:

    Donovan Smith, really? I don’t know what games you guys have been watching but that’s laughable.

  15. LakeLandBuc Says:

    The 5 Most Indispensable Bucs…well this is saying much.

  16. LakeLandBuc Says:

    This isn’t saying much