Identifying The Bucs’ Biggest Need

April 1st, 2021

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They’re all gone, baby, gone.

Wave goodbye to the 2016 draft class. Raise a glass and bid farewell to Vernon Hargreaves, Noah Spence, Roberto Aguayo, Ryan Smith, Caleb Benenoch, Devante Bond and Dan Vitale. That’s the F Troop rookie squad which greeted first-year head coach Dirk Koetter and made Buc fans reach for the Tums.

They are also a reminder that this franchise hasn’t always struck it rich with rookie studs like Tristan Wirfs and Antoine Winfield Jr.

A ton has changed in five years

Smith was the last holdout, signing with the Chargers this week as a free agent. He didn’t help much as a defensive back, notching his only career interception in 2018 off Nick Mullens in a 27-9 rout of the 49ers, but he excelled on special teams.

He was a leader of that pack and his departure leaves Tampa Bay a little thin at cornerback. But Smith’s exit also serves as a reminder of just how formidable this roster is shaping up heading into the draft at the end of the month.

For each of the past seven years, Jason Licht has told us about his plan to draft the best player available in every round. That sounds promising, but when the critical moment came, need usually trumped draft ratings.

That’s how you end up with a Hargreaves, a Spence and an Aguayo.

Five years later, things have changed at One Buc Place. Have they ever.

Looking Within

Does this team have a glaring need at this point? Absolutely not.

Even if Antonio Brown signs elsewhere, Tom Brady still has plenty of worthy weapons. O.J. Howard potentially adds even more firepower. Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette provide stability in the backfield and the offensive line was a team strength while the Bucs closed with an 8-game winning streak.

A healthy Vita Vea would bolster an already-stingy run defense while freeing up the edge rushers into more 1-on-1 matchups. Devin White and Lavonte David form the best linebacker tandem in the league. A young secondary kept improving and the kicking game looks solid.

These Bucs are now charged with the task of replacing a gunner on special teams.

Doesn’t that kind of say it all?

Even the 2003 team, also coming off a Super Bowl, wasn’t nearly this complete, especially on offense. Tight end Ken Dilger, left tackle Roman Oben and guards Kerry Jenkins and Cosey Coleman were on borrowed time. After two losing seasons, they would all be replaced by 2005.

This team is loaded and it’s hard to imagine a member of the 2021 rookie class earning a starting job and making an immediate impact — barring an injury. This is a draft for depth, whether it’s corner, edge rusher or an interior offensive lineman.

No other NFL team is in this cushy position.

The Chiefs need two offensive tackles. The Packers crave defensive playmakers. The Saints want more targets surrounding Jameis Winston.

The Seahawks can’t protect Russell Wilson. Buffalo seeks a better running game. The Patriots need a quarterback.

Zeroing in on Tampa Bay’s greatest need is easy … the Bucs need to guard against complacency.

Early Focus

Bucs GM Jason Licht is calculating lasting greatness

Yes, Tom Brady is back to keep the train moving, but the 2003 Bucs had stalwart leaders like Derrick Brooks and John Lynch. Yet when Simeon Rice reflected back on a 7-9 season, he indicated some players were still looking up at the Super Bowl confetti instead of focusing on their jobs.

The same thing could happen this fall, yet the willingness of potential free agents to return here suggests this is a very motivated group. Bruce Arians is already promising a rigorous training camp. He doesn’t want players getting too comfortable, and that’s a good thing.

Collectively, the draft class of 2016 dropped the ball. Not as much will be expected from this year’s rookie haul. Making a talent-laden roster will be an accomplishment all by itself.

First-year starters? Unlikely.

Gunners? Welcome.

Ira!  … Ira’s good friend Sean Sullivan, the Bill Currie Ford general manager, is ready to help you personally. Just call, email or stop in, one mile north of Raymond James Stadium.

18 Responses to “Identifying The Bucs’ Biggest Need”

  1. Red Skeleton Says:

    Scary that our biggest needs are on special teams. A gunner and a returner. Replace and fill those needs and we are a complete team.

  2. martinii Says:

    Doesn’t it feel strange to after 18 yrs of frustration to be concerned about SB hangover next year. After all we won the SB, signed all 22 starters from that glorious victory, have the GOAT for another year, and our GM is telling us that this is going To be a BAP Draft focused on 2 years in the future. But ya know Ira I too worry about the confetti syndrome next year. Guess it wouldn’t be a typical offseason in Tampa without something to worry about.

  3. BA4President Says:

    Interesting. You can see that Licht’s drafting has definitely improved.

    From the Super Bowl 53-man Roster, here’s how many players were drafted in each year…
    2012 (Dominik): 1
    2013 (Dominik): 1
    2014: 1
    2015: 2
    2016: 1
    2017: 1 (doesn’t include Howard)
    2018: 4 (doesn’t include Cappa, Watson, Cichy)
    2019: 6
    2020: 3 (doesn’t include K. Davis, Vaughn)

    That’s 20 of the 53 that were drafted by the Bucs. If it weren’t for IR injuries, I imagine that number would have been 23.

  4. Buc1987 Says:

    Is this….the Bucs?

  5. HeyItsAdam Says:

    You can’t type the name “OJ Howard” without typing some derivation of the word “potential” in the same sentence.

  6. zzbuc Says:

    I am not sure about this….We need a Safety. we need another puss rusher, we need OL…..And of course we need quality depth…..

  7. Mike Honcho Says:

    Does this team have a glaring need at this point? Absolutely not.
    Gotta disagree. The glaring need is depth, at the most important positions: OL, DL and an understudy in waiting to learn from Obi Wan Brady.

  8. Ron says Says:

    Unfortunately it looks like AB is going to cost too much so it is a good time to address backup FA for positions that will be a area of problem next year when contracts come up again, this way we will maybe have a viable veteran with our system in place before we lose one because of the cap next year. There is a lot of quality FA who would like to have a opportunity at a ring or rings if they stay.

  9. 813bucboi Says:

    AB will be back…

    JL let smitty and dirk pick the players…and never developed them…luckily JL learned from his mistakes and moved on….

    GO BUCS!!!!

  10. Admiral Redbeard Says:

    Shouldn’t look at draft prospects as backups, but rather backups who will eventually become starters.

  11. Topdoggie Says:

    This draft is about not falling apart after or if we win another SB. We aint keeping the band together forever. We need a you pass rusher and another starting caliber OL on rookie pay scales. TB has kept playing so long because he has mostly kept from getting hurt. Alot of the old QBs fell off of a cliff after getting hurt. A shoulder injury did in Manning. Anyone remember Marino with leg braces hobbling around like he had a walker. We need a young passer not just for the future but if Brady misses some games.

  12. David Says:

    Gholston, Suh, JPP, LVD Or getting up there in age. D line/edge/OLB seems like the obvious selection to me.
    They definitely need to draft a line, but they are pretty good there with Stinnie and Wells back for depth. That’s just one of those positions that you should draft every single year, same with D line.

  13. Defense Rules Says:

    Admiral Redbeard … “Shouldn’t look at draft prospects as backups, but rather backups who will eventually become starters.”

    Admiral you nailed it. So many fans & local media are giddy about all our recent FA re-signings that they lose sight of ‘the big picture’. Next year we’ll have 12 starters and several rotational players becoming free agents. Some of them may be re-signed on short-term deals; several may not due to age, etc. THIS is the year to be drafting their potential replacements, and hopefully getting them some game experience to see what they’ve got.

    Personally think that grabbing a QB to study under Brady this year would be a good idea, but not necessarily a draft pick. Several past 1st Rnd picks seem to have fallen on hard times, but on a quality team they may very well become gamers and would probably come in ‘on the cheap’ for the opportunity to learn under Brady.

    We do though need to draft at least 1 DT & 1 DE/OLB, plus an OL & a LB (we’re really thin there after Minter). Wouldn’t hurt to pick up another CB & a Safety either, although that doesn’t necessarily need to be done through the draft.

  14. Jmarkbuc Says:

    Add 1 OL and 1 DL each and every draft, more if there’s a deep talent pool. This game is won in the trenches.

  15. DoooshLaRue Says:

    Ira, I know you’re on cloud 9 like most right now, but this is not a great take.

  16. m0j0 Says:

    Got to add competition. The best way to keep the current roster motivated is with talented young players fighting for their job!

  17. unbelievable Says:

    DL and LB would be my first priorities, followed by o-line and secondary.

  18. TOM Says:

    I still say its only a matter of time they let OJ go. When he’s proved to be healthy by trade or whatever he’s gone. Didn’t need him for the SB run, don’t need him now.