The Next Big Thing

January 31st, 2023

Focusing on corners.

So, we all know the Bucs have one great big, way important free agent sitting out there. If he wants to play again.

That man’s name is Tom Brady. He’s the biggest fish in the Bucs’ free agent pool, by far. Provided he doesn’t retire.

What Brady decides will directly if not immediately change the direction of the team for the 2023 season.

But what about after that? Well, Jenna Laine of ESPN believes a very overlooked move lurks just beyond Brady’s shadow, and that is what to do about cornerback. The Bucs have two free agent corners. One, Sean Murphy-Bunting, has had an up-and-down career but has been really good when he’s on. The other is a burgeoning star in Jamel Dean.

What will Bucs’ AC/DC-loving general manager Jason Licht do?

… Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting and Mike Edwards are all set to become unrestricted free agents. Murphy-Bunting is particularly interesting because he lost his No. 2 cornerback position this year to Dean, but he was lights out at the end of the season. He broke up seven passes and had two interceptions this season. Tampa Bay will need to examine the defensive back group and see what it can do with the salary cap in mind.

Despite the salary cap jumping some $17 million next year, the Bucs will be crunched for money, especially if they try to keep Lavonte David. Can the Bucs also afford Dean? Good corners are hard to come by and in a passing league, they are needed. Joe sure would hate to see Dean walk away.

SMB is difficult to gauge. He has shown spurts of stardom but can’t seem to piece it together for a long stretch. As a result, SMB will come cheap. Or at least much cheaper than Dean.

Joe further explored the SMB-Dean decision after the Bucs lost to Dallas.

34 Responses to “The Next Big Thing”

  1. Larry Says:

    It’s not fair of Brady to keep the Bucs hanging. He needs to either s88t or get off the pot. He is still a good player but todays QB’s have more mobility than Brady. There free agent QB’s out there. Maybe not of Brady’s caliber but at best he will play only one more year. I can’t believe the Bucs can win another Super Bowl just because brady is there. 18 points a game just won’t get it done.

  2. bob in valrico Says:

    Is Jenna SMB’s publicist? Dean has been the number 2 corner for a couple of years. He was a slot corner who got injured and the Bucs inserted safeties at slot,
    and realized that Winfield was a better fit. So it seems like he lost his slot corner
    position and competed with Dean for no. 2 and Dean won the position in 2022.
    At Dallas he had 5 out of 5 pass completions against him.

  3. darengibo Says:

    So why was Dean NOT playing against Cowboys???

  4. ClwJB Says:

    Just another one of the more puzzling decisions made by Bowles – would love to see a poll of SMB vs Dean, hands down Dean is better but he sat the entire Cowboys game as SMB got thrashed and picked on all night

    Bowles jus struggles with the basics far too much

  5. TDTB Says:

    As a part of the rebuild, let Dean walk in FA, keep bunting as nickel (cheaper than paying starter money to Dean) and draft Ringo from GA in first round.

  6. Defense Rules Says:

    ‘Joe sure would hate to see Dean walk away.’

    Me too. Dean’s much more valuable to us as a building block than LVD is. Lavonte made his money with the Bucs. If he still wants to keep his high-priced contract, let someone else pay it.

    I’d love to keep SMB too, but he’s not nearly as good an outside corner as Jamel is IMO. Dean sports a 54.2% completions allowed rate over his 57 games (with 7 INTs & 10 TDs allowed) as compared to SMB’s 66.3% completions allowed rate over his 53 games (with 6 INTs & 15 TDs allowed). Not as much of a contest as some would have us believe.

  7. Defense Rules Says:

    ClwJB … Dean didn’t sit out the Dallas game; he played on Special Teams but not on defense. Pretty sure that he was still hurting (watch him in the games up to then & his speed had dropped off noticeably).

  8. Christina Olive Says:

    We need better edge rushers, they make your secondary look a lot better and this season was just sad in the turnover/hurry’s dept.

  9. Breadwinnerbob Says:

    I’ll take witherspoon or the kid from Oregon or porter jr … branch all are better

  10. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Although Dean is the better CB……SMB will be much cheaper and we need the extra money for other players….hate it….but that’s the way it goes.

    Regardless, we will need to draft a CB in the first 3 rounds.

  11. Beej Says:

    We have no pass rush. For all the talk about what kind of QB’s are left in the playoffs, another thing all those teams have in common are suffocating pass rushers

  12. Will Says:

    Doesn’t matter how good either of them are because Bowels will have them playing 10yds off the ball when all our corners Carlton Davis included are better up close getting physical with the WR. That and some better edge rushing is needed. They always seem to have “communication” issues when they play zone.

  13. Marine Buc Says:

    “the Bucs will be crunched for money, especially if they try to keep Lavonte David.”

    Actually it’s just the opposite Joe…

    We owe LVD @ $8M in dead cap space we could restructure and move to next year or beyond if we re-sign him.

    It will save us money to re-sign LVD especially if we can put his salary at @ $2M and push his signing bonus off until 2024 or 2025.

  14. Thisisouryear!! Says:

    For all these people wanting to pay SMB less, he’s been rarely available the last 2 years. Dean has been on the field for the most part and one of the better corners in the league.

  15. NEfan Says:

    Larry, Brady is exploring his options and doesn’t have that opportunity for the next 5 weeks. Clearly Bucs aren’t his first choice because he hasn’t committed. They could be his 2nd or 3rd. Other teams are experiencing the same, for one Baltimore. You’re gonna have to wait 5 weeks to find out. Brady owes the Bucs nothing.

  16. NEfan Says:

    As far as Dean & SMB, they are both soft, the way these db’s played over the last few years move on. Look at Whitehead and how the Jets coached him up, he was really good this season.

  17. TampaBayBucsFanSince1976 Says:

    If you have an excellent pass rush , then you can get by with one superior lock down corner(Carlton) and some mehs’, but Bucs do not have that pass rush due to JTS and Logan Hall being busts at this point of their careers.

  18. DBS Says:

    Keep Dean. Let SMB go.

  19. Sean Bigbrother Says:

    It’s a lot of couch coaches on here but guess what he’s going to get paid wether you like it or not. Sean is better than dean call it what you want women lie, men lie but numbers don’t. Oh bye the way 3 picks 3 weeks in a row that they scored on. Big players make big plays.

  20. BrianBucs Says:

    Best way to make the corners play better is to vastly improve your pass rush

  21. sasquatch Says:

    Even in an article that isn’t about B***y, J03 had to preface the article with some crap about B***y… We don’t really need every article to mention B***y.

  22. TombsEN Says:

    Dean still hadn’t fully recovered from his toe injury and was also sick which is why Murphy got the start, do you all even follow this team lol…..

  23. Brandon Says:

    For those that aren’t football savvy, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Dean has been our best CB the past two seasons. He’s also a top 10 CB in the NFL. You don’t just let talent like his walk.

  24. NEfan Says:

    Brandon and the Bucs D was top 10??? Smoke & mirrors.

  25. SlyPirate Says:


    If we’ve learned anything these past two years, it’s the cap isn’t real. Don’t worry about the cap.

  26. Letsbucinggo Says:

    One thing for sure this team will wait until the last minute to do anything. Its obvious to me whether Brady comes back or not they are going to have to restructure some contracts. Just take Evans, Godwin and maybe Vea add a couple of years to their contracts and shove all the cap into their last couple of years problem solved.

  27. unbelievable Says:

    Dean is the better player, so that who you keep.

    Long and fast outside corners don’t grow on trees.

    How long did our secondary suck for ? Keep Dean, find a new slot /
    Nickel corner if needed. Much easier than outside corners to find.

  28. Defense Rules Says:

    SlyPirate … ‘STOP ANALYZING THE CAP!!! If we’ve learned anything these past two years, it’s the cap isn’t real. Don’t worry about the cap.’

    Au contraire Sly Pirate. The CAP is very real, although in any given year (or even set of years) it’s easy to work around it. Eventually it bites you in the arse however. That’s pretty much where the Bucs are this year.

    Bucs will be paying FIVE players $50 mil NOT TO PLAY this year because of voided contracts. Cute salary CAP manipulation trick, until it isn’t. Granted we could re-sign them & manipulate the CAP once again, but eventually you have to pay the bill. If Brady retires or signs with someone else … HIS CHOICE not yours … our salary CAP takes a $35 mil hit. Poof.

    We can renegotiate salaries like many have suggested and kick the can down the street one more time, OR we can bite the bullet, hold the line as best we can, and create a much more flexible situation for 2024 & beyond. That’s essentially what Atlanta & Carolina have already done, while Tampa Bay & New Orleans keep on truckin down the rabbit hole.

    We owe our Top 10 players under contract for 2023 a whopping $167 mil in terms of Dead CAP. Yes we can renegotiate some of those downward (push a portion of the CAP Hit further down the road), but that approach is exactly what we’ve been doing. And guess what … 2022 was the result. No money for DEPTH players because our starters ate it all. And when those starters went down, players who weren’t nearly as good had to take their place. ‘Next Man Standing’ is a wonderful cliche, until you lose Marpet & plus in an unseasoned rookie who wasn’t even remotely prepared to be a starter.

    My preference is to take as much of the salary CAP hit this year as we can, and posture for 2024 by getting guys as much experience as we can this season. With 2 excellent drafts (2023 & 2024) plus some decent FA pickups we can dig out from under this snowbank reasonably quickly (I hope).

  29. BuckyPhillips Says:

    Bucs need to resign Brady. Just because he wants to play doesn’t mean it’s in Tampa. Quicker you break it down the quicker you can rebuild. Or we can all act like signing Brady won’t end up in another 7-9 win season.

  30. Rod Munch Says:

    If SMB is ‘cheap’ then they need to absolutely bring him back. The reason those defenses in 2018 and 2019 were so bad (the 2019 defense over the first half of the year was on pace to be the worst in team history), was because of those young corners. You generally can not just draft a guy and throw him out there and expect him to be any good, most corners take a couple of years to develop, which is another reason why wasting a pick on Trask was such a huge mistake.

    As for Dean, I don’t know how they afford it, but if they can do something, they should try to do so. Even if they rebuild, having two solid corners is a huge benefit. Plus it’s a trade asset, assuming the contract isn’t insane.

  31. Davenport Says:

    The championship window is closed.

    We cannot/shouldn’t find a way to afford to keep anyone over 30.
    Put the money into guys that will still be contributing 3 years from today.

  32. Ben Harvey Says:

    The Bucs would be wise to move on from SMB and invest in Dean. Davis cant stay healthy and neither can SMB. Why would you risk losing both to injury over the course of the season. In my mind, Dean is almost an upgrade over Davis because of his availability. I wouldnt be surprised to see Davis cut in the near future if he cant stay healthy either.

  33. stpetebucfan Says:

    @D.R. I largely agree with you. I’m not quite as patient as you but you could accurately counter with the fact that your more realistic than me.

    As for Jamel Dean. When he plays of course he’s worth the money. The problem is the when. Jamel Dean with a history of injury in college that forced him to leave OSU for Auburn.

    He has YET to play an entire season for the Bucs. He has missed 3 games, then 2 games and then 1 game before 2022’s 17 game schedule where again he missed 2 games!

    I do not know the stats for how many games like the Cowboys playoff that Dean played sparingly AGAIN due to injury. Great talent inside a fragile body.

    His talent is worth the money but I sure hope if Licht decides to pay him huge bucks there are some outs in the contract. Jamel fails at the most important ability according to Dungy…Availability. I hate signing damaged goods.

  34. Ed Says:

    I don’t know what it is about the Bucs and their injuries. I watch so many games and so many other teams are able to field players that are hurt and their dropoffs aren’t like the Bucs.

    Patrick Maholmes played half a game and an entire game on an ankle so bum he could barely move but he played and played damn well.

    Look at the Bucs and all of their hamstring and knew guys that never play when banged up.

    Its an attitude all around this team. Like the head coach, no desperation to win. They rest players hoping they heal and same guys just get hurt over and over again.

    Maybe they need to look at the conditioning of their players and start drafting and signing more powerful bodies than these frail guys whose little bruises and nicks take weeks to heal.