2018 NFL Draft Reset: Ground game important goal for Bucs

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had two main areas of concern after finishing 5-11 in 2017. They were last in the NFL with 22 sacks and the astounding lack of pressure certainly allowed opposing quarterbacks to attack them in the passing game. Tampa Bay also struggled to run the football. They were 27th in the league with an average of 90.6 yards per game.

General manager Jason Licht and his staff were particularly in need of an edge rusher. But they were unable to swing a deal for the Rams’ Robert Quinn, who was traded to Miami for a fourth-round pick.

So the Bucs started by signing a pair of defensive tackles — the Eagles’ Beau Allen and the Bears’ Mitch Unrein.

Fortunately, the Eagles were unable to restructure defensive end Vinny Curry’s contract, who became a free agent late in the process. The Bucs signed him to a three-year, $23 million deal. Then Tampa Bay unexpectedly swung a deal for Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, sending a third-round pick to New York and swapping fourth-round choices.

Offensively, the Bucs also improved their offensive line by signing Ravens center Ryan Jensen. That means Ali Marpet moves back from center to left guard. At the moment, the Bucs plan to play Caleb Benenoch at right guard. They also added Jets kicker Chandler Catanzaro.

Here is a closer look at where the Buccaneers are, how they got here and a shot at what they should do with their first pick in the draft.

THE BREAKDOWN

2017 finish: 4th NFC South (5-11)

STATISTICS

TOTAL OFFENSE: 363.5 (9th)

RUSHING: 90.6 (27th)

PASSING: 272.9 (4th)

TOTAL DEFENSE: 378.1 (32nd)

RUSHING: 117.5 (23rd)

PASSING: 260.6 (32nd)

TEAM NEEDS

  1. Cornerback: The Bucs re-signed 35-year-old Brent Grimes to a one-year deal. But Vernon Hargreaves has not lived up to his first-round status and may be moved inside to nickel. Ryan Smith was up and down last season at cornerback. A lock-down cornerback would give the Bucs defense a big boost.
  1. Guard: Sure, the Bucs could play Caleb Benenoch at right guard. But he also is the backup right tackle. Tampa Bay needs to continue to fortify their offensive line with the uncertain injury status of J.R. Sweezy.
  1. Running back: The Bucs have only two proven running backs on the roster after releasing Doug Martin: Peyton Barber and Jacquizz Rodgers. The Bucs would seem to be in a good position to get a running back in the second or third round.

KEY PERSONNEL TRACKER (As of April 6)

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

–TE Cameron Brate: Potential RFA; $40.8M/6 yrs, $18M guaranteed ($7M injury only at signing, $6M RB).

–DE Will Clarke: UFA; $880K/1 yr, $90K SB.

–QB Ryan Fitzpatrick: Potential UFA; $3.3M/1 yr, $1.3M guaranteed RB.

–LB Adarius Glanton: Potential RFA; $1.04M/1 yr, $250K guaranteed RB.

–CB Brent Grimes: Potential UFA; $7M/1 yr, $7M fully guaranteed/$3.5M RB.

–C/G Evan Smith: UFA; $6M/2 yrs, $1M guaranteed.

–S Keith Tandy: Potential UFA; $2.74M/2 yrs, $600K guaranteed RB.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED

–DT Beau Allen: UFA Eagles; $15M/3 yrs, $7.25M guaranteed ($750K injury only at signing, $2.75M RB/$1.5M RB 2019).

–K Chandler Catanzaro: UFA Jets; $9.75M/3 yrs, $3.75M fully guaranteed.

–DE Vinny Curry: FA Eagles; $23M/3 yrs, $11.5M guaranteed/$3.5M RB.

–C Ryan Jensen: UFA Ravens; $42M/4 yrs, $22M guaranteed/$10M RB.

–OLB Cameron Lynch: Not tendered offer as RFA by Rams; $705K/1 yr.

–LB Jeff Knox: FA; $1.05M/2 yrs.

–DE Jason Pierre-Paul (trade Giants).

–DE Mitch Unrein: UFA Bears; $10.5M/3 yrs, $4M fully guaranteed/$2M RB.

PLAYERS LOST

–DE Robert Ayers (released).

–DT Chris Baker (released).

–K Nick Folk (released).

–C Joe Hawley: UFA/retired.

–RB Doug Martin (released).

–DT Clinton McDonald: UFA Broncos; $7M/2 yrs, $4M guaranteed/$1M RB.

–G Kevin Pamphile: UFA Titans; $1.4M/1 yr, $400K SB.

*NFLDraftScout.com analysts suggest (No. 7 overall)

Rob Rang (April 5 mock draft):

–Derwin James, SS, Florida State. The Bucs overhauled their defensive line to create more of a pass rush, but the secondary still could use an infusion of playmakers. Plugging in a versatile athlete like James into a deep patrol tasked with handling divisional weapons like Devontae Freeman (Falcons), Alvin Kamara (Saints) and Christian McCaffrey (Panthers) makes sense.

Dane Brugler (April 6 mock draft):

–Derwin James, SS, Florida State. Although he is a better athlete than football player right now, James has a bright future as do-it-all defender able to play single-high or in the box. Justin Evans and James gives the Bucs a talented safety duo.

Agree? Disagree? Still shopping?

Based on the team’s current status, those are our suggestions for that first pick. To double check or find another candidate see full mocks and ratings at NFLDraftScout.com.

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