2016 NFL Offseason: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Last Year: 6-10)

2016 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
G J.R. Sweezy, DE Robert Ayers, LB Daryl Smith, CB Brent Grimes, CB Josh Robinson, P Bryan Anger.
Early Draft Picks:
CB Vernon Hargreaves, DE Noah Spence, K Roberto Aguayo, CB Ryan Smith, OT Caleb Benenoch. Buccaneers Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
DT Henry Melton, ILB Bruce Carter, CB Sterling Moore.

2016 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offense:
A franchise quarterback can fix a broken team. That’s exactly what Jameis Winston appears to be doing thus far. There was some concern regarding Winston’s off-the-field issues when he came out of Florida State, but he has been both a model citizen and a great team leader thus far. He threw for 4,042 yards, 22 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, all while rushing in six more scores as a rookie. He has also taken his offseason training very seriously, reporting to camp looking like a defensive back, according to Pewter Report.

An even better campaign from Winston obviously means great things for his targets, especially Mike Evans. The third-year wideout struggled in his sophomore campaign. Though he accumulated 1,206 receiving yards, he caught just 50 percent of the balls thrown his way, dropping far too many passes. The coaching staff said that Evans’ work ethic was partly to blame, so perhaps Winston’s efforts will rub off on the young receiver.

Evans will need to perform well because the rest of the receiving corps is underwhelming. Vincent Jackson used to be a great player, but that’s not the case anymore. Jackson has regressed the past two years – he caught 33 passes for 543 yards in 10 games last season – and the downward spiral will likely continue, given that Jackson turned 33 in the offseason. Meanwhile, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Seferian-Jenkins is a talented athlete, but he has been on the field for just 16 total games in two pro seasons thus far. There’s a chance he could lose his job to Cameron Brate, a former undrafted free agent out of Harvard.

With dubious play from the receivers and tight ends last year, the Buccaneers were able to mostly move the ball via the ground attack. Doug Martin rebounded off two very disappointing seasons to finish second in rushing, accumulating 1,402 yards on the ground. He also caught 33 passes. The problem is that Martin signed a $35.75 million contract this spring, so now that he collected a large amount of guaranteed money, he could once again take his career for granted, as he appeared to in 2013 and 2014. Charles Sims could be a capable replacement if Martin didn’t work hard this offseason and gets hurt as a consequence, but the offense would undoubtedly take a step backward if Martin isn’t running as fiercely as he did this past year.

Of course, better play from the offensive line could help offset Martin’s potential decline. The tackles were horrible last year, with Donovan Smith struggling on the blind side, and Demar Dotson being out for 10 games because of a sprained MCL. Dotson’s return would be huge, as he’s Tampa Bay’s best offensive lineman when healthy. Smith, meanwhile, can’t possibly be as bad as he was as a rookie. There’s no guarantee he’ll be good, but perhaps he won’t be awful again.

The Buccaneers will have some new players starting on the interior, though that’s not necessarily a good thing. They gave former Seahawk J.R. Sweezy a $32.5 million contract this offseason, which was a mistake if his play in Seattle was any indication of how he’ll perform in his new home. Sweezy was pedestrian in all regards, and will figure to be a poor replacement for the retired Logan Mankins. He’ll start along with guard Ali Marpet, who showed some promise as a second-round rookie last year, and center Joe Hawley, who isn’t very good, to be polite.

2016 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense:
Three of Tampa Bay’s initial four 2016 draft selections were used on defensive players. This was not a surprise in the slightest, as the Buccaneers’ stop unit struggled in most regards this past season.

The first pick, was used on Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves after the Buccaneers moved down from No. 9 to 11. Hargreaves was regarded as the consensus second-best cornerback in the 2016 NFL Draft behind Jalen Ramsey, whom Tampa Bay greatly coveted. Hargreaves wasn’t a bad consolation prize though, especially when considering the trade. He fills a huge need, as most of Tampa’s corners were horrific this past season. Sterling Moore was just fine, but opening starters Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks were torched mercilessly. It would be highly surprising if Hargreaves isn’t an instant upgrade over those two with Moore gone. Brent Grimes will likely be the other starter, but that may not turn out well based on how poorly he performed for the Dolphins this past season.

It was a bit surprising that the Buccaneers didn’t use an early choice – or any pick, for that matter – on a safety. The position needed to be addressed just as badly as the cornerback spot. Chris Conte is fine, albeit underwhelming, as one of the starters, but the Buccaneers have little else there. Bradley McDouglad is also penciled into the lineup, but he was awful in 2015.

The Buccaneers spent their second-round choice on Noah Spence, who potentially fills a huge need at defensive end. It’s unclear if he’ll start right away because the front office doubled up on the position, signing Robert Ayers in free agency. Ayers, formerly of the Giants, logged nine sacks in 2015. He and Spence will join William Gholston at the position. Gholston isn’t a great pass-rusher, but he’s very good at clamping down versus the run.

Of course, Tampa Bay’s best defensive lineman will continue to be Gerald McCoy, one of the top defensive tackles in the league. He’s actually coming off a down year, but only because he was playing through a torn rotator cuff the entire season. McCoy is only 28, so he should have at least three high-caliber seasons remaining in the tank. He’ll play next to either Clinton McDonald or Akeem Spence. The latter is solid versus the rush, while McDonald is a jack of all trades, master of none.

As for the linebackers, the Buccaneers have a great one in Lavonte David. Kwon Alexander, meanwhile, impressed the media as a rookie, but wasn’t very good on film. He was a huge liability versus the run, but perhaps he’ll improve in his sophomore campaign. Danny Lansanah, a solid defender, made up for Alexander’s deficiencies against the rush.

2016 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Schedule and Intangibles:
Prior to the 2009 season, the Buccaneers were 68-36 as hosts. However, they’ve maintained one of the worst homefield advantages in the NFL since. They’re 17-38 at the New Sombrero dating back to 2009.

Tampa made what one general manager called “the worst draft pick ever” when they traded up into the second round for kicker Roberto Aguyao. He should fix the team’s woes in terms of errant field goals, but unless he has a bionic leg and can routinely drill 70-yard tries, spending such an early choice on a player at the position was foolish.

Of course, the Jaguars’ decision to take Bryan Anger in the third round – a few selections prior to Russell Wilson – may have been worse. Coincidentally, Anger is now Tampa’s punter. Anger was 22nd in net yardage in 2015.

The Buccaneers were mixed on special teams. They outgained their opponents by a wide margin on punt returns, but lost the yardage battle when it came to kickoffs.

A fourth-place schedule is on the horizon, so the Buccaneers have their fare share of easy opponents. However, they have to take on the Cardinals, Broncos, Raiders, Chiefs, Seahawks, and of course, the Panthers twice.

2016 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rookies:
Go here for the Buccaneers Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2016 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2016 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Analysis: The Buccaneers almost seem to be ready to take the next step. Jameis Winston’s hard work should pay off, and some of the upgrades the team made to its overall roster will definitely help things. However, there are likely too many liabilities on the roster for the Buccaneers to challenge for the NFC South crown right now. Perhaps 2017 will be their year.

Projection: 7-9 (2nd in NFC South)

NFL Draft Team Grade: C+ Grade

Goals Entering the 2016 NFL Draft: The Buccaneers seem almost set on offense, with tackle and receiver being just two of the needs they have on that side of the ball. Thus, they’ll have to concentrate on defense in the 2016 NFL Draft. Upgrades are needed almost everywhere, save for linebacker. Tampa going pass rush then safety seems pretty likely.

2016 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Tampa’s draft is like this delicious-looking apple pie that you take several bites out of, and you absolutely love it – until you discover that there’s a single worm in there, and now your entire appetite is spoiled.

The worm, I’m referring to, of course, is the kicker the Buccaneers chose in the second round. And not only did Tampa select him there; the team dealt a fourth-round pick in order to move up for him! Look, Roberto Aguayo is a talented kicker, and the position is more prevalent now in the wake of the new PAT rule, but selecting one during the draft’s second day – let alone moving up for one – is just ridiculous and completely irresponsible.

As you can infer from the apple pie analogy, the rest of Tampa’s draft was great. It started well, when the Buccaneers moved down for Vernon Hargreaves, whom they easily could’ve chosen at No. 9. Noah Spence, picked in the second round, has great talent, but fell only because of character concerns. The rest of Tampa’s selections seem solid as well, save for Devante Bond.

So, what do you give a yummy apple pie with a single worm? I couldn’t imagine going higher than a C+, but I wouldn’t want to drop any lower either.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

11. Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida A Grade
The Buccaneers landed a prospect many consider to be the second-best cornerback prospect in this class. Even better, they did so while trading down. That’s exactly how teams should draft. Cornerback has been a huge problem area for Tampa, and Hargreaves projects as an immediate upgrade. This is a big win for the Buccaneers, even if the deal to move from nine to 11 wasn’t that great. I’ll be grading all of the trades on a separate page. I’ll have those posted later tonight.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

39. Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky A Grade
The Buccaneers have taken chances on players with character concerns before, and it has panned out for this new regime thus far, for the most part. Noah Spence fits into that theme. If he wasn’t attached with any off-the-field issues, he would’ve been a top-10 pick. He’s extremely talented, and he fits exactly what the Buccaneers needed. They were desperate for a pass-rusher, and Spence was the best player available who could fill that void.

59. Roberto Aguayo, K, Florida State KICK THE KIELBASA INTO THE BACKSIDE MILLEN Grade
Oh, man. I’m always giddy when I get to give out a Millen grade, and this was a Millen grade if I’ve ever seen one. Look, I get that kickers are more important now, and I understand that Roberto Aguayo projects as a great kicker. But, come on. Another team that really needed Aguayo was planning on taking him in the fourth round, which would’ve been justified. The Buccaneers grabbed him in the second – and surrendered a fourth to move up to get him! Who were the Buccaneers leaping to get a kicker? Why would they make such a stupid decision like this!?

108. Ryan Smith, CB, N.C. Central B+ Grade
It’s hardly a surprise that the Buccaneers have spent another pick on a cornerback, given how dire that situation has been for them. They’re getting a good one at the beginning of the fourth round, though, as Ryan Smith could’ve been chosen a bit earlier than this. It’s a bit surprising that the Buccaneers didn’t take a corner with more athletic ability, but this is a solid choice.

148. Caleb Benenoch, OT, UCLA B Grade
This pick definitely makes sense to me, unlike the kicker selection made earlier. The Buccaneers had to find some depth at tackle with some contracts expiring soon. Caleb Benenoch needs to add some strength, but if he does, he could be a solid reserve for Tampa for quite some time.

183. Devante Bond, LB, Oklahoma C Grade
I can’t say I’m surprised that the Buccaneers took a flier on an athletic player in the late rounds. I didn’t think Devante Bond would be drafted though, given that he didn’t do much as a member of the Sooners. He’s a major project.

197. Dan Vitale, FB, Northwestern A- Grade
The Buccaneers were really hoping that Dan Vitale was going to fall to them to the sixth round. Their wish was granted, as they nabbed the man they were coveting. Vitale, who is very athletic for his position, should be a valuable piece in Tampa’s offense as a pass-catching fullback.

Season Summary:
The Buccaneers showed growth in Jameis Winston’s rookie campaign, improving from two to six victories. This should’ve been enough for Lovie Smith to keep his job, but the clueless owners disagreed. Tampa will have a new coaching staff in 2016, but at least it has its franchise quarterback.

Offseason Moves:
  • Buccaneers cut K Connor Barth
  • Buccaneers re-sign WR Russell Shepard
  • Buccaneers sign P Bryan Anger
  • Buccaneers sign LB Daryl Smith
  • Buccaneers sign CB Josh Robinson
  • Buccaneers sign S Chris Conte
  • Buccaneers sign DE Robert Ayers
  • Buccaneers sign CB Brent Grimes
  • Buccaneers sign G J.R. Sweezy
  • Buccaneers re-sign RB Doug Martin
  • Buccaneers re-sign S Keith Tandy
  • Buccaneers cut LB Bruce Carter

    Team Needs:
    1. Two Cornerbacks: Fixing the secondary is Tampa’s greatest priority, especially considering the quarterbacks in their division. Sterling Moore was the top cornerback on the Buccaneers last season, and he wasn’t even that good. Making matters worse, Moore is an impending free agent. Signed Brent Grimes and Josh Robinson

    2. Two Safeties: Much like the cornerback position, the top player at that spot, Chris Conte, happens to be hitting the market in March. The Buccaneers have to attack the secondary early and often in free agency and the draft. Re-signed Chris Conte

    3. Defensive End: William Gholston played well for the Buccaneers in 2015, but the team didn’t have anyone else to rush the passer from the edge. Emmanuel Ogbah is in play at No. 9 in the 2016 NFL Draft. Signed Robert Ayers

    4. Defensive Tackle: Another interior player is needed. Gerald McCoy is one of the top defensive tackles in the NFL, but he doesn’t have much help next to him.

    5. Center: Tampa Bay’s offensive line is pretty solid, but there’s a gaping hole in the middle of the unit. A second- or third-round pick could be used on a center.

    6. Running Back: Doug Martin is a free agent, so if he isn’t retained, the Buccaneers will have to find a new running back. Re-signed Doug Martin

    7. Offensive Tackle Depth: It wouldn’t hurt the Buccaneers if they added some help at tackle. Donovan Smith had a rough rookie campaign, so some insurance would help.

    8. Punter: Tampa’s punter, Jacob Schum, was 28th in net average and struggled to place the ball within the 20. Signed Bryan Anger

    9. Kicker: Connor Barth is automatic from within 40, but his accuracy in the 40-49 range is atrocious.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2016 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Robert Ayers, DE, Giants. Age: 30.
      Signed with Buccaneers (3 years, $21 million)

      Robert Ayers is coming off his best season yet, notching nine sacks in just 12 games and being very forceful in run support. He would be a four-star player if it weren’t for his age – 31 on Sept. 6 – but he should still have two strong years remaining in the tank.

    2. Bryan Anger, P, Jaguars. Age: 27.
      Signed with Buccaneers (1 year)

      Incompetent general manager Gene Smith spent a third-round pick on a punter. Yeah, that actually happened. Bryan Anger was that player, and he didn’t even finish in the top 20 of net punting in 2015.

    3. Daryl Smith, ILB, Ravens. Age: 34.
      Signed with Buccaneers

      Daryl Smith had been a very good player for a long time, but it appears as though his career is nearly over. Smith declined rapidly last year, struggling in all aspects. He might have one decent season left in the tank, but that’s about it.

    4. Brent Grimes, CB, Dolphins. Age: 33.
      Signed with Buccaneers (2 years, $16.5 million)

      Brent Grimes has been a great cornerback for some time, but he declined last year. He wasn’t terrible, but was his 2015 regression a sign of things to come? Grimes turns 33 in July, so it’s possible that he won’t be able to start for much longer. Then again, if he had another solid year, it wouldn’t surprise anyone.

    5. J.R. Sweezy, G, Seahawks. Age: 27. — Signed with Buccaneers
    6. Josh Robinson, CB, Vikings. Age: 25. — Signed with Buccaneers (1 year)

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Doug Martin, RB, Buccaneers. Age: 27.
      Re-signed with Buccaneers (5 years, $35 million; $15 million guaranteed)

      Why is the NFL’s second-leading rusher getting only 3.5 stars? Well, Doug Martin has a history of being lethargic. He had two wasted years because of lacking effort. He had a great 2015 campaign, but only because he was playing for a contract. Still, there’s a chance Martin has completely matured and will continue to thrive, much like Mark Ingram did this year.

    2. Bruce Carter, ILB, Buccaneers. Age: 28.
      Signed with Jets (1 year)

      Bruce Carter had an awful 2015 campaign in which he got benched for a mid-round rookie, but I explained why in the Top 10 Worst NFL Free Agent Signings of 2015 page. Carter sucks in the 4-3, but has played well in the 3-4 earlier in his career. He needs to stop chasing big contracts and settle with an organization that can actually utilize him properly.

    3. Chris Conte, S, Buccaneers. Age: 27.
      Re-signed with Buccaneers (1 year)

      Chicago fans grew tired of Chris Conte’s incompetence, but Conte actually played somewhat well in his first season with the Buccaneers. He was probably their top defensive back, but I don’t trust him very much going forward.

    4. Sterling Moore, CB, Buccaneers. Age: 26.
      Signed with Bills

      Not that it’s saying much, or really anything, but Sterling Moore was Tampa’s best cornerback in 2015. Just 26 in February, Moore has plenty of room for growth.

    5. Danny Lansanah (RFA), OLB, Buccaneers. Age: 31.
      I don’t think I’ve ever seen a 31-year-old be a restricted free agent. Danny Lansanah is a decent, two-down player who thrives in run support.

    6. Henry Melton, DT, Buccaneers. Age: 29.
      Henry Melton is good at what he’s asked to do, which is rush the passer. However, he cannot be an every-down player, under any circumstances, because he’s a major liability against the run.

    7. Keith Tandy, S, Buccaneers. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Buccaneers
    8. Jorvorskie Lane (RFA), FB, Buccaneers. Age: 29.
    9. Tony McDaniel, DT, Buccaneers. Age: 31.
    10. Mike Jenkins, CB, Buccaneers. Age: 31.
    11. Bobby Rainey, RB, Buccaneers. Age: 28. — Signed with Giants
    12. Connor Barth, K, Buccaneers. Age: 31.
    13. Larry English, DE, Buccaneers. Age: 30.
    14. Russell Shepard (RFA), WR, Buccaneers. Age: 25. — Re-signed with Buccaneers

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    Top 90 | QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

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