The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have struggled the past three years and now are on their third head coach in the span of four years. This time however, the Buccaneers didn’t experiment at the head coach position, opting to choose a veteran with head coaching experience in the NFL with the selection of Lovie Smith. Smith has wasted no time in rebuilding the Buccaneers in his image.
No team has done more to reshape their roster in the first week of free agency than the Buccaneers. There are a few questions surrounding a couple of the Buccaneers moves, but overall, they have put themselves in good position heading into the 2014 NFL Draft in May.
Smith has wasted no time in rebuilding the team’s offensive line. Tampa added former Cincinnati Bengals LT Anthony Collins. Collins was a backup for the Bengals, but played well enough in seven games last year to make Smith believe he is ready for a full-time starting job. Gone is Donald Penn and former Pro Bowler Davin Joseph. Veteran OC/G Jeremy Zuttah might be gone as well with the addition of OC/G Evan Dietrich Smith.
Tampa might have over-paid DE Michael Johnson, but it was a serious position of need for the Buccaneers and premium pass rushers are pricey. Johnson is not elite, yet, and has been questioned about his work ethic. However, he comes with a big 6-foot-7-inch 270 pound frame and should be entering his prime at just 27 years of age.
Clinton McDonald, 27, should make a nice pairing with Gerald McCoy. McDonald recorded 5.5 sacks last season in a reserve role with the World Champion Seattle Seahawks.
The addition of CB Alterraun Verner has sort of flown under the radar by many pundit. At age 25, the former Tennessee Titan has already been named to the Pro Bowl and helps to take the sting out of losing veteran corner Darrelle Revis.
Brandon Myers adds some depth at a thin tight end position while Josh McCown looks to be the Buccaneers starting quarterback for the 2014 campaign. Lovie Smith decided to roll with a veteran signal caller he is familiar with rather than hand the keys to the offense to second-year quarterback Mike Glennon. Glennon showed some potential last season but faltered down the stretch and will benefit from learning behind McCown.
These moves now allow the Buccaneers flexibility heading into the upcoming draft. They are no longer having to draft from a position of need, but rather they have the ability to draft the best player available at number 7. WR Sammy Watkins could fall to that spot and he would be a nice fit playing alongside Vincent Jackson. Watkins would add some much needed speed on offense.
Tampa could also trade out of that spot in order to acquire more selections in this draft, especially if one of the top quarterbacks in the draft slides down the board. The Buccaneers are without a fourth-round selection this year as the result of the Darrelle Revis trade last year. The 2014 Draft is considered one of the deepest in recent years, so the Buccaneers could move down the board and stockpile some additional picks in order to create some team depth.
In his first three months with the Buccaneers, Smith has really shaken up the roster. Of course NFL Championships are not won after the first week of free agency, but the new coaching staff has really put their fingerprint on this team. Will it work? I guess we’ll find out by December of this year.