Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The 5 Moves They Must Avoid This Offseason
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in the midst of a very important offseason, having improved their 2012 win total by three from the season prior, yet needing to show further signs of improvement to convince ever-skeptical fans.
With ample salary cap space, a figure The Tampa Tribune is reporting to be as much as $30.1 million, the Bucs are expected to address some of their needs once free agency begins in early March.
That said, free agency is only one portion of the total offseason regiment.
Each team is rife with difficult decisions to make this time of year. Everything from having the draft to scout for and new players and coaches to acclimate to a system, to difficult personnel decisions such as which undrafted rookies to sign or which veterans to cut.
All with the understanding that everything done off the field between February and July directly impacts what happens on the field between September and January.
To that point, here are the five moves the Bucs must avoid this offseason.
Avoid Letting DT Roy Miller Sign Elsewhere
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Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was selected to his first Pro Bowl this season and one of the biggest reasons why was because of the disruptive play of fellow tackle Roy Miller, who often absorbed double-teams, thus keeping opposing offenses from zeroing in on him.
Miller's numbers are far from eye-popping, but they truly only tell one side of the story, as he wasn't asked to be anything but a large defender who occupied linemen in order to allow his teammates to more-efficiently do their jobs.
And that's exactly what he accomplished in 2012.
Given that Miller, a third-round choice in 2009, has been a model citizen and by all accounts a great teammate, the Bucs simply cannot afford to let him walk without at least trying to bring him back.
When you factor in their lack of depth along the defensive line, even if they decide to look elsewhere via free agency or the draft, having Miller back for the right price would certainly benefit all parties involved.
Chief among them, Gerald McCoy.
Avoid Reaching with First Round Pick
Florida State CB Xavier Rhodes could wind up in Tampa Bay.
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With all of the attention on the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this weekend, a lot will be made about impressive 40-yard dash times and bench press reps and how they translate come Sundays.
As it stands right now, the Bucs hold the 13th overall pick in April's draft and regardless of whoever is in front of them, they'll wind up with one of the Top 15 college prospects.
Unless they reach on someone.
Most mock drafts have them addressing their historically porous pass defense by choosing a defensive back with the 13th pick, a decision the majority of fans and analysts would undoubtedly agree with.
However, what the Bucs simply cannot do is fall in love with someone at a position of less importance or need. Namely the offensive or defensive lines, or an offensive skill position (RB, WR, TE, etc.).
At 13, the Bucs can stand pat and land a top-tier defensive back or linebacker and instantaneously improve their chances for success in 2013 and beyond. That's not to say whoever they choose would be a "slam dunk," just that it makes the most football sense.
Any deviation from the anticipated path and they run the risk of swinging and missing on a pick not worth gambling with.
Avoid Overpaying DE Michael Bennett
DE Michael Bennett is scheduled to become a free agent.
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The Bucs stand a real possibility of losing their top pass rusher to free agency this spring, as defensive end Michael Bennett is an unrestricted free agent and is expected to explore his options around the league.
At 27 and entering the prime of his career, Bennett, represented by power agent Drew Rosenhaus, could conceivably ask for the house from any and all suitors in an attempt to secure his financial future.
After all, only a handful of players around the league receive multiple long-term, high-dollar contracts during the course of their careers.
Many rely on a singular big-money deal to last a lifetime, so who can blame Bennett if that's the course he and his representatives decide to go?
That's not to say the Bucs should simply hand over a blank check out of fear of losing his services, especially with two young, fully capable defensive ends already under contract for several more seasons.
With just 28 career starts and 15 sacks on his resume, Bennett is far from an elite pass rusher. As such, if he and Rosenhaus want to ask for the Moon, the Bucs should allow him to launch.
Avoid Trading for Jets CB Darrelle Revis
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Despite allowing 69 passing plays of 20-plus yards and having the NFL's 32nd-ranked pass defense in 2012, the Bucs should avoid making the drastic decision of trading for CB Darrelle Revis.
Not only that, but the New York Post is reporting Revis, who is entering the final year of his contract, is seeking a long-term deal at or in excess of $100 million.
In short, the Bucs would not only have to give up several high draft picks to the Jets in order to acquire Revis, but they would have to then fork over the richest contract ever for a defensive player to keep him past next March.
Sure, the Bucs may have 99 problems, but an overpaid cornerback isn't one.
Nor should it be.
Avoid Free Agency Stagnation
Could CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie end up in Tampa?
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With more than $30 million in available cap space this offseason, the Bucs have positioned themselves to be as aggressive as they choose to be once free agency begins on March 12.
So, where should they focus their attention once the signing period commences? Defense, defense, defense.
Sorely in need of at least two cornerbacks and a safety, as well as linebacker and a pass-rushing end, the Bucs seemingly have nearly as many needs as any team in the NFL.
That's not to say the Bucs should just blindly throw money around and expect all of their issues to be solved, as that simply isn't smart football and likely won't work.
But that doesn't mean they should put all of their offseason eggs in the draft basket, either. There are good, quality players to be had that can in fact make them a better, more competitive team.
Cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Cary Williams, for instance, could solidify their secondary and allow them to focus on other positions during the draft. The same could be said about safeties Kenny Phillips or Grover Quin, too.
Now I'm aware that I'm talking out of both sides of my mouth by saying spending money isn't the cure-all, while simultaneously mentioning a handful of players the Bucs should consider signing.
But the fact of the matter is unlike several other teams that will be shedding contracts just to get under the salary cap, they've used good, solid financial sense to stockpile a few extra dollars and cents.
And as such, they should look to aggressively pursue anyone they feel can improve this franchise.