After a disappointing 7-9 finish last season, the Bucs spent much of the offseason getting substantially better—on paper—and appear poised for a much more successful 2013 campaign.
Tampa Bay fielded the league’s worst passing defense in 2012 (4,758 yards allowed) and went to work to shore up its secondary with a pair of huge free-agent signings that should remedy that issue this season.
The proof is in the pudding, though, and Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson are going to have to prove they were worth the price.
Revis, on the heels of a couple tumultuous seasons with the New York Jets, didn’t get the new contract he was looking for, instead being dealt to the Bucs for the 13th pick in the 2013 NFL draft and a conditional pick in the 2014 draft.
Following that trade, Tampa Bay locked up the league’s best cornerback to a six-year, $96 million deal. The best part? The Bucs included no guaranteed money in the contract, meaning if Revis’ injury problems creep up again while in Tampa Bay, the team will have effectively negated the monetary concerns.
Goldson, meanwhile, was one of the biggest names to hit free agency this offseason, but with the San Francisco 49ers unwilling to pay the 29-year-old safety the money he was looking for, Goldson hit the open market with a bevy of potential suitors waiting to pounce.
The Bucs pulled the trigger on a five-year, $41.25 million contract for Goldson, who stands to make Tampa Bay’s safety duo one of the top units in the league.
Veteran Ronde Barber decided not to return following Goldson’s signing, admitting he wasn’t thrilled about the prospects of playing a lesser role in the Bucs’ secondary. He had this to say to Mike Garafolo of USA Today:
Now don't get me wrong, if (GM) Mark (Dominik) and (coach) Greg (Schiano) would've said, 'Hey, we absolutely need you to play, you played great last year, here's X amount of dollars, come play, we need you…' That wasn't necessarily the case. They're reshaping that football team. You're spending a quarter of a billion in free agents in two years, they're definitely going in a new direction.
That new direction isn’t a bad one, and while Barber’s retirement was certainly a sad day for Bucs fans, it was only a matter of time before the 16-year veteran decided to call it quits.
Revis and Goldson were terrific additions who will go a long way toward shoring up a secondary that faces Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and Cam Newton twice a year. Barber won’t be back this season, but Tampa Bay did what it needed to do to remain competitive in the NFC South.
The Bucs also lost tight end Dallas Clark, offensive tackle Jeremy Trueblood and defensive end Michael Bennett this offseason, though none of the three was irreplaceable. In fact, Tampa Bay didn’t wait long to find suitable replacements.
General manager Mark Dominik brought in former Green Bay Packers tight end Tom Crabtree and former Chicago Bears offensive lineman Gabe Carimi this offseason. He also went to work in the draft to shore up the defensive end position following the loss of Bennett, adding another terrific cornerback in the process and a quarterback who could challenge for Josh Freeman’s starting role.
We’ll more closely examine many of those additions in the following slideshow, highlighting the Bucs’ 2013 draft class and a few positions to keep an eye on as the season draws near. Read on.