5 Biggest Needs Bucs Have Yet to Address This Offseason

Luke EasterlingCorrespondent IMarch 20, 2014

5 Biggest Needs Bucs Have Yet to Address This Offseason

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    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    No team was as active out of the gate in free agency as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as the new regime at One Buc Place has brought about a severe personnel overhaul.  Darrelle Revis, Davin Joseph and Donald Penn have been sent packing, while as many as six new starters have already been added to the Bucs' roster.

    The Bucs have already filled one of their biggest needs by signing free-agent defensive end Michael Johnson, while also replacing Penn with Anthony Collins at offensive tackle and Revis with Alterraun Verner at cornerback.  Bringing in former Green Bay Packer Evan Dietrich-Smith gives Tampa Bay some much-needed improvement along the interior of the offensive line as well.

    Other solid additions were made to build depth at key positions (Clinton McDonald at defensive tackle, Brandon Myers at tight end), making the Bucs look much better on paper than they did two weeks ago.

    However, there are still a few areas that the Bucs have yet to address.  With most of the quality free agents off the market at this point, Jason Licht, Lovie Smith and the rest of the Bucs' personnel staff must look toward the draft to fill the remaining areas of need.

    The following list of needs is based upon positions that either have not been addressed at all or just not to the point that should keep them from taking further action at that spot on the depth chart (from the least important to the most).

Return Specialist

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    Eric Page was a serviceable return man last season, but the Bucs could use an upgrade.
    Eric Page was a serviceable return man last season, but the Bucs could use an upgrade.Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Heading into free agency, the Bucs were instantly connected to Devin Hester, who played for Smith in Chicago.  Hester still remains on the market, so it's possible the reunion with his old coach could still happen.  

    Former Panther Ted Ginn came to Tampa for a visit, but ended up signing with the Arizona Cardinals.  This leaves the Bucs still searching for an electrifying return man.

    The team re-signed Eric Page, who handled most of the return duties in 2013, but his numbers weren't terribly spectacular.  It would make sense for the Bucs to target an experienced return specialist in the draft, such as Kent State's Dri Archer or Oklahoma's Jalen Saunders.

Linebacker

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    Mason Foster has the versatility to play inside or out, but more depth is needed at linebacker.
    Mason Foster has the versatility to play inside or out, but more depth is needed at linebacker.Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    The Bucs only brought back one of their three unrestricted free agents at linebacker, and Jonathan Casillas is coming off season-ending knee injury.  Bringing in Dane Fletcher from the New England Patriots will help a little, but it won't completely replace the depth lost with the departures of Adam Hayward and Dekoda Watson.

    Lavonte David should continue his playmaking ways in Smith's defense, and Mason Foster has the versatility to either stay in the middle or slide outside.  Heading into the draft, the Bucs should be on the lookout for a rangy, athletic linebacker like Florida State's Telvin Smith or Montana's Jordan Tripp.

Guard

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    After signing a huge free-agent deal, Carl Nicks' stay in Tampa has been plagued by injuries.
    After signing a huge free-agent deal, Carl Nicks' stay in Tampa has been plagued by injuries.Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    The addition of Dietrich-Smith gives the Bucs some flexibility on the interior of the offensive line, but there's plenty more work to be done.  Jeremy Zuttah will likely move back to guard, and it's even possible that he could be traded.

    Free-agent guard Oniel Cousins (coached in Cleveland by Tampa Bay's new offensive line coach, George Warhop), was also brought in, but he's just a depth piece.  Carl Nicks' status is still up in the air, as well, which makes finding a starting guard a top priority heading into the draft.

    The Bucs look to be in prime position to grab one of this year's top guards (Stanford's David Yankey, UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo or Mississippi State's Gabe Jackson) with the 38th overall pick.  If they don't grab one then, possible options later in the draft include Alabama's Anthony Steen and Florida's Jon Halapio.

Nickel Corner

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    Leonard Johnson has shown flashes of talent, but an upgrade is necessary.
    Leonard Johnson has shown flashes of talent, but an upgrade is necessary.J. Meric/Getty Images

    Verner and Johnthan Banks should give the Bucs a solid young pair of starting corners, but you need three quality cornerbacks to compete in today's pass-happy NFL.  In a division that faces the likes of Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton six times a year, Tampa Bay has to bring in an upgrade over Leonard Johnson and Danny Gorrer.

    The Bucs hosted visits with multiple free agents (Charles Tillman, Captain Munnerlyn, Mike Jenkins), but have yet to bring another corner on board.  If they don't sign a veteran, this will make finding a nickel corner one of their top priorities in the draft.

    There should be plenty of solid value at the position on the second day of the draft.  In the second round, names like Lamarcus Joyner of Florida State and Pierre Desir of Lindenwood would be in the mix, while Florida's Jaylen Watkins or Rice's Phillip Gaines would make sense in the third round.

Slot Receiver

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    The Bucs' depth at receiver gets cloudy after the two starting spots.
    The Bucs' depth at receiver gets cloudy after the two starting spots.Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Vincent Jackson.  Mike Williams.  Then what?

    Things are pretty scarce at receiver after the top two on the Bucs' depth chart, and that's without even mentioning Williams' off-field concerns.  The names you'll find next on the depth chart—Skye Dawson, Chris Owusu, Page—don't exactly strike fear into the hearts of opposing defenses.  And with two possession-type receivers at the starting spots, the Bucs need to add speed in the slot.

    Free-agent visits with Ginn, Emmanuel Sanders (amid some strange circumstances) and Louis Murphy haven't yielded a signing.  The possibility of reuniting the Eagles DeSean Jackson with his former college head coach (Tedford) via trade is also on the table, but chances of that seem remote for the time being.

    This leaves Tampa Bay looking to the draft to upgrade its depth at receiver, and luckily, this year's class is incredibly deep at the position.  There's an outside chance that Clemson's Sammy Watkins falls to the Bucs at No. 7 overall (a chance that Watkins would welcome), but quality options should be there in later rounds as well.

    If Watkins is off the board, the third round is where Tampa Bay will likely find the best value.  Speedy playmakers such as Robert Herron (Wyoming), Martavis Bryant (Clemson) and Paul Richardson (Colorado) should all be on the board when the Bucs pick at No. 69 overall.