Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Breaking Down Bucs' Roster After the 2014 NFL Draft
New general manager Jason Licht and head coach Lovie Smith have turned One Buc Place upside down, shaking free the loose parts that no longer fit and replacing them with some fresh faces.
The Bucs won't be without familiarity and chemistry at certain positions, though, especially on defense. Leaders such as Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David and Dashon Goldson will bear much of the responsibility for helping the returning players jell with the newcomers.
Let's dive into what your 2014 Tampa Bay Buccaneers look like from our current vantage point.
As it turns out, Coach Smith asserted that the team is committed to Glennon as their quarterback of the future, behind Josh McCown, who was brought in on a two-year contract to be the starter. Licht evidently turned down multiple trade offers for Glennon, per the Tampa Bay Times (via Kevin Patra of NFL.com), choosing instead to keep the second-year signal-caller who tossed 19 touchdowns as a rookie in 2013.
Fans should also keep an eye on rookie free agent Brett Smith, who joins the Bucs after accounting for 97 total touchdowns in three years at Wyoming. Smith's favorite target in college was Robert Herron, who was taken by the Bucs in the sixth round.
After multiple injuries forced the Bucs to use every back at their disposal, the team headed into the draft with three promising young runners who make up arguably the deepest unit on the roster.
However, that didn't stop Tampa Bay from adding yet another back to the mix, drafting West Virginia's Charles Sims with the 69th overall pick. The Big 12's Offensive Newcomer of the Year in 2013, Sims gives the Bucs a well-rounded back who has exceptional quickness and vision as a runner, per NFLDraftScout.com (via CBSSports.com), and who is also an outstanding receiver out of the backfield.
Doug Martin struggled to repeat his incredible 2012 rookie season, finding little running room during the first half of last season before a shoulder injury landed him on injured reserve. He'll enter camp as the starter in 2014, while last year's capable replacements, Mike James and Bobby Rainey, fight for playing time with the highly drafted Sims.
Also in the mix will be speedster Jeff Demps, who reportedly impressed during the team's recent minicamp, per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times (via NFL.com's Marc Sessler), and brings an elite level of explosiveness to the offense.
The Bucs will see plenty of new faces catching passes in 2014.
Vincent Jackson returns for his third season in Tampa Bay, but he'll be joined by some new blood, both veteran and rookie. Gone are Mike Williams and Tiquan Underwood, and in are veterans Louis Murphy and Lavelle Hawkins, along with draft picks Mike Evans and Herron.
As a top-10 pick, Evans should start right away opposite Jackson, while Murphy and Hawkins should provide some solid depth. Herron could be the early favorite to win the slot receiver spot, as his skill set, outlined by NFLDraftScout.com (via CBSSports.com), is a perfect fit for the role.
Chris Owusu, Eric Page and Skye Dawson will likely fight for the remaining roster spots, hoping to make an impact on special teams, as well.
A unit that suffered through multiple injuries in 2013 has gotten a face-lift this offseason.
Both Luke Stocker and Tom Crabtree couldn't stay healthy in 2013, leaving converted receiver Tim Wright to carry the load at tight end in his rookie season.
Wright will get plenty of help this season, though. After making Brandon Myers one of their first free-agent signings this offseason, the Bucs spent the 38th overall pick on Austin Seferian-Jenkins. This core will give the Bucs a deep rotation at the position, with each player bringing different strengths to the field.
Stocker and Crabtree will likely have to fight one another off to remain on the roster.
The unit that saw the most overhaul over the offseason is the offensive line, which could have three new starters take the field in 2014.
Anthony Collins will take over for the departed Donald Penn at left tackle, while Evan Dietrich-Smith will replace Jeremy Zuttah at center. Jamon Meredith was re-signed and will most likely start at right guard, and Carl Nicks is planning to be ready to roll at left guard when training camp gets underway.
Last year's most reliable blocker, Demar Dotson, returns to start at right tackle and should only continue to improve.
Veteran Oniel Cousins was brought in from Cleveland to provide some depth at guard, while Day 3 draft picks Kadeem Edwards and Kevin Pamphile will be brought along slowly, but with every chance to contribute if the need arises.
A unit that has been a constant source of frustration over the past few seasons, the defensive line in Tampa Bay is still searching to reclaim its intimidating identity of years past.
Gerald McCoy returns to anchor the front four and will play the 3-technique tackle spot, a keystone in Smith's Tampa 2 scheme. Adrian Clayborn will likely be the other returning starter, hoping to finally deliver on the expectations that come with being a first-round pick.
A pair of free-agent signings will take the other two starting spots, with Michael Johnson at end and Clinton McDonald at tackle. The Bucs gave Johnson big money to be the edge-rusher they so desperately covet, while McDonald hopes to take advantage of a full-time workload after being a situational player in Seattle.
Depth at defensive end will be provided by Da'Quan Bowers, William Gholston and Steven Means. At defensive tackle, second-year man Akeem Spence should get plenty of snaps as a rotational player.
The Bucs' linebacker unit is strong at the top, but it is a little lacking in quality depth.
Weak-side linebacker Lavonte David is one of the rising stars in the entire league, being named first-team All-Pro last season after posting 145 tackles, seven sacks and five interceptions. Mason Foster will return at middle linebacker, where he'll take over the play-calling responsibilities in Smith's scheme.
Behind those two, things get a little thin. Jonathan Casillas returns after starting on the strong side last year, but he ended the season on injured reserve, thanks to a knee injury. Dane Fletcher was brought in as a free agent from New England and should provide some help on special teams. Both will compete for the starting strong-side linebacker job.
When you lose one expensive Pro Bowler, replace him with a younger, cheaper one.
Darrelle Revis was released just after the start of the league year, saving the Bucs $16 million in cap space and allowing the Bucs to give up just a fourth-round pick as additional compensation from the original trade, rather than a third-rounder.
Replacing him is free-agent acquisition Alterraun Verner, who could possibly be the best signing any team made this offseason. He will start opposite second-year man Johnthan Banks, who showed consistent improvement as 2013 wore on.
Leonard Johnson will join another free-agent signing, Mike Jenkins, as the third and fourth corners on the depth chart. Both bring valuable starting experience to the table, and neither should have to face their opponents' top receivers.
Another position group that boasts some continuity and chemistry is at safety, where big hitters Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron roam.
Goldson underwent ankle surgery recently, but he fully expects to be ready for the start of training camp. The prized free-agent signing of last offseason, Goldson aims to reduce his penalties and fines in 2014, even hiring a tackling coach to teach him the finer points of technique.
Barron has shown slow but steady improvement throughout his short career, but he should flourish in the Tampa 2 under Smith.
Behind the two starters, free-gent pickup Major Wright will join Keith Tandy and Kelcie McCray to provide depth.
The Bucs' 2013 season got off to a rough start before it even began, as kicker Connor Barth suffered a torn Achilles tendon in an offseason charity basketball game.
Veteran Rian Lindell stepped in for the Bucs in 2013, but he only made 79 percent of his field goals on the year.
Thankfully for the Bucs, Barth is reportedly fully recovered and ready to return to his kicking duties, which have made him the most accurate place-kicker in Bucs' history.
Michael Koenen returns in 2014 as the Bucs' punter, having averaged 44.2 yards per punt in 2013, with 19 of his kicks pinning opponents inside their own 20-yard line.
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