With the NFL Draft approaching, we’re taking a team-by-team look at the needs of each club. Up next is the team with the No. 13 overall selection (for now), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Cornerback: This is where the focus has been all offseason for the Bucs, even if nothing’s been done.
See, at the moment (checks watch) the Bucs haven’t traded for wantaway Jets corner Darrelle Revis, and they haven’t yet given him the giant contract extension he desires and the Jets don’t seem inclined to provide.
But sometime between two months ago and the start of the draft, everyone expects this to happen, and for the deal to include Tampa’s first-rounder (13th overall).
While there are corners the Bucs could go with at 13 and proceed, they seem set on Revis. In a division with at least two teams with multiple legitimate receiving threats, they can easily make the case they need him.
But they also look like a team that has money burning a hole in its pocket, and appear to be the only team ready to give up picks and then an extension to a guy coming off a torn ACL.
Defensive end: The Bucs didn’t seem concerned at all about losing Michael Bennett, who signed a cut-rate deal with the Seahawks.
That puts a lot of faith in Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers — talented players with suspect medical files.
Even if they could trust both to be well and whole, the Bucs lack depth, and need to find someone else to get pressure on the passer.
Tight end: Dallas Clark put up good enough stats last year, but they haven’t re-signed the 33-year-old. They did bring in former Green Bay spare Tom Crabtree, but he’s not the kind of downfield threat they need. Adding one is only going to help diversify an offense with a lot of potential.
Quarterback: For the moment, all the trust is in Josh Freeman, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract.
There are questions as to whether the entire organization is behind him, and questions as to whether they should be. Freeman has had stretches where he’s looked like the kind of guy you build around. But he hasn’t done that consistently enough to breed complete confidence.
The only thing they’ve done at the position is make backup Dan Orlovsky take a pay cut, so you figure at some point they’re going to do something.
Drafting one of the guys who fall to the second round would put the pressure on Freeman to produce, or set the stage for that guy to take over in a year.
With the stakes of a potential Revis trade, plus the looming contract decisions regarding Freeman, the Bucs have more subplots than in recent memory.
They’re an interesting team, good enough to contend if the parts fall into place, but also tenuous enough to take a steep fall if Freeman doesn’t respond to the challenge.