by Cameron Boon
What a start to 2018 it was, huh? "Fitzmagic" ran rampant in September (again) with wins against the Saints and Eagles, both of whom would win a game in the NFC Postseason. But, in typical Ryan Fitzpatrick fashion, he crashed and burned and so did the team around him, losing 11 of its last 14 games and finishing in the basement of the NFC South. With Jameis Winston still trying to figure out if he’s going to be a good quarterback or not and a great receiver in Mike Evans, the Buccaneers main focus will be fortifying the defense which finished sixth-worst in the league in allowing 383.4 yards per game last season.
The money is worth it on the offensive side. 58 percent of the cap goes to the league’s third-most prolific offense in terms of yards last season but that doesn’t bode well for helping the defense. The Bucs have the second-fewest amount of cap left in the league while holding two of the league’s Top 20 contracts in terms of cap hits this season in Winston and Evans, one of only two teams in the league that have this situation. So, while they would probably love to quick fix this situation, it’s one they cannot attack until Evans, Winston and left tackle Donovan Smith and their $79 million owed would come off the books.
Smith was the only big-time signing the Buccaneers made this season. Tampa Bay revamped its coaching staff by bringing in Bruce Arians as the 12th head coach in team history. He brought in Todd Bowles as his defensive coordinator, which is a confusing hire considering his defense was fourth-lowest in scoring defense and allowed the eighth-highest amount of yards. The team re-signed Peyton Barber who finished with just under 900 yards on the ground last season but also traded away receiver DeSean Jackson for a sixth-round pick.
As you’ve probably deduced by now, the Bucs need help on the defensive end. Whether it’s a pass-rushing end or someone to anchor the linebacker group with the departure of Kwon Alexander, the fifth pick will be defensive. Two difference makers on the defensive end are Mississippi State’s DE Montez Sweat and LSU’s LB Devin White. Sweat is responsible for the fastest 40 time by a defensive lineman in the history of the combine and White can make plays all over the field from the linebacker spot. With the light quarterback talent in this draft, another possibility on night one could be that the Bucs go back with someone that would be looking for a quarterback. If in that time Sweat and White come off the board, Brian Burns is another choice at Florida State. Whatever the actions are, the Buccaneers need to support an offense that has a bonafide No. 1 receiver in Evans, a budding back in Peyton Barber and a great tight end ready to take the next step in O.J. Howard.