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Feb 24

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Buccaneers 2012 free agent targets: Defense. (Updated)

Will the flag fly high for the defense this season?

Yesterday I touched on potential free agents on the offensive side of the ball that may fit the characteristics the new Bucs staff may be looking for in a player. Today, as promised, we’ll be looking at the free agents available this year on defense. Still based on “good character” guys, we’ll look at players in the same format, with maybe a few with “not so good character” guys.

Bucs ranked 30th overall in the NFL in total defense; 21st against the pass, last against the run, and last for points allowed. It’s easy to say they need help everywhere and I would agree to an extent. However, the lack of success could have been coaching and scheme. There is possible “talent” on the defensive side but it didn’t show last season. So let’s dive in and see who can come in to help. (No particular order.)

Cornerbacks

Brent Grimes

  1. Brent Grimes TAGGED – In 2011, quarterbacks shyed away from throwing his direction. He was also consistently on the injury report and did miss four games due to a knee.
  2. Cortland Finnegan – Hard-nosed player that most consider a dirty player at times. Plays well against the run.
  3. Brandon Carr – With the acquisition of Stanford Rout and paying other corner Brandon Flowers $10 million per year, the Chiefs are unlikely to pay big money to Carr as well.

The Bucs have the uncertainty of Ronde Barber’s decision on returning as well as the Aqib Talib situation. The play of EJ Biggers was average at best so look for the Bucs to look into signing a free agent corner and also draft Morris Claiborne if he is available at the Bucs pick. Other possibilities in free agency may be Tracy Porter and Carlos Rogers.

Defensive Line

Mario Williams

  1. Mario Williams, DE - A two-time pro bowler who had season ending surgery in 2011. However that will not steer people away from him.
  2. Robert Mathis, DE RE-SIGNED – A proven veteran who can still get to the quarterback. Some say his success is based off of the attention Dwight Freeney gets on the opposite end.
  3. Amobi Okoyee, DT – Came alive in Chicago as a rotational tackle. Would be great rotating in and out with the Bucs young front. Great quarterback pressure and upside as he is only 25 years old.
  4. Shaun Rogers, DT – Good run stuffer. A veteran that has a solid all around game.
  5. Brodrick Bunkley, DT – Can get to the backfield to disrupt the run. A Tampa native which sources say the Broncos are very high on getting him re-signed.

The Buccaneers have obviously drafted for the future in the front four (Calyborn, Price, McCoy, Bowers). You can also make a case for Miller and Bennett. The team may still consider signing a free agent here for depth. Possibly even bring Bennett back.

Linebackers

D'Qwell Jackson

  1. Curtis Lofton, MLB – Only four seasons into his young NFL career, Lofton is already considered an elite linebacker and the heart and soul of the Atlanta Falcons.
  2. London Fletcher, MLB – At 36 years old, he can still play at a high level. Good veteran that can be signed for cheap and used for leadership and mentoring.
  3. E.J. Henderson, OLB – One of the top outside linebackers in 2011 due to his run stopping ability.
  4. Manny Lawson, OLB – Found success in Cincinnati’s 4-3 defense. In all of 2011, he only missed two tackles.
  5. D’Qwell Jackson, MLB RE-SIGNED – Another great run stopper. Finished the season with 158 tackles. Has a history for injuries.

Quincy Black did not play up to his contract in 2011. Geno Hayes also had a below average year. Defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan also stated that he did not know what to do with Mason Foster as far as where he would line up. Would Foster be moved to the outside and the Bucs sign a top inside linebacker like Lofton?

Safeties

Craig Steltz

  1. Tyvon Branch, SS Tagged – Great presence in the eight man box. May be tagged by Oakland.
  2. La’Ron Landry, SS – Good at stopping a running attack but has been injured in two straight seasons.
  3. Craig Steltz, SS – Had only seven starts in 2011 but was filling in because the players in front of him did not play well. When he played, he did not miss a tackle and did not allow a pass over seven yards in Chicago.

Tampa Bay has Tanard Jackson under contract until 2013. If he keeps himself clean from drugs, he’ll be the starter. Cody Grimm has had unfortunate injuries his first and second years and has good ability dropping into coverage and getting up into the box. Question marks with both of them may cause the staff to look outside for help. Steltz may be a reach, but the upside far outweighs the downside. He can be signed cheap and can immediately be plugged in to start.

This offseason, the Bucs will no question have their hands full looking at the defensive side of the ball. With Butch Davis and Brian Cox offering assistance, I’m sure the Bucs defense will have a new look to them in some capacity.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thebaycave.com/2012/02/24/buccaneers-2012-free-agent-targets-defense/

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