This offseason Tampa Bay has bolstered the team by adding players with a lot of experience such as safeties Logan Ryan and Keanu Neal, and receiver Russell Gage.
They also re-signed Giovani Bernard, who is a long-tenured running back.
Even as in the month of June, the Bucs bolstered their defensive line by signing defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, who many are high on to have a great season if he can stay healthy.
Does that mean the Bucs are done with notable signings? I think not, nor should they be. Tampa Bay could use one more veteran presence at two positions in particular. The most logical places are at outside linebacker and tight end.
Bucs Outside Linebackers
Tampa Bay is all set with its top three edge rushers. Two-time Pro Bowler Shaq Barrett is the leader of the group.
He and second-year player Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, who replaces Jason Pierre-Paul, will start. Anthony Nelson, who is in a contract year, will be the first backup off the bench.
We know what Barrett can do, racking up 37.5 sacks in three years with the Bucs. Tryon-Shoyinka had a limited role playing behind JPP last season, but still had four sacks and potentially could’ve had three or four more. Nelson had his best season yet with five sacks.
After that, the competition slims down to Cam Gill, Elijah Ponder, seventh-round pick Andre Anthony and a couple of other undrafted free agents.
Gill has the most experience, spending just two seasons with the Bucs. He did get a half sack in Super Bowl LV and recorded 1.5 sacks last year. Ponder was on the practice squad.
This would be a prime spot for the Bucs to bring in a veteran with proven pass-rushing skills. If they were to lose their Top 3 pass rushers, the depth may not meet expectations. Even with fourth-stringers, the Bucs haven’t been afraid to give playing time to their backups.
Bringing in someone that has a track record with the ability to get to the quarterback would bring value to the team. Edge rushers that Pewter Report have previously mentioned are Justin Houston, Carl Nassib, Anthony Barr and Carlos Dunlap.
Bucs Tight Ends
The retirement of Rob Gronkowski puts a lot of uncertainty in the Bucs tight end room outside of fan favorite Cam Brate.
Brate is always steady, recording 253 catches for 2,683 and 33 touchdowns in 115 games. The combined number of games for the next three tight ends on the depth chart: three.
To be fair, that’s because two of them are rookies Cade Otton and Ko Kieft. The other is Codey McElroy, who made one catch for 30 yards in 2019 and also played in two games last season. McElroy has been mostly a practice squad player for three years, and as Pewter Report’s Scott Reynolds said in last week’s SR’s Fab 5 column, it’s make or break for him in this year’s training camp.
A lot is still not known about Otton. He’s still recovering from an ankle injury and hasn’t participated in OTAs or mini-camp.
Otton is expected to be back for training camp and can provide a boost in both the run game as a blocker and in the passing game as a receiver. Kieft is primarily a blocker, though he’s made some nice catches in practice.
With Brate and McElroy as mainly receiving tight ends, Otton as the most well-rounded and Kieft as a blocker, the Bucs could really use another veteran to bring along the younger guys. What if Brate misses a number of games? That’s putting a lot of responsibility on unproven players taking a huge share of the reps.
As recently discussed on the Pewter Report Podcast, a couple of tight ends available on the market are Jimmy Graham, Jared Cook, Eric Ebron, Kyle Rudolph and Blake Jarwin. You can see our analysis on who would fit here.
What’s Best For The Bucs?
There’s a possibility that the Bucs could add a veteran to both positions. But if we had to choose just one, it would have to be a tight end.
Much like how Tampa Bay brought in insurance policies for the secondary with Ryan and Neal, the Bucs need to make sure they have another veteran option after Brate on offense.