The offseason is moving along and while everyone waits for the unveiling of the new jerseys, there is still work to be done to build this team. Yes, they have added Tom Brady. And yes, they have re-signed Ndamukong Suh. However, those signings have left them with a limited amount of cap space. It is looking more and more likely those reinforcements will come from the draft and the secondary free-agent market.
In the first of many, the FPC Buccaneers staff tries to answer the question…which under-the-radar free agent should the Bucs be looking at?
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The Bucs have done a nice job of re-signing many of their own players but with dwindling cap space there are still needs on both sides of the ball, most notably at running back and wide receiver. Now, one, if not both, positions will be addressed in this upcoming draft but the Bucs will still likely have to grab a veteran on a reasonable contract.
Chris Hogan immediately comes to mind as a guy, if healthy, that could check all those boxes. Hogan appeared in just seven games with the Panthers last season. His only season in Carolina. However, prior to that, he enjoyed a nice three-year stint in New England with Tom Brady as his quarterback. In three seasons, Hogan hauled in 107 passes for 1,651 and 12 touchdowns. During the postseason, Hogan caught 34 passes for 542 yards and four touchdowns during three-straight runs to the Super Bowl.
The Buccaneer secondary is young. So young that no defensive back on the roster has more than four years experience in the NFL. It is also is not a statistically good unit. Allowing the third-highest passing yards against total in 2019 (4,322), Tampa Bay needs a veteran presence in the secondary to help stabilize a group who showed strong flashes of potential last season.
The answer could be found in free agent defensive back Xavier Rhodes. Rhodes has regressed in the last three seasons having just three interceptions in the same time frame. Despite the low numbers he was still picked as a pro bowl alternate last season and could be signed to a team-friendly incentive-based deal similar to the one tight end Cameron Brate signed this offseason. This move could potentially tie together one of the only remaining weak spots on the roster for the Bucs championship chase in 2020.
The player on defense the Buccaneers should look at is Aqib Talib. Talib spent five
seasons with the Bucs after he was drafted by the team in 2008. In those five seasons, he started 45 games, had 18 interceptions, and three touchdowns. In addition, he was teammates with Tom Brady in New England after his time in Tampa. In 2019 he only played in five games for the Los Angeles Rams before he was placed on injured reserve with a rib injury.
As all eyes will be on the Bucs this season and Talib could have an opportunity to bounce back and be the cornerback he was with the team it all started with. He has familiarity with the Bucs defense and has the chance to get a ring with Brady as the quarterback after teaming with Peyton Manning in Denver.