NFL News & Analysis

2017 Free Agency Preview: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 24: Jacquizz Rodgers #32 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers runs past Tyeler Davison #95 of the New Orleans Saints during a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 24, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

What you need to know

So close. The Bucs found themselves on the brink of a playoff appearance before losing to the Saints on Christmas Eve. They made great strides, but to build upon their success in hopes of reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2007, they have some roster gaps that need filling. QB Jameis Winston needs more playmakers, the secondary could use bolstering, and an upgrade on the defensive line would be very beneficial. Good news: They have money to spend.

Salary cap room

$67,136,718 (fourth in NFL; as of 2/28/2017)

Biggest needs

  • Wide receiver
  • Halfback
  • Safety
  • Defensive lineman

Notable free agents

  • Mike Glennon, QB, 69.0 overall grade in 2016
  • Jacquizz Rodgers, HB, 77.2
  • Vincent Jackson, WR, 51.8
  • Joe Hawley, C, 76.0
  • Bradley McDougald, S, 79.0
  • William Gholston, Edge, 45.1

Must re-sign

Jacquizz Rodgers, HB, 77.2 overall grade in 2016

Because of the uncertainty regarding Doug Martin’s future, the Bucs could be left with an ailing Charles Sims as their lone running back if they don’t re-sign Rodgers. 2016 was his best season yet, as his 77.2 season grade ranked tied for 10th among 62 qualified HBs. He showed his shiftiness in the run game in Weeks 5 and 7, breaking 14 tackles on 56 carries for 255 yards. Rodgers won’t demand much money while assuring the team has at least an HB2 headed into next season.

Dream splash

Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears, 77.6

Although he is the best receiver on the market, Jeffery comes as a slight risk due to his injury history. He played just 693 (62nd-most) and 512 (83rd) snaps in 2016 and 2015, respectively, after playing 970 or more (eighth and 16th) the two seasons prior. When on the field, Jeffery is extremely productive – in 2015, his 91.9 grade ranked third of 121 qualified WRs. He is still young at 27 years old, and has proven to be reliable when on the field, dropping only 7 of 113 catchable targets over the last two seasons. Signing him would provide Winston with another weapon he desperately needs, giving the Bucs with a lethal 1-2 punch for the foreseeable future.

Top 2017 free agency prospects

Tony Jefferson, S, Arizona Cardinals, 88.6

With Keith Tandy’s play down the stretch (top-graded safety over the season’s last five weeks), he has earned the starting FS gig for Tampa Bay. The future of Bradley McDougald is up in the air, while Chris Conte is likely on the way out. In signing Jefferson, who is coming off a monstrous breakout season, the Bucs lock up a player who thrives at both strong safety and in the box. He earned the second-highest run defense grade among 87 qualified safeties, while notching at position-high 7.8 run-stop percentage in 2016.

Calais Campbell, DI, Arizona Cardinals, 90.4

Even if William Gholston gets re-signed, the Bucs lack depth on the defensive line. Campbell has been on a dominant run since he entered the league, ranking in the top seven among interior defenders six times since 2008. He is a complete player, with the ability to pressure the QB as well as stuff the run (84.5 run grade). Campbell was particularly disruptive this past season, tallying 9 sacks and 15 QB hits (both ranking second among interior defenders). Yes, he is 30 years old, but for a team so close to taking that next step, he would be the perfect veteran to add. The combination of Gerald McCoy and Campbell on the same defensive line? Terrifying.

Eddie Lacy, HB, Green Bay Packers, 77.3

While Jacquizz Rodgers may be suited better as a third-down or change-of-pace back, Lacy has proven he can be a dangerous HB1. It’s been a long time since he was in peak physical condition though. In 2014, he was, and he was tough to take down. Lacy broke a whopping 73 tackles that season, earning a 71.6 elusive rating that ranked third among 42 qualified running backs. Who knows if he can ever get to that same physical and mental state again, but with the uncertainty surrounding Doug Martin and Charles Sims, he may just be worth a shot in a rather unimpressive pool of free agent running backs.

2017 Free Agency Rankings
Top 50 free agents
Every 2017 free agent ranked by 2016 overall grade
10 free agents who can make an immediate impact
10 veteran free agents worth a one-year contract
10 sleeper free agents who could bring surprise upside
10 splash free-agent signings we’d like to see
Quarterback rankings
Running back rankings
Wide receiver rankings
Tight end rankings
Offensive linemen rankings
Edge defender rankings
Interior defender rankings
Cornerback rankings
Safety rankings
Linebacker rankings
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