Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 3 early free agency targets for the offseason
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming off of another lackluster campaign in which they won just seven games, extending their NFC-worst playoff drought to 12 straight seasons.
A whole lot of things have gone wrong for the Buccaneers over the last decade, from blown draft picks to poor free-agent signings to bad decisions overall.
On the bright side, Tampa Bay showed some signs of life at the end of 2019 and does have some nice talent on its roster moving forward.
However, the Bucs will need to shore up some areas this offseason.
Here are three free agents the Buccaneers should already be targeting.
3. Jason Pierre-Paul, Defensive End
The good news is that Tampa Bay will have a wealth of cap room heading into the offseason. The bad news is that it may have to spend a lot of it on retaining its own players.
The Bucs had one of the NFL’s best pass rushes in 2019, and much of that was due in part to the play of Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaquil Barrett (more on the latter in a bit).
Pierre-Paul played in just 10 games due to a car accident he suffered last offseason, but when he was on the field, he was a force, logging 27 tackles and 8.5 sacks, marking his second straight strong campaign (he racked up 58 tackles and 12.5 sacks during his first season with the Buccaneers in 2018).
The problem is, Pierre-Paul is a free agent, and he is sure to have a lot of suitors.
At 31 years old, teams may be scared of giving Pierre-Paul a lucrative long-term deal, so Tampa Bay has that working in its favor, but it probably cannot afford to let the man walk.
2. Derrick Henry, Running Back
Let’s call it what it is: the Buccaneers’ ground game stinks.
Ronald Jones showed some signs of life toward the end of the season, but he has mostly been a disappointment since being drafted in 2018, and Peyton Barber does not inspire much confidence whatsoever.
Could Tampa Bay splurge on Derrick Henry?
Let’s remember that the Bucs were in the running for Le’Veon Bell last offseason, so I don’t see any reason why they won’t look at the top-tier running backs in this year’s free-agent class, either.
Of course, the Tennessee Titans would be silly not to re-sign Henry, but perhaps they don’t want to break the bank on a halfback. That would leave the door open for the Buccaneers to scoop him up.
1. Shaquil Barrett, Linebacker
Barrett is an interesting case.
On one hand, he rattled off an NFL-best 19.5 sacks this season, so Tampa Bay can’t stand to lose him. But on the other hand, Barrett has been in the league for six years and had accumulated a grand total of 14 sacks prior to 2019.
Is he a one-year wonder? Or has the 27-year-old finally come into his own?
Whatever the case may be, Barrett is sure to land a monster deal this offseason, as elite pass rushers are always at a premium.
It may be risky to hand out a potentially crippling long-term contract to a guy who has only had one great season, but the Buccaneers may not have much of a choice.