Tom Brady is first on everyone’s mind when he or she thinks about the Buccs this year. The free agent signing was possibly the biggest news this off-season. They have the fourteenth pick, due to their 7-9 record. This is a team that wasn’t far off and Brady can be that last piece, provided he plays at the level we are accustomed to seeing. He has quality weapons to throw to and they can have a very impressive offense if some extra pieces are obtained.
The Buccs have seven picks: two fourth rounders and no seventh. The extra fourth round choice is a compensatory pick.
I list the needs below, including major, for depth, and areas they are unlikely to look at. I may add categories for a particular situation.
Major Needs (No Particular Order):
Running Back: Ronald Jones took a major step forward last year and had a good year, rushing for 724 yards with 4.2 yards per carry and catching 31 passes while splitting duties with the since departed Peyton Barber. Dare Ogbunowale was used as a receiver, catching 35, but rarely carried the ball. TJ Logan was used mostly in the return game and Ara’Cedric Ware is on the roster. Jones may benefit from an increased load this year, but another back would be good and that could happen in the draft. Bruce Arians has also mentioned his wanting a pass-catching back.
Wide Receiver: Tampa Bay has two big weapons in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, each gaining over 1,000 receiving yards and each missing the last two games. With Breshad Perriman leaving for the Jets in free agency, there is a big depth problem. Those on the roster include Justin Watson and Scott Miller. If Evans or Godwin has to miss an extended amount of time, they could be in trouble. In addition, Godwin can become a free agent next year. Therefore, a wide receiver should be taken in the draft and a veteran free agent can also help.
Offensive Line: The starters are solid and set. Donovan Smith is the left tackle and had a good year, improving throughout the season per Bruce Arians’ comments in the Athletic. Ali Marpet is very good at left guard, while Ryan Jensen graded out as the second best center in football per Pro Football Focus. Alex Cappa had a solid year and right tackle looks to be in the hands of Joe Haeg, a good signing and the sixth man on the Indianapolis line, who can also play guard. Haeg would replace unsigned Demar Dotson and hold the fort for a replacement. The Bucs are optimistic about their backups: tackle Brad Seaton, guard Aaron Stinnie, and center Anthony Fabiano. Also unsigned are backups Earl Watford, Josh Wells, and Jerald Hawkins. Picking the right tackle of the future and another for some depth is very realistic.
Cornerback: Opposing teams had their way throwing the ball against Tampa Bay. Vernon Hargeaves had a terrible year and was cut midway through the season. The corners remaining were very young. Carlton Davis was a second rounder in 2018, Sean Murphy-Bunting a second rounder last year, and Jamel Dean a third last year. Davis and Dean will be the outside corners and Murphy-Bunting will play the slot. Ryan Smith is a special teams standout, but limited at corner, while MJ Stewart also saw time. The starting trio of corners have upside, but another young corner or a veteran can be helpful.
Safety: Things are cloudy here. Andrew Adams and Mike Edwards shared one safety spot, with Edwards being picked in the third round last year. Jordan Whitehead, a fourth rounder in 2018, has started at the other safety. Justin Evans has been plagued by injuries the last two years and his status isn’t clear. D’Cota Dixon is on the roster, while Darian Stewart remains unsigned. There is the possibility the Buccs take a safety at some point, but a veteran could also be picked up.
Quarterback: Tom Brady upgrades this position from Jameis Winston, who was turnover-prone and is currently a free agent. Brady has better receivers to throw to than he had last year in New England. However, they need a backup and Brady will be 43 when the season starts. Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Griffin are currently behind him.
Tight End: OJ Howard had a down year and the arrival of Brady could be what the doctor ordered and he is still a good blocker. Cameron Brate is a receiving threat who can get in the end zone. Also on the roster are Anthony Auclair (good blocker), Tanner Hudson, and Jordan Leggett. I only see a pick here for depth purposes.
Defensive Line: This unit was very good against the run last year, with nose tackle Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh leading the way at end. William Gholston is the opposite end, where he had a solid year. Backing them up are Patrick O’Connor, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, and Jeremiah Ledbetter. Beau Allen was lost to New England in free agency. A pick can be used in the draft and if Javon Knlaw were to fall to them, he could be in Tampa.
Linebacker: Shaquil Barrett led the NFL in sacks with 19.5 and Jason Pierre-Paul had 8.5 in ten games. Carl Nassib rotated in at end, but was lost to Las Vegas in free agency, and his 6 sacks will be missed. On the inside, Lavonte David and Devin White formed a good duo, with White being the fifth pick in the draft last year. Reserves are Anthony Nelson on the outside, and Kevin Minter inside. Depth is an issue and they can easily draft some help inside or outside in the draft.
*Information from various sources, including Pro-Football Reference, Sportac, and ESPN. Articles from The Athletic were also helpful for this post.