With free agency less than 48 hours away, PewterReport.com continues its annual free agency preview. Will the Buccaneers bring back a familiar face as a free agent? What former NFC South rival linebacker might make sense? Get the answers in this preview of the free agent linebackers.
BUCS' LINEBACKERS FREE AGENCY PREVIEW
With free agency scheduled to begin at 4:00 p.m. on March 11, PewterReport.com brings you its annual free agency preview by position. PewterReport.com has been taking a look at what Bucs will become free agents at each position, who the Bucs have under contract at the previewed position, and taking a look at five players that could fit into Tampa Bay's plans, known as the Bucs' Best Bets. Today it's Tampa Bay's linebackers, followed by defensive backs tomorrow.
BUCS' PENDING FREE AGENTS
After re-signing Jonathan Casillas to a one-year deal last week, the Buccaneers still have Dekoda Watson, Adam Hayward and Jacob Cutrera who are pending free agents. Both Watson and Hayward have starting experience but neither have been impact players so far, however both are very good special teams contributors and could re-sign with Tampa Bay if they find few suitors in free agency. Watson is expected to meet with the Bucs on Monday.WHAT THE BUCS HAVE
Besides Casillas, Watson and Hayward, the Buccaneers have one of the best young linebackers in the entire NFL in Lavonte David, who led Tampa Bay in tackles with 145 and while adding seven sacks, five interceptions and 10 pass breakups.
Middle linebacker Mason Foster mans the middle and had his best season last year returning two interceptions for touchdowns while adding 93 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. The only concern about Foster is his pass coverage skills that will be put to the test getting depth downfield in Lovie Smith’s Cover 2 scheme on defense.
As reserves, Tampa Bay has Ka’Lial Glaud, Danny Lansanah and Cutrera. All four are inexperienced, project-type players, with Cutrera being the only one with many NFL snaps and a majority of those were on special teams.WHAT THE BUCS NEED
With all three starters in place, the biggest thing the Buccaneers need is depth, especially if Watson and Hayward leave via free agency. Tampa Bay is set at the weakside position with David, who in just two seasons has already drawn comparisons to former Bucs legend Derrick Brooks. Foster has shown the ability to be a quality NFL starter, and most likely Casillas, will get first shot at being the full-time starter at the strongside linebacker position. After that, things are up in the air.
BUCS’ BEST BETS1. Tampa Bay OLB Dekoda Watson
Watson is as impressive a physical specimen as you will find on any NFL roster. But the physique and production have never equaled each other. Still, Watson has some traits that are hard to overlook and with the fact the Buccaneers are lacking depth at linebacker, and considering his special teams prowess, it makes sense that Tampa Bay tries to bring him back into the fold. Watson started three games last year, but played in 15 and totaled 42 tackles, two sacks and an interception for Tampa Bay last season.2. NY Giants MLB Jon Beason
The former Hurricanes star was dealt to the Giants from the Panthers early last season and came on strong late for New York, racking up 93 tackles. Beason is a three-time Pro-Bowler and is regarded as a good leader with an excellent resume, including two All-Pro selections. Beason is a physical linebacker with good wheels, but at age 29, he could begin showing some wear soon. But after losing his job in Carolina to Luke Keuchly you can bet Beason would love the opportunity to play his former team twice a year in the NFC South.3. Denver MLB Wesley Woodyard
Woodyard was one of the few NFL captains in the NFL who finished their season not in the starting lineup. After having a solid early career in Denver, Woodyard ended up seeing less and less playing time during the Broncos' Super Bowl run last year. He still managed to play in 14 games, starting 10 and posting 84 tackles, 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. Still in his prime at age 27, Woodyard could be one of those value free agents that are crucial to teams. Woodyard is a solid special teams player and also versatile, starting at both weakside and middle linebacker in his six seasons in Denver.4. Arizona MLB Karlos Dansby
Dansby would be a fine addition to the
Buccaneers as a middle linebacker, especially coming off a season in
which he had four interceptions and a career-high 21 pass breakups, but
will be a high priority for the Cardinals to re-sign after having a
terrific season last year with Arizona. The 31-year old Dansby is also
expected to command top dollar in free agency. Dansby recently told
SIRUS XM NFL Radio that he expects to be back with the Cardinals next
season. New Bucs GM Jason Licht, who came from Arizona, certainly is aware of what Dansby could
bring to Tampa Bay, but also knows it will not come cheap to pry him out
of the desert.5. Baltimore MLB Daryl Smith
Smith is 31 years old and a 10-year veteran with a lot of wear and tear, but still managed to step into Ray Lewis’ role as the Ravens middle linebacker and Baltimore didn't miss much of a beat. Totaling 123 tackles while also posting five sacks, three interceptions and 18 pass breakups, Smith showed no signs of breaking down. Smith’s age may not fit the mold of what the Bucs are looking for, but one cannot argue with his productivity.TOP FIVE LINEBACKERS IN FREE AGENCY1. Arizona MLB Karlos Dansby
Dansby had a sensational 2013 season and the Cardinals know they can’t afford to lose him in free agency. Dansby’s numbers in 2013 warrant a big-time deal and he will most likely find it in Arizona.
2. Baltimore MLB Daryl Smith
Smith proved how talented he was as he began the 2013 season attempting to fill in for future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, who retired. All Smith did was put up better numbers that Lewis did at any point in his last five seasons in the NFL.3. NY Giants MLB Jon Beason
Beason was the face of the Panthers defense for a few seasons but found out that the NFL is a production-based business and once Carolina drafted Kuechly, Beason’s days in Charlotte were numbered. He had a productive season in New York, who might try to re-sign him.4. Redskins OLB Perry Riley
Riley has been a tackling machine for Washington the last two seasons, notching 244 tackles to go along with 6.5 sacks. The Redskins want to keep him but he may end up on the free agent market and who knows where he ends up from there.5. New England LB Brandon Spikes
Spikes is a throwback linebacker that would fit in with the likes of former Bucs Hugh Green, Cecil Johnson and Scot Brantley, but those heat-seeking missile type, take-your-head-off linebackers are becoming somewhat a thing of the past in the NFL. Does he have the wheels to get down field in coverage?UP NEXT: Defensive backs
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