While the Bucs aren’t expected to go crazy in free agency this season, they will be looking to upgrade a number of positions. PewterReport.com takes a look at each unit over the next week, showcasing which players Tampa Bay could lose, and which players might replace them, including our Bucs’ Best Bets.
2019 Bucs Free Agents: DE Vinny Curry, DT Rakeem Nunez-Roches
The Bucs already cut Curry in February, so the team is moving in another direction. Curry’s biggest undoing was the rise of Carl Nassib while he was out with an ankle injury. Curry wound up playing in 12 games and notching just 2.5 sacks, but Nassib, his replacement, had 6.5. Curry was set to make $8 million this year while Nassib will be paid $2 million, making this move easier with getting more production at a cheaper rate.
Rakeem Nunez-Roches was signed for depth purposes on the defensive line because he had experience in the league. He only ended up playing in three games and had two tackles. The Bucs will more than likely also move on from him with the new coaching staff here.
Top NFL Free Agent Defensive Linemen Available:
1. DE Trey Flowers – Patriots
2. DT Ndamukong Suh – Rams
3. DE Dante Fowler Jr. – Rams
4. DE Ezekiel Ansah – Lions
5. DT Malik Jackson – Jaguars
Others: DT Sheldon Richardson (Vikings), DE Muhammad Wilkerson (Packers), DE Cameron Wake (Dolphins), DE Bruce Irvin (Falcons), DE Henry Anderson (Jets), DT Malcolm Brown (Patriots), DT Haloti Ngata (Lions), DE Mario Edwards (Giants), DE Christian Covington (Texans)
Outlook: The Patriots opted to trade for Michael Bennett rather than re-sign Flowers due to financial reasons. Fowler Jr. has big upside with only being 24 years old, while both Suh and Ansah are aging but can still be productive. The rest of the field brings mid-level to aging veterans for the most part that can still very much get the job done in a role where they don’t have to carry all of the load.
Bucs’ Best Bet: DE Bruce Irvin
The Bucs have less than $4 million in salary cap room. That will change in the coming days and weeks when they remove some other players from their roster, but they still won’t have the type of money to land the biggest names on the free agent market, especially on the defensive line. Signing a free agent on the defensive line comes down to which current members at that same position will be let go because of the cap casualties. The Bucs could let go of defensive tackle Beau Allen’s $5 million contract or defensive end Will Gholston’s $3.75 million salary. To replace them, once again the Bucs will need to go for someone inexpensive, which is where Irvin enters the fray. At 31 years old, Irvin has an abundance of experience in the NFL and a Super Bowl ring to go with it.
Last year playing for the Raiders and Falcons, he ended up with 6.5 sacks, which tied him with Carl Nassib and was more than any other Bucs defensive linemen not named Jason Pierre-Paul. Irvin’s salary in Atlanta in 2018 was $1.5 million because he was only signed to play the remaining eight games after he was released by Oakland. Given his age, Irvin might be relatively inexpensive around $3 million to $4 million per year. Irvin can be a situational end and dial up the pass rush at outside linebacker while spelling Nassib and Pierre-Paul if they need a rest.
With a deep defensive line group in the 2019 draft, the Bucs could address the interior lineman position there by selecting a defensive tackle to back up Gerald McCoy and Vita Vea, giving the team a chance to get an end like Irvin in the free agent pool.