Safety: 2019 Bucs Free Agents: Chris Conte, Josh Shaw, Andrew Adams The Bucs are unlikely to re-sign Conte, and neither Shaw nor Adams are locks to return. Both could be guys that Tampa Bay brings back to camp to compete for a spot on the roster, but it’s not out of the questions for all three of the team’s free agent safeties to hit the free agent market as opposed to being extended prior.
That leaves Justin Evans, Isaiah Johnson, who is an exclusive rights free agent that is expected to be re-signed, Jordan Whitehead and cornerback-turned-safety M.J. Stewart on the roster. Evans is a prospective starter for 2019, Johnson adds depth at both safety positions and after working mostly in the nickel corner role in 2018, Whitehead and Stewart are works in progress. This means the Bucs will likely be in the market for both a step-in starter across from Evans and a hybrid safety to add depth.
Others: SS Andrew Sendejo (Vikings), SS Tashaun Gipson (Jaguars), SS Jahleel Addae (Chargers), SS Kenny Vaccaro (Titans), FS George Iloka (Vikings), FS Glover Quinn (Lions), SS Jonathan Cyprien (Titans), SS Deone Bucannon (Cardinals)
Outlook: Holy cow, talk about a talented free agent class at the safety position. There is so much talent available at the safety position I actually had to extend the top five available to a top six because I couldn’t leave any of them out of that top tier, and Eric Weddle and Landon Collins could have easily been in that group if he hadn’t already agreed to terms with the Rams and Redskins, respectively.
As we saw last year, safety is an interesting position when it comes to free agency and with this much talent available the NFL could see another scenario where free agency lingers until multiple talented safeties are forced to sign one-year prove it deals before training camp starts. Whether a team is looking for a free safety, a strong safety, a hybrid who can play both positions, an experienced veteran or a young player with years still in his prime, there is arguably a player to fill any need at the safety position in the 2019 free agent cycle.
Bucs’ Best Bet: SS Deone Bucannon Bucannon was a first-round draft pick to Arizona in 2014 and has played in at least 12 games every season since. He started his career in the NFL at safety but was asked to fill in at linebacker for the Cardinals in 2015, and despite being undersized he thrived in the defense, recording 112 tackles, three sacks, two fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles, three passes defended, and an interception returned for a touchdown.
In his time in Arizona, Bucannon spent four years playing under Bruce Arians and spent his rookie season under Todd Bowles when he served as the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator. Bucannon brings versatility to the position as he can play inside or outside linebacker and work well in multiple schemes. In his five seasons in Arizona, Bucannon played in 70 games, accumulating 404 total tackles, seven sacks, seven forced fumbles, 27 tackles for loss and two interceptions.
If a time comes where the Bucs find themselves without Alexander or White on their roster, Bucannon could be a top target for Tampa in free agency, especially if Mathieu, who also played for Arians in Arizona, commands over $9 million per year as expected.