The Bucs’ starting cornerback group returns fully intact for the 2022 season. But for two of them, it could be their last year with the team.
Tampa Bay locked up Carlton Davis to a three-year deal earlier in the offseason. However, both Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting enter the final years in their rookie contracts. Murphy-Bunting has struggled with consistency issues and missed a majority of last season with injury. But Dean, who had injury issues of his own, really started to show that he could become a consistent top corner in the NFL.
In fact, according to Pro Football Focus, when it comes to press man coverage, there is no corner more effective than Dean, at least when it comes to yards per coverage snap. Allowing just 0.34 yards per coverage snap, Dean tops the list. He allowed completions on just over one-third of his targets while in coverage in 2021.
Last season, Dean took a huge leap in his coverage ability. He let up just 33 receptions on 63 targets for 347 yards. The former Auburn product allowed just one touchdown while coming up with two interceptions. That was good for a 74.5 coverage grade. Quarterbacks targeting him were afforded just a 60.7 passer rating in 2021. That landed just outside of the top 10 for his position.
As far as his turnaround in coverage, Dean attributes it to becoming more technically sound and knowing his assignments. He’s spoke about understanding the mental aspects of the position better. That allows him to be in the right position to make plays.
Dean really turned a corner in 2021. If he continues his stellar play in 2022, the Bucs choice on whether to re-sign him or Murphy-Bunting will become much simpler. With Dean’s speed and Carlton’s shutdown ability, the Bucs are in good shape at corner going forward.