Even if the Bucs re-sign Ndmukong Suh and Steve McLendon in free agency, the team still needs to draft a defensive tackle. Suh is 35 and McLendon is 36 and 2022 could very well be their last year in the league. Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht would be wise to add a young, starting-caliber tackle to team with nose tackle Vita Vea as soon as possible.

Licht signed Vea, the team’s first-round pick in 2018, to a contract extension through 2026 worth $17.75 million per season. Vea is coming off a career year with four sacks, five tackles for loss, 12 QB hits, three pass breakups and a fumble recovery.

Suh has signed three one-year deals with the Bucs. The last two contracts were worth $9 million per season. Suh is still a very capable run defender, and has notched six sacks in each of the last two years. He also had 1.5 sacks in Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl LV win over Kansas City in 2020.

Bucs DTs Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea

Bucs DTs Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea – Photo by: USA Today

The problem is that there are no Suhs in this year’s draft class. The talent at defensive tackle this year is pretty weak – just like last year’s was. Where have all the great defensive tackles in college football gone?

“There are a lot of different theories to that, one of them is that these big, long athletic guys became offensive tackles,” Licht said. “You’re seeing a little bit of a stunt of growth in that position over the last couple of years. I’m hoping that reverses here in the next few years.”

This year’s draft features three or four quality interior defensive linemen. But then the quality and quantity drops off quickly. Georgia’s Jordan Davis could be the first tackle drafted in the first round. But he’s primarily a space-eating nose tackle with very little pass rush ability.

Davis will likely be off the board by the time Tampa Bay picks at No. 27. But the Bucs already have that type of player – and a better one – in Vea, a Pro Bowler. They wouldn’t select Davis anyway.

Davis’ teammate, Devonte Wyatt, is a quick, twitchy, athletic defensive tackle. But he’s already 24, has some character concerns from his past and only had five career sacks, including 2.5 last year. There’s a chance he could be gone by No. 27, but the Bucs did bring him in for a Top 30 visit. Is there a defensive lineman they like better?

It could be Houston’s Logan Hall. He’s 6-foot-6, 283 pounds and looks like Will Gholston wearing that No. 92 jersey for the Cougars. Hall’s stock is on the rise, and he’s considered a second-rounder with an outside shot at the late first round, according to Ian Rapoport.

The Bucs have brought in both Hall and Wyatt for Top 30 visits.

“They’re good players,” Licht said. “You hear about them a lot in the media and there is a reason why. They are good football players. They are at a premium position. We had good visits with them.”

UConn’s Travis Jones is a poor man’s Suh. He’s a big, run-stuffer at 6-foot-4, 326 pounds that fits the Bucs defense. But he’s not the athletic pass rusher the team hopes to pair with Vea. Jones, who is likely a second-round pick, had four sacks at UConn.

Houston DL Logan Hall Bucs

Houston DL Logan Hall – Photo by: USA Today

Hall notched six sacks last year for Houston and has more upside getting to the quarterback. Plus he offers positional flexibility with his length. He could rotate with Suh and Gholston as a rookie. And he’s capable of lining up in more spots than either veteran is, allowing Bowles to get creative.

Tampa Bay just signed veteran defensive tackle Deadrin Senat, who played sparingly in Atlanta over the last three seasons. But that won’t preclude the Bucs from drafting a tackle at all. Senat missed the 2021 season on injured reserve and will compete in camp to win a reserve spot on the depth chart.

If the Bucs don’t draft a defensive tackle early, they may have to re-sign McLendon in addition to Suh. Or look elsewhere for more talent at the defensive tackle position before the season starts.

“We obviously think very highly of Vita and Will, and we think Nacho is a very good player,” Licht said. “And we’ve got some young guys that we’ve had in here that we feel pretty good about that have a chance to ascend and get better. You always want to upgrade your trenches. It’s a position that we’ll continue to look for.

“We have the draft and we have the period after the draft. There are still trades. The trade deadline is not for months and months away. There are different avenues and different paths we could take to upgrade there and upgrade our depth and get more players in there.”

One thing that Licht won’t do is force a need. Just because Tampa Bay has a need at defensive tackle doesn’t mean he’s going to take one over a better, higher-ranked player at another position.

“You never really want to push a need or a perceived need to high up,” Licht said. “That’s when you start making mistakes.

“I’ll be sitting here next year talking about it if we still try to take and force a need. We’ll be wishing we would have drafted a different player if we didn’t respect our board. Now we do have our board prepared for need and for best player. I say it every year, you want it where they collide and you’ve got the best player at a perceived need.”

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 27th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive coordinator/defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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WhatTheBuc
WhatTheBuc
2 months ago

When I watch what little game tape I can find on Travis Jones, I noticed that he’s almost always double teamed. He’s the only good player on UConn and still managed to make plays. I think he’s fast enough to play 3 tech on a 4 man line but didn’t really do it in college. The other thing I noticed about Jones is how rocked up he is at 330. He’s all muscle in his arms and truck. I don’t know if the Bucs would take him at 27 but he is growing on me.

ehinote
ehinote
2 months ago

I completely agree that we need to resign Suh. He is till dominant and doesn’t get hurt. He has to be in this lineup if we want to get to the promise land this year.

Phattitudes
Phattitudes
2 months ago

Get ‘er done. It has been a need for years. Fill it. Draft an OT and convert him if they have to but get ‘er done. Convert an edge to rush specialist tackle. The time has come to GET “ER DONE.

Spitfire
Spitfire
Reply to  Phattitudes
2 months ago

That’s what I’ve been saying, at what point do we start bringing in larger DE’s that an play DT in a 3-4? If DT has become an almost dead position or at least hard to come by a star, at what point do they do with DT what they do now with OG? When do they start drafting DEs that aren’t good enough to play DE because they aren’t fast enough or athletic enough but can play DT by being a run stuffer that also at least knows how to rush the passer? I think too much focus at times… Read more »

magoobee
magoobee
2 months ago

Suh is a need. Not just because he is still productive but because he is rarely injured.

BucsFanSince63Leroy
BucsFanSince63Leroy
2 months ago

Suh is a solid rotational piece on ther D line. But I’m guessing the Bucs signing Senat says they are not ready to budget 9 mil on that piece. I hope they can find a way to get him back, but I can see how it might not work out.

Regardless you are right, they need to draft a DT.

seat26
seat26
2 months ago

Totally agree. Sign Suh and draft another DT. Suh is still playing at a high level but let’s prepare for when he is gone.

twspin
twspin
2 months ago

I’m starting to think our Bucs really do believe they can win with an average Defense. Because we have Brady, Mngt believes our Offense can overcome anything. They are wrong. And did not learn anything from them Rams rippin us a new A..hole because we did not have a pass rush. We shall see. But I am truly disappointed by our lack of aggressiveness in securing a good Defense.