The Buccaneers have made their first foray into free agency with a player from another team, as they will sign former Arizona defender Deone Bucannon, who will play linebacker in Tampa Bay.
This according to Ian Rapoport who has it as a one-year deal.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 12, 2019
Earlier in the day, the Buccaneers announced they had re-signed quarterback Ryan Griffin to a two-year contract.
Bucannon played safety and the “moneybacker” linebacker role with the Cardinals. The 6-foot-1, 212-pound Bucannon was a first-round draft pick to Arizona in 2014 and has played in at least 12 games every season since. Bucannon can play linebacker in a 3-4 base scheme, but his real value comes in nickel defense as a the “moneybacker” role in sub packages.
The Bucs have a big need at linebacker with the loss of starting middle linebacker Kwon Alexander, who signed a four-year, $54 million contract with San Francisco, including $27 million in guaranteed money. Alexander, the team’s fourth-round pick in 2015, suffered a torn ACL last October and may not be ready for the start of the 2019 campaign with the 49ers.
Bucannon 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 coverage as a safety.
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. Bucannon, who is PewterReport.com’s Bucs’ Best Bet at safety, also drew interest from the New York Giants where former Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher serves in the same capacity.
The Bucs are also interested in re-signing reserve linebacker Kevin Minter, who was a second-round pick in Arizona in 2013, which was Arians’ and Bowles’ first season with the Cardinals. Minter played under Arians from 2013-16 before moving on to Cincinnati for a season.
In 2018, Minter signed with the Jets to play under Bowles once again, but didn’t make the 53-man roster. He signed with Tampa Bay last year as an injury replacement for Kwon Alexander after Week 7 and played well, recording eight tackles, three special teams tackles and one sack in a limited role in five games before a calf injury forced him to join Alexander on injured reserve.