The PewterReport.com Roundtable features the opinions of the PR staff as it tackles a topic related to the Tampa Bay Bucs each week.
This week’s topic: Who is the Bucs’ best free agent signing?
Scott Reynolds: OLB Shaquil Barrett
This is a tough one for me because I think both Barrett and Deone Bucannon are real quality pick-ups by the Bucs in free agency. Because Bucannon has gotten the most publicity in the media thus far and Arizona’s former first-round pick is more well known around the NFL, I’ll focus on Barrett and what his addition means.
Tampa Bay’s linebacker corps was decimated with injuries last year with four players – Kwon Alexander, Jack Cichy, Kevin Minter and Kendall Beckwith – winding up on injured reserve by season’s end. The Bucs needed to reload at this position, especially with the team converting to Todd Bowles’ 3-4 scheme, which features four linebackers in base defense. Where Barrett helps Tampa Bay is his ability to rush off the edge as a pass-rushing SAM (strongside) linebacker. He’s expected to rotate with Carl Nassib and provide the Bucs with a different body type at 6-foot-2, 251 pounds.
Barrett, an undrafted free agent, is a hard-working, blue collar linebacker that has Super Bowl experience with Denver playing opposite Von Miller. Now playing in a one-year, prove-it deal in Tampa Bay worth $4 million, Barrett has every incentive to rack up the sacks and forced fumbles – he has 14 career sacks and 14 forced fumbles – in order to cash in next year in free agency, either with the Bucs or another team.
Not only is Barrett, who will become a core special teams player in Tampa Bay, a good edge rusher, he can also line up over guards and blitz effectively inside. His versatility to play inside and outside can allow Bowles to really get creative on defense, and the Bucs might use Nassib and Barrett on the field at the same time in some nickel rush packages.
Mark Cook: WR Breshad Perriman
Losing Adam Humphries to free agency and then also trading away DeSean Jackson to the Eagles has left a void in 2018’s strongest unit. Paying Humphries $9 million a season didn’t make good financial sense, nor did keeping an unhappy Jackson at $10 million, but the Bucs do lose 1,500 receiving yards of production that will need to be replaced.
Perriman won’t replace those two on his own, but he can fill the speed void left when Jackson was traded. Behind the scenes, the organization is really excited about what Perriman brings to the table, and at just $4 million, he is a steal if he can come in and duplicate even close to what Jackson did last season, where he totaled 774 yards and four touchdowns.
Besides the fact the team believes he can equal those numbers and can do so for $6 million less, Tampa Bay believes he will fit into the Bucs locker room a lot better than Jackson did. Receivers can be divas to a degree, and ask any quarterback and they will tell you that all receivers think they are open every play.
Perriman has already stated he wants to work with Jameis Winston this offseason to work on chemistry. That’s something that Winston and Jackson never really developed. The Bucs also are excited about Perriman’s size (6-2, 211), and believe that his big catch radius will help the two connect.
Add in the fact Perriman signed just a one-year deal means he will be motivated to cash in next offseason – in Tampa Bay or elsewhere. Perriman’s big question mark over the last few years has been his drops, but if he can improve his hands, the Buccaneers might have found a replacement for Jackson, and dare I say, maybe even an upgrade.
Matt Matera: LB Deone Bucannon
If the Bucs really want to change the culture, it’s best to do it with a player that has seen and experienced first hand in how Bruce Arians can affect a team. Bucannon is a playmaker that the Bucs have desperately needed on defense. It doesn’t matter if he’s playing linebacker, safety, or a hybrid of that in the “moneybacker” role, he is bringing leadership to this group.
While it’s not exactly rocket science to learn a new defense, Bucannon is the perfect player to bring in and help along his defensive teammates in understanding the new system. Having played one year under Todd Bowles in 2013, Bucannon flourished under his scheme, recording 83 tackles, two sacks, two pass deflections and a forced fumble, earning him a spot on the NFL’s all rookie team even while splitting his starting position. He will look two get back to that form coming here to Tampa.
At age 26, Bucannon is still a young player that can excel on the Bucs defense. His numbers may have dropped last season, but the Cardinals also changed their defensive plan. Now that he’s back in a role that he knows well, there’s nothing like a change of scenery and rejoining some familiar faces that could rev up the engine. Playing that linebacker-safety role, Bucannon fills two voids for the Bucs and should certainly be a big part in reshaping the Bucs’ defensive image.
Taylor Jenkins: Deone Bucannon
The Bucs have made a series of moves, on a limited budget with primarily one-year deals, in order to fill holes at positions of needs so far throughout free agency. Tampa Bay added Bradley Pinion to get younger (and cheaper) at the punter position, added Shaquil Barrett to bring in some much-needed depth off of the edge, added depth at safety with Kentrell Brice and brought in Breshad Perriman to add explosiveness on offense and fill a void left by DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries.
My favorite addition to the Bucs’ roster this offseason has to be Bucannon, though, because of just how many boxes he checks for the team.
The first – and most important – thing that Bucannon brings to Tampa is his presence on a linebacking corps that has lost Kwon Alexander and Adarius Taylor, while the futures Kendell Beckwith and Jack Cichy have become huge question marks, all within the span of a year. Bucannon was drafted as a safety out of Washington State and can play inside or outside linebacker depending on the package, but he will likely play primarily in the “moneybacker” role that was carved out for him during his time in Arizona.
The next key to Bucannon’s addition is the trust and familiarity he has from Bruce Arians and his staff. Bucannon was drafted to Arizona in 2014 and spent four years under Arians’ staff, including a year under defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. This experience should make it an easy transition to the Bucs’ new defense for Bucannon, and his familiarity with the scheme and staff should allow him to assist other players around him as they get up to speed and make the necessary adjustments to learn.
Bucannon does come with risk, and his one-year deal is not only a mitigation for that risk but a chance for him to make big money next offseason if his play warrants the pay day. He was forced to miss the final three games of the 2016 season due to an ankle sprain that would later require offseason surgery, and he’s missed 10 games over the past three seasons due to injury. But if he can stay healthy, Bucannon could immediately step in and be a key, impact player on defense this season for the Bucs.