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SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, PewterReport.com publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place and around the NFL.

FAB 1. How The Bucs’ Free Agent D-Linemen Fit

The Buccaneers signed former Philadelphia nose tackle Beau Allen as their first free agent addition in 2018. Allen, an accomplished run stuffer, signed a three-year contract worth $15 million and the deal can reach $16.5 million with incentives. The deal averages $5 million per year.

As PewterReport.com forecasted, it wasn’t Ndamukong Suh nor was it Dontari Poe that the Bucs signed at defensive tackle. The signing of the unheralded Allen, who was a wave nose tackle for the Super Bowl champion Eagles last year, is reminiscent of the Bucs’ signing of Clinton McDonald to a four-year contract worth $12 million back in 2014. McDonald, a wave nose tackle who was coming off a Super Bowl in Seattle, had a deal that averaged $3 million per year.

The 26-year old Allen is the Bucs’ modern day version of McDonald – just younger, bigger and a little more expensive due to NFL inflation. Allen is 6-foot-2, 333 pounds and is five years younger and about 35 pounds bigger than the 31-year old McDonald, who was an effective pass rusher with five sacks last year, but struggled to stay healthy during his time in Tampa Bay. McDonald missed 19 games over four years, including two last season.

McDonald did have more pass rush production coming to Tampa Bay than Allen does. In four years with the Eagles, Allen has 87 tackles and just two sacks, including one last year. Allen will likely be a two-down run defender, which was the role that Chris Baker was slated to play and ultimately underachieved in during his only season with the Bucs. McDonald is not expected to be re-signed, as the Bucs also signed defensive lineman Mitch Unrein on Wednesday.

Unrein, who turns 31 on March 25, was signed to a three-year deal worth $10.5 million with $4 million guaranteed. The 6-foot-4, 301-pound has the versatility to play defensive tackle or strongside defensive end, and gives the Bucs a more capable backup to Will Gholston, and will perhaps put some heat on him as he underachieved last year after cashing in on a big contract.

The Bucs’ previous backups for Gholston over the past two years have been two nondescript players in DaVonte Lambert and Channing Ward. With eight years in the NFL under his belt, Unrein is a clear upgrade. Keep in mind that Unrein has experience playing in a 3-4 defense as a defensive end with stops in Chicago (2016-17), San Diego (2015) and Denver (2011-14), so when the Bucs deploy 3-4 fronts this year Unrein could very well be part of that package.

Without much talent at the defensive end position in free agency, the Bucs focused on improving their interior defensive line, especially run defense where Tampa Bay ranked 23rd in the league, allowing 117.5 yards per game. If the Bucs want to increase their sack total from 22 in 2017 to a more respectable number like 40 they will need to force teams into more passing situations.

Pro Football Focus ranked Allen and Unrein as the two top interior run defenders in free agency. Allen had a run stop percentage of 11.3 percent while Unrein had a run stop percentage of 10.8. I have no idea what those percentages mean or how they were derived, but I wanted to share them with you anyway given the ranking for those two new Buccaneers.

The signing of Allen and Unrein does not preclude Tampa Bay from signing or drafting another defensive tackle. The team needs at least four on the 53-man roster. Prior to adding Allen the Bucs only had six-time Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy and Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, who was the team’s seventh-round draft pick last year and missed his rookie season on injured reserve.

Bucs DL Mitch Unrein – Photo by: Getty Images

Like Robert Ayers, Unrein is a swing player that can play defensive end and tackle. He essentially gives Tampa Bay five players that can play the edge and four players that can play inside. The team is still deciding whether or not to keep Ayers, and will add another defensive end and defensive tackle in the 2018 NFL Draft for competition.

The Bucs had New Orleans defensive end Alex Okafor in for a visit on Thursday to gauge his progress from last year’s torn Achilles tendon. The 27-year old Okafor was drafted by general manager Jason Licht when he was in Arizona and was coached by new defensive line coach Brentson Buckner.

Here’s how the current Bucs’ 2018 defensive line depth chart could shake out:

LDE: Will Gholston, Noah Spence, Mitch Unrein
DT Gerald McCoy
NT Beau Allen, Stevie Tu’ikolovatu
RDE: Robert Ayers, Will Clarke

Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith had a three-tackle rotation going with Chris Baker, McDonald and McCoy last year, and Sealver Siliga, who is an unrestricted free agent, was the seldom-used fourth defensive tackle for goal line and short yardage plays. The Bucs need one more, and the 2018 NFL Draft is full of talented defensive tackles and the team has shown interest in Washington’s Vita Vea and Fort Hays State’s Nathan Shepherd among others.

With McCoy turning 30 this year the Bucs could look for a pass-rushing defensive tackle in the draft that is capable of playing both three-technique and nose tackle as McDonald did in his role last year. McCoy won’t play forever, perhaps another year or two in Tampa Bay, and the Bucs would be wise to find an eventual replacement to groom behind him.

The danger in signing Allen and Unrein is that the Bucs tied up $8.5 million in two run defenders that likely won’t be on the field in nickel defense when Tampa Bay will likely deploy that sub package at least 60 percent of the time in the pass-happy NFC South. The Bucs see the value in bringing in two bigger, tougher defensive linemen to boost the work ethic in the defensive line room as Baker was seen as a detriment in that area last year.

So why didn’t the Bucs go after Suh or target Poe in free agency? The fact that Suh was released in Miami along with center Mike Pouncey should tell you that despite their talent, the Dolphins felt like those two linemen were responsible for some of the bad chemistry in the locker room.

Teams aren’t exactly beating down the doors to sign Suh immediately, either. The 31-year old made it known that he wants to go to the highest bidder, and if that’s the case, that means winning isn’t as important to Suh as it probably should be. Leadership is not Suh’s strongpoint. He is visiting New Orleans on Friday and has drawn some interest from Dallas, too.

Bucs DT Beau Allen - Photo by: Getty Images
Bucs DT Beau Allen – Photo by: Getty Images

The Bucs believe that a locker room with two distinct personalities like McCoy and Suh would have a hard time coexisting, and that is because the two players play the same position and would get paid roughly the same amount of money. That could cause some unwanted friction. McCoy openly lobbied on Twitter for the Bucs to trade for a few defensive players, including defensive end Michael Bennett, but notice how McCoy didn’t lobby for Suh? I don’t blame him.

As for Poe, the fact that he is on his third team in three years should tell you something. Poe registered 2.5 sacks and 39 tackles as Atlanta’s starting nose tackle last year, while Allen had 20 tackles and one sack as a reserve in Philadelphia. Tampa Bay believes that with more snaps Allen could be just as productive as Poe for about half the price. Poe signed a three-year deal in Carolina worth between $9-10 million per year. The Bucs signed Allen and Unrein for less than what the Panthers paid Poe.

Time will tell if the signings of Allen and Unrein pay off and if the Bucs did enough to better the defensive line in free agency. I’m not about to tell you that these were good moves or bad moves because neither Allen nor Unrein is a difference-maker.

But I don’t know if Poe is really a difference-maker, either, and I agree with the team’s thinking that Suh could have been a headache in the locker room and not worth it in the long run. We’ll see what other defensive linemen the Bucs add this offseason and how these puzzle pieces all come together.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 25th 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 line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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Andy Ely

I would love to have Okoronkwo. The dude is a stud, with a high motor. He is what this team needs, if we came away with Him,Chubb,and Penny in the first 3 rounds. That would be ridiculous, or even Fitzpatrick or James in the first. Our defense would be pretty exciting. Then we could take Marquis Haynes or Eastman later in the draft

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FLBoy84

Mentioned to Mark last night that I really like both DT signings. Remind me a bit of the ol’ Hovan and Culpepper days. Not 1st Rnd talent but pure dogged, mean lunch-pail guys that would do whatever it took to get the job done and win, AND left their ego’s at the door and were great for the locker room. Basically the opposite of a Chris Baker.

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FLBoy84

Would think the Bucs might look for more of a 3T DT in the draft that could back up McCoy, Like Bryan and Hurst, though hard to see the Bucs in a position to draft them unless we trade down. Guys like Phillips, Shepherd, McIntosh, Brown, Senat, etc. may fit the bill in later rounds. And would prefer Jensen over Pouncey, if we can get him. Understand Pouncey is a name, but he has two chronic hips, lead the league in penalties at C last year and graded out as the 34th of 38 C’s (though, like you Mark, have… Read more »

FLBoy84

A starting OL of Smith, Nelson, Jensen, Marpet and Dotson would be scary. Doubtful it’ll happen, but fun to imagine nonetheless.

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Jonathan Goodfellow

A team that had only 23 sacks cant afford to cut a player that had 5. No reason not to resign McDonald. Great locker room presence, good leader and good example to younger players, and still producing.

I imagine the plan would be to draft a pass rushing DT in the draft, but thats no guarantee. Resign McDonald.

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FLBoy84

“Great locker room presence, good leader and good example to younger players, and still producing.” Completely agree on the first three, but production is calculated involving much more than sacks. It’s an exciting stat and all, but just a small part of what a DT is graded on. Like you, I appreciate McDonald’s presence as a leader and example, but think you’ll find Unrein offers a lot of those intangibles as well while having a greater impact on the overall performance of the DL.

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Jonathan Goodfellow

I agree. I think McDonald would be a good pass rushing option for obvious passing downs and can provide more there than Unrein or Beau. That being said, unlike some, I am a fan of both additions as well as our current strategy in FA. If we seal the deal with Jensen and can land Gaines to help at CB, I would very satisfied. Lots of teams are overpaying for mediocre talent and I think Licht is looking for good value, scheme, and locker room fits and I am okay with that Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes… Read more »

FLBoy84

Being that Allen will be 27, McCoy 30 and Unrein 31 this year, can really see the team adding a younger DT to develop and add a bit of speed to that group. With those personalities, that’s a heck of group to learn under if you’re coming in as a rookie.

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Jonathan Goodfellow

wouldnt mind an RB either, however if we go Defense in rd 1 and RB in round 2, I think we will be safe there with Barber still in the mix

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FLBoy84

Agree, though you still need much more than Barber and a 2nd rnd RB. Typically go into camp with 4-5, so still plenty of need there.

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Pete Wood

Hey, Scott!
Two quick FA questions.
1. Did the Bucs even try to get Crowell since he ended up signing for peanuts with the Jets?
2. Are Bucs looking at any other RBS in FA? Like Thomas Rawls?
Thanks!

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Mike Wright

Run stuffers are Great. But offenses usually attack your weaknesses. And we all know opposing QB’s ordered sandwiches on our Defensive line last year. It was quite embarassing. Thus far, I am not impressed with our Bucs. If Licht is listening to Mike Smith sayin, we are close then…I am afraid we are done. Relying on last yrs ineffective rush coupled with your dependability on rookies to get the Defensive job done, does not fair well for us. Our Divisional foes must be..Chompin at the bit..to see our old defense returning. I’ve said from the initial hiring Koetter and Smitty… Read more »

Ron Potter

Let’s hope we can get Okafor. Spence to get healthy. And Chubb to drop to #7 or trade up to get get him! GO BUCS!!

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Buc 1976

Well ANYONE is a upgrade to Baker. But I did like what he said.

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surferdudes

A trade down getting DaRon Payne to split time with McCoy, and get an extra pick sounds tempting. However it would be great if either Chubb, Barkley, or Nelson were available at #7. After seeing what money Norwell got drafting a plug in guard is getting great value .

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FLBoy84

And if we were to sign Suh (not in favor, btw), we should be required to re-sign Evan Smith (not in favor either, btw) just to enjoy the training camp fights. For those not in the know, Suh curb-stomped Smith’s arm while he was on the ground back in 2011. Guessing they aren’t on each others Christmas card list.

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stlbucsfan

So we have the LEAST amount of sacks in the league and the plan for the offseason is to add run stuffing DTs and not resign the 2nd leading sacker on the team? I can’t believe an entire article was written about the dumbest offseason plan in history. We have done nothing but subtract from the most glaring hole on the team and it’s being spun like this somehow helps, amazing. Who cares if Suh and GMC have different personalities, this is a business. Suh can help spell GMC on early downs and pair up with him on passing downs… Read more »

cgmaster27

Agree 100% with everything you just wrote. This team has glaringly ignored the worst positions on our team. Line and DB. They didn’t have to go nuts and spend big money to get their guy. And I”m also tired of hearing about 3-4 fronts. As long as Mike Smith is our Defensive Coordinator and Gerald Mccoy our 3 technique, we will never be playing a 3-4 outside of once every game maybe.

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dbucfan

CBmaster27 is putting out facts

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stlbucsfan

It’s crazy it’s like the front office/staff watched a different football team go 5-11. They have plans to move on from a player 2nd on the team in sacks last season but are undecided on JR Sweezy, Robert Ayers and WIll Gholston, these guys are jokes. But then again this is the same man that signed Michael Johnson, Anthony Collins, Josh McCown and somehow convinced fans that those were the missing pieces. I can only hope this is the last summer of the Jason Light show.

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Ron Potter

I like the Allen and Unrein signings. Not to be under-estimated for a huge impact!

But to really WIN free agency, they gotta sign Jensen! DE Okafor and CB Claiborne would be good for depth too if all can be had for the right prices. Add in the kicker we just got, and I’ll be a very pleased Buc fan with our work in free agency 2018!

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EastEndBoy

Thanks Scott…a few observations: FAB1: This is a problem…the only change over 2017 is Allen for McDonald/Baker?…I just don’t understand what Licht’s strategy is here – unless (See FAB3 comment below). LDE: Will Gholston, Noah Spence, Mitch Unrein DT Gerald McCoy NT Beau Allen, Stevie Tu’ikolovatu RDE: Robert Ayers, Will Clark FAB 2 and 4: I consider these are related…the reason a GM needs to understand the OKL rookie in far more depth, is because his evidence (BIG 12 college games) is not comparable to what he’ll be facing in our games – if you at best know “a little”… Read more »

macabee

Okafor signed with Saints – 2 years 10mil.

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matador

We have worried about negative selection all along. GM and HC have backed themselves into ‘one and done’ contracts and the Glazer Babbies change coaches, as James Caan famously said in the thief, the way other guys change shoes. We couldn’t offer $5 mil/year? With no state tax?
It’s not them, it’s us. Sick, sick sick of this. Please sell the team to someone not living on their daddy’s coattails

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Horse

Scott, Would Pewter Report for the next couple weeks, PLEASE, tell us how much Salary Cap space is left especially if Marpet, Smith, Alexander will sign new contracts in a few months and we need leftover for Winston’s contract in 2019? Either Gholston or Ayers have to go because we need 2 DE’s in some kind of combination either free agency or draft. What we have right now isn’t any improvement on Defense because 31 other teams were better than us in 2017 and are trying to improve to in 2018. Just don’t understand drafting 6’2″ DE’s; how has that… Read more »

FLBoy84

As of now Horse, Overthecap and Spotrac ( https://overthecap.com/salary-cap-space ) have us at around $36.7M as of today. which includes all the recent deals except Clark’s.

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drdneast

I really liked Brad Cullpeper. He was the only player who could keep Warren. Sapps massive ego in check by calling him fat boy.
His remark to John Lynchs brother in law who played for the Bears after being knocked out by Lynch during a game and as he was walked off the field was hilarious.
“Hey buddy, he is sleeping with your sister too..”
For those unaware, Lynch was married to the players sister.

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FLBoy84

Gotta love the classic’s lol

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Buc-Up

I think the GM should be meeting with the coaches before he signs or drafts anybody. Then ask them, “If I get this guy, are you going to utilize his skill sets? I mean there’s no sense in me getting him if you are going to maximize his talent in your system.”

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Darin

I think 4 QBs go in the top 6. There will be trades before the draft, and during. I know you guys have seen enough drafts to know anythings possible. I wouldnt be surprised one bit if chubbs there. I say no way to trading up tho. Licht loves to do it and its cost this team dearly over the years. Licht needs to be patient and let his scouting dept find the guys after chubb if he is gone. I do like Oko IF he is there in round 2. I’m also a big fan of Tremaine Edmunds, who… Read more »

Jmanley3

I don’t know but maybe I missed something…. Like most have stated before, why are Ayers, Gholston and Clarke still on the roster when Ayers can’t stay healthy (hasn’t since we’ve signed him), Gholston has NEVER had an impact (and we don’t need a run stopping DE when we’re dead last in pass rush) and Clarke hasn’t done ANYTHING for him to be re-signed. But we let Clinton go and he was a rotational player that had 5 sacks (2nd on the team)…. To go after 2 guys that’s not proven and nobody probably even heard of them before the… Read more »

makski

You missed a lot. Clinton is an older player that has been getting hurt more often every year. The 2 guys we just got ARE proven. Where have you been. One is an 8 year player in the league with a lot of starting experience and the other is an up and coming younger player who has been splitting time with 2 near Pro Bowlers. Most younger guys would have lost most or all of their playing time, but he didn’t. He doesn’t have a lot of sacks because he rarely played on 3rd down. If you are giving up,… Read more »

Alldaway 2.0

McDonald was second on the team with sacks for a team desperate for sacks. McDonald can play three tech or nose.

I think he should be re-signed. Licht and Koetter need all hands on deck to turn around this ship!

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Alldaway 2.0

You know that argument was used last year with the signings of Baker and drafting of Beckwith. “Stopping the run to force more third and long situations due to the added size at DT and LB”. The problem for the Bucs is that they can’t get off the field even in third and long situations. Also, the NFCS features offense that have big Ols but are also dynamic in that they can go spread and dynamic pass catching RB and slot/utility guys. Bucs need to become a faster team at DT and LB and not “bigger”. Even the current 3-4… Read more »

XpfcWintergreen2

RE: FAB 3. Scott, I was pleased with myself when I discovered how similar the results of my various scenarios for the first seven picks and yours were. .. ;-] .. There seems to be a lot of ways the Bucs can come out with a great result. We are indeed sitting in the catbird’s seat. My “dream scenario” looked like this. 1. RB Saquon Barkley – Cleveland 2. QB Sam Darnold – New York Giants 3. QB Josh Rosen- Arizona (traded with Indianapolis) 4. QB Josh Allen – Cleveland 5. QB Baker Mayfield – Denver 6. QB Lamar Jackson… Read more »

Mike.Seven

I guess no one in Bucs land is paying attention to the rumor Uber driver has Video and FSU lawyer has taken case could be asking NFL for biggest settlement in NFL history to not press charges. If that is true it explains why no one interviewing witnesses or Winston. Might keep in mind draft of QB. I do not know facts about any wrongdoing just know investigation going on, and there is a requirement Uber drivers must run inside and outside video. Bucs moving forward like the three monkeys here no evil see no evil speak no evil. Pewter… Read more »