Last week ESPN’s 32 team reporters all collaborated to give their “bold predictions” for each team, previewing what could be for the 2018 free agency period and the 2018 NFL Draft around the NFL. Some of the predictions were more bold than others, but all remained in the realm of possibility, which, in turn, could have ramifications on what happens to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when both free agency and the draft roll around.
ESPN’s Bucs reporter Jenna Laine predicted that the Buccaneers would be moving on from running back Doug Martin in her section.
“The two-time Pro Bowler was given a second chance after a four-game suspension and a stint in a drug rehab program in 2016, but he has averaged just 2.9 yards per carry the past two seasons, which doesn’t warrant a $6.75 million salary for next year. The Bucs no longer owe him any guaranteed money and can move on with three years remaining on his contract without any penalty.”
Tampa Bay moving on from Martin is one of the easier ones to predict around the league for the reasons Laine mentioned. It’s something that involves one of the more expendable positions in the game of football, and one that the Bucs can transition with by using a player they already have in Peyton Barber.
But, beyond just what the Bucs might do themselves, there were some interesting predictions posed that could have a high impact on the Bucs’ offseason when we look back on it in terms of whether it will go down as a success or a failure — which could mean whether or not it saves the jobs of Dirk Koetter, Mike Smith and Jason Licht.
“The Colts will use their first-round pick on NC State’s Bradley Chubb”
“Chubb will be the Colts’ most feared pass-rusher since linebacker Robert Mathis had 19.5 sacks in 2013. Chubb would remain in his comfort zone of playing defensive end instead of outside linebacker in new defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus’ 4-3 scheme.” – Mike Wells
If N.C. State defensive end Bradley Chubb does, in fact, go off the board for the Colts at No.3 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, hopes will be dashed instantly for many Bucs fans. After finishing the season with the lowest sack total in the league, the Bucs know they have to bring someone in to help on the edge. With Demarcus Lawrence and Ezekiel Ansah likely both returning to their respective teams, the free agent edge rush pass rushing market will be slim. If the Colts take Chubb, the draft pool will be, too.
“The Redskins will not trade Kirk Cousins, but will have to let him hit unrestricted free agency”
“Even if the Redskins do place the franchise tag on Cousins, as they are considering, they’ll see that it will ultimately be too risky to do this maneuver and possibly get stuck with that cap figure at the start of free agency, thereby hurting their chances of signing players. So they’d be forced to rescind the tag before free agency begins. Cousins will then find a new team on his own terms.” – John Keim
This one is indirectly bad news for the Buccaneers. The Bucs aren’t in the market for a quarterback, so the more teams in front of them in the draft order that want to take a quarterback the better because that’s less teams to possibly take Chubb or Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson or whoever they want that isn’t a quarterback. By letting Cousins go, there’s a good chance that one of the five teams picking in front of the Buccaneers will sign him, as they will be the most desperate. If they do, they won’t be taking a quarterback and instead could steal a Bucs target.
“The Eagles will reject trade offers for Nick Foles”
“There’s sure to be at least some level of interest for the Super Bowl MVP, but the Eagles are in the business of collecting talent at quarterback, not giving it away. With one year left on his deal, it seems unlikely a team would pony up what it would take for the Eagles to part ways with Foles.” – Tim McManus
This one is a bit surprising depending on the kind of offers Foles fields, but if it’s the case, it helps the Bucs as an opposite to Cousins leaving. The Bucs do not want any of the teams in front of them (Browns, Giants, Colts, Broncos, Jets) signing any of the quarterbacks that will hit the free agent market. The less change to that status quo, as of now, the better,
“Jon Gruden will part ways with not one, but five big names”
“And those big names will be: running back Marshawn Lynch, wide receiver Michael Crabtree, linebacker Bruce Irvin and cornerbacks Sean Smith and David Amerson. Gruden will then zero in on Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry and give Khalil Mack his contract extension. Crazy talk? Perhaps, but cutting those five players would give the Raiders an additional $36.3 million in salary-cap space, and Gruden — with general manager Reggie McKenzie’s help and owner Mark Davis’ blessing, of course — could forge ahead with his vision. That vision could include the likes of Landry, who vibed with Derek Carr at the Pro Bowl, another pass-rusher to free up Mack, and a backup quarterback such as (gasp) Colin Kaepernick. Hey, you wanted bold.” – Paul Gutierrez
Most of that would not mean anything to the Buccaneers, but if linebacker Bruce Irvin were to be released, that’s a potential target we didn’t plan on seeing in free agency. It’s been rumored that the Bucs are looking to go more 3-4 base this year on defense. If that’s the case, Irvin could fit in nicely as an outside linebacker in rotation with Noah Spence and Kendell Beckwith. Irvin has 37 sacks in his six-year career.