What a weekend of playoff football it was in the NFL as it was filled with drama, hard hitting, big plays, and bad officiating. It was nice to watch as a fan of the game, but it absolutely sucked not seeing the Bucs out there for the postseason once again making it now 10 straight seasons without a playoff appearance. The Bucs were just not good enough in 2017, finishing 5-11 which included two 5 game losing streaks. The good news is it’s now 2018 and the Bucs need to take advantage of another off-season to improve and find a way to win more games.
One way to improve is through free agency, something the Bucs must be better at going forward. I want to start with the offensive side of the ball first and provide some thoughts on where the Bucs should look when it comes to offensive free agents. While watching the wild card playoffs, two things stood out to me that the Bucs don’t have which is a dynamic running game and a consistent pass rush. That must change in 2018 if the Bucs want to have more success and compete for a playoff spot and more importantly a division title. Out of the Bucs offensive unrestricted free agents, really don’t see any of them returning unless for a cheap deal that benefits the Bucs. There are two positions I think the Bucs should target offensively and that’s at RB and G. Now those two positions could be our first two picks in the 2018 NFL Draft, but this team needs depth and really needs to overhaul both positions this off-season.
UFA RB TARGETS:
- Jerick Mckinnon
- Isaiah Crowell
- Jeremy Hill
I like all three of these backs as they each bring something different and dynamic to the field. The Bucs could pair one of these backs with a rookie back along with Peyton Barber and have a solid backfield to work with. Mckinnon, 25 is electric as he is great in open space and can create yards on his own with his speed and juking ability. He would be a nice addition to the Bucs offense if available. Plus he can play all three downs and be an effective pass catcher and pass protect as well if necessary.
Now Mr. Crowell is someone that i really like and how he plays the game full speed all the time. Crowell will be a tough one to sign as he will have multiple suitors so could be expensive but would definitely give him a call if he becomes available in free agency. He has been consistent the past two seasons averaging over 4 yards per carry and over 850 yards as well which is pretty good given the Browns poor Qb situation. In addition, Crowell has not been overworked as his highest rushing attempts came this season with 206 which is pretty low for a featured back. Crowell would be a great addition in my mind as he is only 24 years old and could be even better with a true Qb in front of him like Jameis Winston.
Lastly, the wildcard would be Jeremy Hill as he will likely be looking for a new home this off-season and should be pretty cheap when it comes to cost. Hill, 25 has seen his production slip since his great rookie season and has fallen out of the Bengals rotation. His 2017 season was cut short due to an ankle injury and is ready to have big comeback year. Hill is intriguing due to his size speed combo and really knows how to score touchdowns(29) in the red zone where the Bucs struggle mightily. If the Bucs want to sign a good veteran back, any of these three would be a good start.
UFA G TARGETS
- Andrew Norwell
- Josh Kline
- Zach Fulton
Let’s be honest the offensive line needs to be upgraded especially on the interior as the guard play was awful. Both J.R Sweezy and Kevin Pamphile were just not capable starters and I would expect both to be replaced this off-season. Unfortunately, there might not be much help available via free agency as it’s not a deep position this year. Now if for some reason, Andrew Norwell makes it to free agency, it would be wise to give him a call. Norwell will be expensive but is only 26 and was one of the best guards in the league this past season. He would solidify the left guard spot and also would help Donovan Smith as well. Plus if the Bucs could get Norwell, it would hurt their division rival in the Panthers.
Now a much affordable target would be Titans G Josh Kline who doesn’t have the size or power that Norwell brings but has been very consistent since going to the Titans. Kline, 28 is solid especially in pass blocking as he has been rated high by pro football focus consistently in 2017. Another good trait for Kline is he can play either guard spot even though the tape shows he is better on the right side. Bringing in a veteran presence like Kline would be smart as he has been on winning teams(Patriots, Titans) and could provide immediate impact.
Lastly, if the Bucs want to add a guy with some upside who has starting experience would be Chiefs guard/center Zach Fulton. Fulton brings size and power and is a better run blocker than pass protector. He would bring flexibility and could compete for a starting spot with the potential to be a long term starter. At 6-5 315 and only 26, Fulton could be very good if put in the right spot, plus playing next to an Ali Marpet who will just get better with time at center.
Zach Fulton does a great job here. Helps Witzmann block #95 with push, gets to second level. Big run against base personnel. pic.twitter.com/eUfXMLt7tS
— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) December 20, 2017