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Column: Bucs top 5 defensive targets in FA

The Bucs are loaded with cap space this year.  Tampa is top 5 in the league with available money to spend, coming in with over $71 million.  Let’s take a look at how they should spend some of that money on the defensive side of the ball.

It’s no secret that the Bucs defense was a weak spot during their 2017 season.  I’m going to tell you who I believe Tampa should target this year during free agency.  Let’s take a look at my top 5 choices.

No. 5: DT Dontari Poe

In 2017 the Buccaneers allowed a total of 1,880 yards rushing, good for 4.3 yards per carry.  This was the 10th worst total in the league last year.  Dontari Poe last season went to Atlanta on a one year “prove it” deal and showed that he was a very reliable starter on the Falcons’ defensive line.  Poe was asked to shed weight during last off-season by Atlanta’s coaching staff and it paid dividends.

Pairing Poe with star defensive lineman, Gerald McCoy would do wonders for McCoy.  Poe is an instant upgrade over any starting defensive lineman from last season outside of McCoy.  Adding Poe would free up McCoy from the constant double teams he sees on a regular basis, thus giving him the chance to be more disruptive.

No. 4: SS, Eric Reid

Another weakness of the Bucs in 2017 was their pass defense.  Tampa finished dead last in the league in passing yards allowed in 2017.  The team allowed 4,169 total yards passing.  Justin Evans is going into his second season and was a bright spot on the back end of the defense.  Eric Reid has been enforcer on the back end of the 49ers defense since 2013.  According to Pro Football Focus, Reid was ranked #30 at his position with a rating of 81.4.  Reid could be used as a mentor to Evans while also being the enforcer Tampa needs.

The one knock on Reid has been injury history.  He hasn’t played a full season since 2015.  He missed multiple weeks last season with a knee injury and was placed on injured reserve in 2016 due to a biceps injury.  Reid has also suffered a number of concussions during his career.  So, signing him at the right price and not over paying for his services will be crucial, but he could be very beneficial if brought on and he stays healthy.

No. 3: DE, DaQuan Jones

Another area where the Bucs were weak last season was applying pressure and sacking the opposing quarterback.  Tampa finished last in the league with only 22 sacks.  You’ve probably never heard of DaQuan Jones before.  He very quietly had been good for the Titans for years. Despite only playing in 12 games last season he finished the season with 3.5 sacks.  PFF had Jones rated as the 42nd best defensive lineman with an 80.8 rating.

His sack numbers might not be as gaudy as some would like, but he does a lot of the small things really well.  He is very underrated when it comes to taking on double teams and freeing up his other lineman.  Jones does a lot of the dirty work to make his teammates look good.

No. 2: DE, Muhammad Wilkerson

Going back to what I said earlier, Tampa had an issue getting to the QB last season. Muhammad Wilkerson would instantly change that.  Tampa fans would be looking for Wilkerson to get back to his 2015 form when he had a career high 12 sacks.  Even though the sack numbers have been a little lower the past couple seasons, Wilkerson is still a force to be reckoned with.  He has been relatively healthy throughout his career, so injury is not so much a concern. Plus, he has a blend of size, speed and athleticism that you don’t see everyday.

What does concern many is Wilkerson’s attitude.   During his time with the Jets, Wilkerson had many run-ins with management and coaching staffs.  One would have to wonder, if he did make his way to Tampa and the Bucs continue to struggle, would he once again be a disruptive voice in the locker room?

No. 1: CB, Richard Sherman

I again mentioned earlier that the Bucs’ pass defense last season was awful.  Richard Sherman has been arguably the best corner in the league for quite some time.  His numbers speak for themselves.  Take a look:

Any team that lands Sherman will most likely be getting an upgrade at their corner position.  The market is already hot for Sherman’s services.  The Bucs’ are also among his potential suitors, but he is scheduled to visit San Francisco first.

The one concern that everyone must have at this moment is, how is he progressing from the Achilles tendon he tore last season?  Not only that, but Sherman also had a second procedure done to clean up some bone spurs in the same foot.  If you get anything close to what he was before, it will definitely be worth the risk to bring Sherman in.  Even though most players in his position would asked to take a 1-year “prove it” deal, I don’t see that happening for Sherman.  I think that no matter where he ends up, it’s going to cost a lot of money.

Those are my top five fits for the Bucs’ defensive this off-season.  Want to see them pick up somebody else, or disagree with me?  Let me know!

Next week I’ll be looking at the five best available fits for the Bucs’ offense and you better believe there’ll be some running backs on that list.

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