It has been an eventful offseason for the Bucs, and they’re still not done. The NFL draft starts this week.
The draft begins April 23, with the Bucs positioned at no. 14 overall.
The Bucs’ recent signing of six-time Super Bowl champ Tom Brady (I just shed a tear writing that sentence) and the recent trade for Brady’s favorite target make things a lot easier (or more complicated, depending on how things shake out) for the Bucs.
The team have some needs, but the good news is it has all of its picks. The Bucs could trade back in the first round to get more draft capital, or they could sit tight and take whatever offensive lineman is available. Andrew Thomas out of Georgia, athletic freak Mekhi Becton from Louisville, Jedrick Wills Jr. out of ‘Bama, and Tristan Wirfs out of Iowa would all be solid options to fill either tackle position.
And if all of those guys are taken (the mock drafts are all over the place), the Bucs could trade back to gain more draft capital or take a swing at a d-lineman like Javon Kinlaw out of South Carolina or a pass rusher such as K’Lavon Chaission out of LSU. Both would be great for providing depth in the front-seven, which has proven to be one of the most important qualities of good football teams.
The second round is another interesting spot for the Bucs. Maybe they go offensive line again, as protecting TB12 is the most important issue they need to address. Centers could be in play (Lloyd Cushenberry III out of LSU’s award-winning offensive line being my favorite), with current center Ryan Jensen and his $10 million salary in jeopardy following the Gronk trade. The guard position is a little light, however, so the Bucs could draft a tackle or center they think could transition to the right guard spot to replace Alex Cappa who has been pedestrian at best in that role.
As for the later rounds, maybe the Bucs take a look at some trade options.
Leonard Fournette has reportedly been made available by the Jacksonville Jaguars (the timing is a bit interesting; Fournette has been very vocal in his recruitment of former Panthers quarterback Cam Newton to Jacksonville, despite the Jaguars already having Garner Minshew. I’d rather have Newton myself (God forbid any Jags fans hear that), and the Bucs could make a play to trade for Fournette.
The money would have to be worked out, as he’s on the final year of his rookie deal, coming in at $4.16 million, and the Bucs have some problems with the cap. But they also have a glaring need at the position, and adding Fournette would make the offense an even bigger headache for opposing defenses. Plus, given how replaceable running backs are, and his contract situation, the Bucs could simply give up a fifth or sixth rounder, barely a blip on the radar. Or maybe I’m wrong and the Jags get a second-rounder from the extremely intelligently-run Houston Texans (barf).
This move would give the Bucs security at the running back position while leaving them their early picks to fill other positions of need.
The Bucs have also reportedly made tight end OJ Howard available in trades, especially now that they have Gronk. One could even envision the Bucs trying to shop Cameron Brate, as they have three starting-caliber tight ends, all taking up a hefty amount of the cap. They could include Howard or Brate in a trade package for another player (veteran offensive tackle Trent Williams from Washington would require some financial maneuvering, but it could work), or for some late-round picks. Trading Brate would give the a Bucs a little more wiggle room, as he’s a bigger cap hit, but they might get a better return for Howard.
Or maybe GM Jason Licht pulls some BS and the Bucs use their first-rounder on quarterback Justin Herbert and draft more cornerbacks in the later rounds. It is the Bucs, after all.
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