Tampa Bay was one of the surprise teams in the NFL last season. Benefitting from a fourth-place schedule and the emergence of Josh Freeman as a franchise quarterback, the Buccaneers finished 10-6 and missed the playoffs on account of tiebreakers.
Needless to say, though, that with Freeman and one of the best young coaches in the NFL in Raheem Morris, the stock for the Buccaneers in on the rise. And despite their 10-win season, they will still only have to contend with a third-place schedule next season.
What does Tampa Bay need to do to become a playoff contender in what appears to be a stacked NFC South? Even though Morris' forte is defense, that is the side of the ball with the most work. Let's start with the pass rush. The Buccaneers were 30th in the league in sacks last season, so adding another sack artist along with Stylez White - who is unsigned by the way - is a must. The interior of the defensive line was a focal point a year ago with No. 3 overall pick Gerald McCoy and second-round pick Brian Price. Missouri's Aldon Smith is the leader in the clubhouse at defensive end, but Iowa's Adrian Clayborn or Ohio State's Cam Heyward could also be in the mix here.
At the second level of defense, starters Barrett Ruud in the middle and Quincy Black on the strong side are unsigned. On top of that, even if either of them is back a playmaker is needed to help the defense. Think about the Bucs defenses of the early 2000s and they had Derrick Brooks. It's unlikely that any of the players available could fit that bill but that's one area that certainly could be potentially addressed.
And, of course, there's the Aqib Talib issue hanging over the organization. The talented, but troublesome, cornerback was recently charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. It's not the first time Talib has been in trouble since he was drafted by the Bucs. It's starting to get to the point where the talent isn't worth the headaches associated. Also, there is Ronde Barber who will be 36 at the start of the 2011 season. Either way, the Bucs need to address the cornerback position. There is Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith, who reportedly has character concerns of his own, but is talented enough to be picked here. If the Bucs want to improve the position, but not take a risk on Smith, Miami's Brandon Harris could be the pick.
On offense, the focus would be improving the offensive line especially the right side of the line. Guard Davin Joseph is set to hit free agency and could see a lot of action. Tackle Jeremy Trueblood lost his starting job and may not be back. With an offensive tackle in Tyron Smith finally off the board, could the run on tackles be underway?
What do the Buccaneers need to get to the next level? The decision is in your hands.
Needs: DE, LB, CB
All-Good: QB, WR, DT
Previous PicksNo. 1 - Carolina: QB Cam Newton, Auburn
No. 2 - Denver: DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama
No. 3 - Buffalo: LB Von Miller, Texas A&M
No. 4 - Cincinnati: QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
No. 5 - Arizona: WR A.J. Green, Georgia
No. 6 - Cleveland: WR Julio Jones, Alabama
No. 7 - San Francisco: DE Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson
No. 8 - Tennessee: DT Nick Fairley, Auburn
No. 9 - Dallas: DE Cameron Jordan, California
No. 10 - Washington: QB Jake Locker, Washington
No. 11 - Houston: CB Patrick Peterson, LSU
No. 12 - Minnesota: DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina
No. 13 - Detroit: CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska
No. 14 - St. Louis: DT Corey Liuget, Illinois
No. 15 - Miami: QB Ryan Mallett, Arkansas
No. 16 - Jacksonville: DE J.J. Watt, Wisconsin
No. 17 - New England: RB Mark Ingram, Alabama
No. 18 - San Diego: OLB Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue
No. 19 - New York Giants: OT Tyron Smith, USC