Happy New Year, everyone! And no, I'm not three months late nor was I hit in the head with backdated amnesia making me think it's January 1, 1997. It's the new LEAGUE year. We're officially in the 2019 season and with that came the opening of free agency.
-Just as General Manager Jason Licht had mentioned during the NFL Combine, the Bucs prioritized keeping their own players in free agency. They kicked that off by signing left tackle, and member of the Bucs' 2015 draft class, Donovan Smith, to a three-year deal. Then with the opening of free agency this past week, re-signed six additional players through at least 2019, including running back Peyton Barber and backup quarterback Ryan Griffin.
Of course, there were departures. The NFL salary cap goes up every year under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, but player salaries also go up during that period. Because of this, linebacker Kwon Alexander, who was part of that 2015 draft class, and wide receiver Adam Humphries, who was signed as an undrafted free agent that same year, now belong to other teams. I don't need to tell you that with their deals, the Bucs just simply couldn't afford to hold onto them. Alexander largely set the market for linebackers this year in free agency, which is an incredible accomplishment. He's now with John Lynch and the San Francisco 49ers. Humphries, who was coming off a career year in 2018 as a reliable slot receiver, will now be catching passes from the quarterback who went the pick after his former quarterback in the 2015 NFL draft as he ships off to Tennessee as a Titan.
The team also completed a trade for wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who returns to his original NFL team in Philadelphia. The Buccaneers shipped their seventh-round pick in 2020 along with him in exchange for a 2019 sixth-round pick, now giving them a pick in all seven rounds this year. While it's never easy to give up a guy who presents a significant deep threat like Jackson, his departure freed up $10 million in cap space for the Buccaneers, allowing them to make some other additions.
-Yes, there were also additions. And let's look into how a couple of them should fit in with the current team, shall we?
The Bucs added what is presumably meant to be Jackson's replacement in wide receiver Breshad Perriman. Perriman has battled through injury throughout his career but had a strong showing as a deep threat with the Cleveland Browns in 10 games last season. While he didn't get a ton of work, he had a yards per reception average of 21.3. With players on the Bucs' roster already like Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and if second-year receiver Justin Watson can continue to blossom, Perriman will fill a similar role, stretching the field vertically in an offense that thrives on the threat of the deep ball. You don't need him to get the work of Evans or Godwin to be effective. Just by having a guy with blazing speed, as Perriman does, opposing defenses will have to account for it, theoretically taking away a defensive back from the underneath zones or taking away safety help so that guys like Evans can get one-on-one. And as I've said many times before, I like when Mike Evans is one-on-one with defenders. It usually works out for the Bucs.
Bottom line is don't let the stats tell the whole store of a guy like Perriman. His effect on the field goes well beyond them. His pairing with a quarterback like Jameis Winston within a BA offense should work out quite nicely.
The Bucs also added a hybrid defensive player in Deone Bucannon, who has the added bonus of being very familiar with the Buccaneers' current coaching staff. Bucannon played under Bruce Arians and Todd Bowles in Arizona, adding a true veteran presence as the rest of the defense learns their new system. Bucannon started his career in Arizona as, well plainly, a defensive back, playing both safety spots before playing both strong safety and linebacker the following season in 2015. He's been officially listed as a linebacker for the past three seasons in Arizona, but don't be surprised if his role becomes more fluid as he fits back into Todd Bowles' defense.
While under Bowles the first year of his career, Bucannon tallied 86 total tackles, with eight tackles for loss – as a defensive back. He also had two sacks and two passes defensed, being used all over the back level and from the looks of it, playing in the box a fair amount. You don't tally eight TFLs and two sacks coming from the deep zone. I, for one, am excited to see how he fits in with existing personnel and how they all get shuffled around in this new-look defense and you should be, too.
-If you want to keep track of all the moves the Bucs have made, Scott Smith has a really nifty Free Agency Tracker to make it easy. What a guy, right?