View photos of the newest Buccaneer, DE Jason Pierre-Paul. Photos by AP Images.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were widely expected to address their pass-rush need in the 2018 NFL Draft. And indeed they have done so; they just didn't wait for the draft to actually begin.
On Thursday, the Buccaneers acquired defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who has 58.5 career sacks, in a trade with the New York Giants. Tampa Bay sent its third-round pick, number 69 overall to the Giants, and the two teams also swapped fourth-round selections, with the Buccaneers getting the 102nd pick in exchange for the 108th pick.
"Jason is an elite-level edge rusher who will make an immediate impact on our defense," said Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht. "We are adding a two-time Pro Bowler who is passionate about the game and has established himself as one of the league's premier defensive ends. Jason is an incredibly hard-working playmaker on the defensive front with a unique skill set that allows him to stay on the field in both rushing and passing situations."
The trade, which will become official when Pierre-Paul passes a physical in Tampa, is a homecoming of sorts for the former University of South Florida standout. Pierre-Paul played his high school ball in Deerfield Beach, Florida before passing through a pair of community colleges on his way to USF. The Giants made him the 15th overall pick in the draft in 2010. New York also signed Pierre-Paul to a new four-year contract in 2017; with the trade, the Buccaneers inherit the final three years of that deal, which runs through 2020.
The Buccaneers have obviously made it a priority to improve their pass rush in 2018 after finishing last in the NFL with 22 sacks last season. Six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy gives the Bucs' line good push in the middle but no Tampa Bay defensive end had more than 2.5 sacks in 2017. In addition to the trade for Pierre-Paul, who had 8.5 sacks last year for the Giants, the Buccaneers have also signed former Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Vinny Curry.
Pierre-Paul's sack total led the Giants in 2017 and were more than any Buccaneer defender posted. He also had seven sacks in 2016 after returning from a serious hand injury that cost him all but one game the previous year. A two-time Pro Bowler and former first-team Associated Press All-Pro, Pierre-Paul has a pair of double-digit sack seasons on his resume, with 16.5 in 2011 and 12.5 in 2014. His career totals also include 432 tackles, 87 tackles for loss, 13 forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries, two interceptions and 47 passes defensed.
The 29-year-old Pierre-Paul (6-5, 275) has played in 111 career games with 85 starts, including all 16 games last season in New York, and has averaged more than a half a sack a game in his career. He also has a well-developed knack for disrupting throws, as his 47 passes defensed since 2010 are tied for the most in the NFL by a defensive end in that span. Houston's J.J. Watt (who entered the league in 2011) also has 47 passes defensed in that time; no other end has more than 42. In addition, Pierre-Paul has returned both of his career interceptions for touchdowns.
As Licht noted, Pierre-Paul is an every-down player who can affect the game in multiple ways. His 432 tackles, for instance, rank second among all NFL defensive linemen since 2010. His tackle-for-loss total also stands fifth among defensive linemen and 12th among all NFL players in that same span.
The trade for Pierre-Paul cost the Bucs some draft capital but would appear to send them into the draft with more flexibility in terms of addressing needs. With the additions of Curry and Pierre-Paul and the potential of a breakout from third-year end Noah Spence, a former second-round pick who had 5.5 sacks as a rookie in 2016, the Buccaneers suddenly have the makings of a productive edge-rush rotation.