The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have a new defensive line coach in 2018 after the departure of incumbent Jay Hayes. The newcomer on the Bucs' staff will inherit some rock-solid certainties – most notably a six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle in the middle – as well as some significant question marks.
Let's take a look at where the Buccaneers' defensive line stands now and what could change prior to the 2018 season.
As it stands today, most of the Bucs' 2017 starters are still under contract, the core remaining largely intact. However, after ranking last in the NFL with 22 sacks this past season, the Bucs will almost surely seek some new contributors to the pass rush.
The Bucs do have three defensive linemen set to become free agents next month: defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, defensive tackle Sealver Siliga and defensive end Will Clarke. McDonald just finished up a four-year contract signed in 2014 and had the second-highest sack total for the Bucs in the 2017 season. Siliga is currently on a one-year deal with the Bucs and played in eight games for the Bucs in 2017. Clarke, also on a one-year deal with the Bucs, played in 15 games during the 2017 season and registered 2.5 sacks. He was a contributor in a six-sack performance by the Buccaneers defense against the New York Jets in Week 10, taking down Jets' quarterback Josh McCown for his first sack of the year.
That aforementioned Pro Bowler in the middle, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, is under contract through 2021 and will remain the centerpiece of the Bucs' pass rush. The good news is that the line will get defensive end Noah Spence back this upcoming season after he missed nearly all of last season with a shoulder injury. Spence is a promising pass-rusher who registered 5.5 sacks and 12 quarterback hits during his rookie campaign in 2016.
Still, the pass rush will need to be addressed in some form or another, and the biggest question mark that remains is how the Bucs plan to do that.
Though not guaranteed, the Bucs could go for a defensive lineman with their first pick in the 2018 draft. North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb presents an interesting option for the line, should the Bucs choose to go that route and Chubb is still on the board at number seven. He's widely regarded as the best defensive line prospect in this year's draft class. For more on Chubb, refer to our 2018 Prospect Primer on the trench-dweller here.
Free agency also begins March 14, with some noteworthy prospects there as well regarding defensive linemen available. Either way, the Bucs' new defensive line coach will have the opportunity to make significant strides in the unit's overall performance with established pieces, and perhaps even some new pieces, in place to do so.