After investing all but one draft pick to the offense over the past two years, it's time for the Bucs' defense to get some attention. Sure, the Bucs defense is statistically 11th in the league in total yards given up, and top 10 when it comes to stopping the run, but anyone with a set of eyes can see where the weakness lies for the Bucs.
I'm hearing a major overhaul of the defense could be coming over the next two off-seasons.
This should come as no surprise.
I'm also hearing that the only two players who are definitely mainstays on the Bucs' defense is Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander.
Again, this should come as no surprise.
The Bucs have built a strong nucleus on offense with the draft picks they've invested over the past two years. At this point, the offense can be supplemented with smart and specific free agent additions, while the defense can start to receive the main focus of the draft.
I think the Bucs will start with the coaching staff when it comes to the defensive overhaul. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier could end up being Lovie Smith's fall guy, even though Frazier doesn't call the plays anymore. Something has to be done, and Lovie Smith will likely not want to get rid of himself, so...
The next step will be to look at overpaid defensive players the Bucs can afford to get rid of.
Alterraun Verner is the first player that comes to mind. The Buccaneers can cut Verner and save nearly $7 million towards the cap if they do so. Since Verner has been relegated to nickel corner, this is a move that is very likely to happen. The Bucs will also have to decide if Sterling Moore is deserving of a new contract. He's been their best cornerback, not saying much, over the past month and a half, so I'd say he stays.
Another player to look out for is Gerald McCoy and his new $100 million deal he signed last off-season. This isn't anyone "hating" on McCoy, this is just real life. Yes, McCoy dealt with injuries this year, which is not the first, second, or third year in his short career he's had to endure injuries. Despite his statistics, which is the main place people run to when defending McCoy, the film has not been kind to McCoy. He has been extremely inconsistent with any pass rush this season, and at times, has been dominated in single block situations by opposing linemen. This is just inexcusable for a $100 million player no matter what injuries you have.
I also believe McCoy's attitude has been way off all season, which started in the preseason when he was telling Jameis Winston to just enjoy his rookie season and let the leaders lead. Winston did that as long as he could stomach it, but eventually took over as team leader, and McCoy was never the same. Even in this past game, on Thursday night football, McCoy was seen away from the team huddle as Jameis Winston led another inspiring pregame speech. Is the Bucs former leader jealous?
According to Joel Corry of the NationalFootballPost.com, Gerald McCoy's new contract came with only about $14.75 million in full guarantees. Other guarantees in the contract come at certain dates and with roster bonuses and guaranteed salaries once certain dates are reached. If McCoy is on the Bucs roster on the 3rd day of the new league year in 2016, his 2016 roster bonus of $6.5 million along with his 2017 base salary of $12.75 million will be fully guaranteed. That means, if McCoy is on the Bucs roster 3 days after free agency starts, the Bucs will be on the hook for over $19 million for McCoy through the 2017 season. If they cut him before that date, they will save $5.5 million, but have $7.5 million in dead money. However, if the Bucs were to trade McCoy, they would save a massive $11.5 million with only $1.5 million in dead money.
After the massive contracts, Jason Licht and the Bucs' front office will just look to upgrade at every position possible on defense. It won't happen in one off-season, but the main focus will be on pass rushers and defensive backs over the next two drafts. If the Bucs are as efficient with their defensive draft picks as they were for their offensive draft picks, they could be a complete team in two years.