Is Safety the 2nd Most Important Position the Bucs Must Upgrade This Off-season?

We know that pass rush is a main priority for the Bucs this off-season, but how much attention should their safety position receive?

Over the next few weeks, I will be breaking down each position on the Bucs roster. During this process, I will discuss who stays, who goes, top free agent targets that make sense, and players that fit the position in the draft.

Today, we focus on the Bucs' safeties.

Current Roster:

Player

Under Contract

2016 Cap Number

Stays/Goes

Comment

 

 Bradley McDougald

 

 RFA

 

 $0

 

Stays

McDougald might not be a great safety, but his development and potential warrants his return to the Bucs. He will need to earn his starting role.

 

 
Chris Conte

 

 
UFA

 

 
$0

 


Goes

Now, Conte does have a prior relationship with Bucs’ new DBs coach Jon Hoke, but Conte is also a Lovie Smith guy. If the Bucs do look to bring Conte back, it would likely be on another 1-year deal

 

Major Wright

 

2016

 

$1.75 mil

 

Goes

I actually like Major Wright, but he does struggle to stay healthy, and his $1.75 mil price tag is a little rich. I think the Bucs can upgrade over Wright, even as a backup.

 

Keith Tandy

 

UFA

 

 $0

 

 Stays

I’m a fan of Keith Tandy. He’s developed nicely, and at the very least, he’s a solid backup and special teams player. I hope the Bucs bring him back.

 

 


Gerod Hollimon

 

 


2016, 2017

 

 

 
$450,000

 

 


Stays

The Bucs have Hollimon under contract at a small cap number, so there’s a strong chance he’s at training camp in 2016. Hollimon was an intriguing name in last year’s draft because he led the nation in INTs, but he needs a lot of work to be a reliable NFL safety.

 

 

Kimario McFadden

 

 

2016

 

 

$500,000

 

 

Stays

McFadden was elevated from the practice squad to the active roster at the end of the season to obviously protect his rights heading into the off-season. The Bucs obviously want to see more of McFadden.

Top Free Agent Targets:

These are the most logical free agent targets that make sense for the Bucs' defense. These names can obviously change as teams try to resign their own free agents.

Reggie Nelson - Cincinnati Bengals 
This one makes a lot of sense to me. Nelson was a Pro Bowler and 2nd team All Pro in 2015. He played for the Gators and was drafted by the Jaguars in the 1st round of the 2007 draft when both Dirk Koetter and Mike Smith were coordinators on that team. I think the Bucs need a veteran presence at safety, and Nelson would be a nice addition...even at 32 years old.

Rashad Johnson - Arizona Cardinals
If the Bucs aren't going to bring in a safety with ties to the coaching staff, why not one with ties to the GM? Johnson is entering his 8th NFL season at 30 years old, but has been a member on one of the most physical defenses in the NFL over the past several seasons. Again, if the Bucs are looking for a veteran presence at safety, Johnson makes a lot of sense.

Tashaun Gipson - Cleveland Browns
After totaling 11 INTs in 2013 and 2014 combined, Gipson had just 2 INTs in 2015. In 4 NFL seasons after entering the league as an undrafted free agent, Gipson has totaled 14 INTs and 22 passes defensed. There will be a team that overpays for Gipson in a big way without much knowledge of if Gipson will continue to progress into an all Pro player. I'm not sure if this is a risk the Bucs would be willing to take right now.

George Iloka - Cincinnati Bengals
Iloka has been a 3-year starter for the Bengals, and he is currently just 25 years old. During these last 3 years, Iloka has totaled 189 tackles, 20 passes defensed, and 5 INTs. Iloka's size is most appealing at 6'4'' and 225 lbs. Like Gipson, I think the young Iloka will be looking for a big pay day, which is something I'm not sure the Bucs would want to risk on right now. 

Dwight Lowery - Indianapolis Colts
Lowery was part of Mike Smith's defense during Smith's final year with the Falcons. This past season, Lowery signed a 1-year deal with the Indianapolis Colts worth around $1 million. Last season, Lowery had 76 tackles and 4 INTs. Lowery is another veteran player who the Bucs may be able to get on a low risk 1-year contract. I could see the Bucs trying to sign Lowery along with a player like Reggie Nelson or Rashad Johnson, and allow Bradley McDougald to learn behind them.

Top Names to Remember for the Draft

Early Names:
Jalen Ramsey - FSU (CB)
Darian Thompson - Boise State
Vonn Bell - Ohio State
Jeremy Cash - Duke
Miles Killebrew - Southern Utah
Karl Joseph - West Virginia
Jalen Mills - LSU

Mid-Late Round Names
Kevin Byard - Middle Tennessee State
Jayron Kearse - Clemson
Sean Davis - Maryland
Keanu Neal - Florida
Tyvis Powell - Ohio State


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