Positives: Robert Griffith has been a productive tackler in a career (eight seasons of 100 tackles or more) spent mostly at strong safety. But he can play both safety positions. He also has solid pass coverage skills, illustrated by his 27 career interceptions. He's been especially durable since 1996 (his third season) missing only 12 games in that 10-year stretch. He spent the first two years of his career under then-defensive coordinator Tony Dungy in Minnesota. So he understands the Cover 2. His contract demands are sensible, too. He only wants the NFL veteran minimum. He's considered a great locker room influence and is credited with mentoring current Cardinals Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson. That influence would be helpful to young starters Jermaine Phillips and Will Allen, who struggled last year. Beyond the starters, the Bucs' depth is thin and young at safety.
Negatives: Griffith is 36, and the Bucs are attempting to get younger across the board on defense. It's unclear how Griffith's age would affect his play, as few NFL safeties reach his age. He is not a long-term solution. He would likely just get a one-year deal out of Tampa Bay. The Cardinals chose not to re-sign him, despite a productive season in which he had nearly 90 tackles. Griffith said he's not hurt and is in great shape. He's just 6-foot, not particularly tall for a safety. His age likely makes him slower than most of the younger receivers he'll have to cover. Plus, his height makes him a mismatch against taller receivers and tight ends over the middle in coverage. He said he wants to play for a team that will win now, so he can win a Super Bowl ring. The Bucs are not likely Super Bowl contenders, and that could frustrate Griffith if he signs.
The decision: Griffith could be a big help to the Bucs at safety. Tampa Bay did not address the position with a veteran player in the offseason, and Griffith appears to be in good shape and hungry to play one more season. He's a more palatable option than Donovin Darius, recently cut by Jacksonville and still rehabbing a broken leg. Inserting Griffith in a rotation with Phillips and Allen could take pressure off the two young safeties, and give players like Kalvin Pearson and Donte Nicholson a little more time to mature. The fact that Griffith is only asking for the veteran minimum is key, too, as the risk would be minimal, and the reward might be great, if Griffith is signed. The Bucs should pursue Griffith and use him judiciously.
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. Included among his more than two dozen writing and editing awards are national awards from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors, and state awards from the Florida Press Club and the Florida Sports Writers Association, for his coverage of the Buccaneers since 2004.