Each day between now and post-Super Bowl Monday, we’ll roll out a get-to-the-point offseason plan for one NFL team. Today, the Buccaneers; tomorrow, the Patriots-Broncos loser. After that, we’ll see. Here’s our three-point plan for Tampa Bay:
1. Slap the tag on RB Doug Martin
The talented running back regained the form that saw him take the league by storm during his rookie year. Coming off back-to-back injury-filled and subpar seasons, Martin rushed for 1,402 yards with six touchdowns in 2015. And while that’s all well and good, the Buccaneers have a problem because his contract is expiring. Which means, of course, he’ll be looking to cash in with a big-money contract. Negotiations are under way, but there’s a good chance a deal won’t be reached because NFL teams don’t like to break the bank at such a vulnerable position. So that leaves two options: Let Martin walk, which would be a disaster, or use the franchise tag on him. The Bucs should do the latter. Martin will still pull decent money, and that will give Tampa Bay some time to work out a better deal for the franchise.
2. Cut ties with WR Vincent Jackson
It’s time for the Bucs to say goodbye to Jackson.
At first glance, this might sound bizarre. After all, Jackson enjoyed quite a run of success as he racked up at least 1,000 receiving yards each year from 2011-14. However, in 2015, his production fell off as injuries limited him to just 10 games. In fact, Jackson has caught just five touchdown passes in the past two seasons. And to top it off, he just turned 33 and will have a $9.8 million salary in 2016. With Louis Murphy coming back from injury, the Buccaneers need to get younger at the position. It’s time to find a receiver opposite big Mike Evans who can stretch the field and get behind coverages.
3. Improve the pass rush
McCoy needs help along the defensive line.
Sure, Gerald McCoy had 8.5 sacks from his defensive tackle spot in 2015, but the Buccaneers were near the bottom of the league in total sacks. If you can’t rush the passer, even an average NFL quarterback can pick you apart. Jacquies Smith has shown some talent at one defensive end spot, but he hasn’t been consistent. The same can be said of Howard Jones and George Johnson. So, what to do? There will be options in free agency: Muhammad Wilkerson, for example. The Buccaneers could pursue someone like him, or get after some of the prospects who will be available in this draft: Joey Bosa, Shaq Lawson and Emmanuel Ogbah could all be on the board when the Buccaneers pick at No. 9.