The following list are the top three things I think the Bucs need to do in order to be considered Super Bowl contenders next season. I am assuming the Bucs keep most if not all their starters, and to be honest I have no idea which players will be free agents this offseason.
I have my doubts that Gruden and Company will make any dramatic changes seeing as how Gruden’s modus operandi has been to shy away from changing personnel unless he could potentially lose his job. Gruden stuck with Chris Simms after the Skins playoff loss even though the offense looked anemic during the game. I’m not suggesting the Bucs dump Jeff Garcia (although it wouldn’t kill the Bucs to finally get rid of Simms and Gradkowski) but there are some wholesale changes which should be made.
1. Get a Receiver
This is the one thing on the list I have the most faith in Gruden to accomplish considering how much he wanted to draft Calvin Johnson last year. The Bucs have no receiver depth behind Joey Galloway, and their two leading receivers are both over 30. If
On the other hand the Bucs two young receivers, Michael Clayton and Maurice Stovall, have shown little promise. It’s safe to label Clayton a bust at this point and write him off as a cautionary tale of drafting receivers early. I’m not advising against keeping Clayton, he serves a valuable role as a third receiver, but he has failed to produce when needed and finished sixth on the team in total receptions. Stovall could turn out to be a good second receiver but much like Clayton appears to be a better special teams player than a primary receiver.
There are two obvious ways to get a receiver, through the draft and free agency. If the Bucs draft a receiver I hope they go after somebody who is already developed as a receiver (Mario Manningham, Andre Caldwell) as opposed to an unpolished receiver with a lot of upside (DeSean Jackson, Limas Sweed). I have no idea who the free agent candidates are at receiver but you typically don’t find good, young receivers in free agency. My suggestion to the Bucs is to make a stab at trading for Chris Henry, who for reasons I will get to in the next section has a lot of value for the Bucs.
Trading For Chris Henry Couldn't Possibly Backfire, Right?
2. Find the Value Player(s)
The key for any championship team is to find players which other teams undervalue. BnB pointed this out a few days ago but the Spurs built a championship team by drafting foreign born players with good fundamentals at a time when foreign-born players were undervalued. The
The Bucs have done a pretty good job of this so far, both Jerremy Stevens (DUI) and Phillip Buchanon (poor coaching) had been undervalued until they were picked up by the Bucs. Gruden has never shied away from giving players a second chance, and for the most part the strategy has worked out well for him. Chris Henry, the receiver for the Bengals fits this bill as the Bucs would probably not have to give up much and roll the dice with the hope Henry doesn’t get convicted a fourth time. Actually on second thought I’m not so sure about trading for Chris Henry.
The other position which has been undervalued in the NFL is kick returner, although I feel that tide is starting to turn. Devin Hester is the Bears only offense and was a late second round pick. The Steelers were forced to kick away or punt the ball out of bounds against the Jaguars this weekend because they were concerned about Maurice Jones-Drew (who was also a late second round pick). So far the Bucs have given little thought to the kick return position as evidenced by handing the position to a player who was on the practice squad for half the season (Micheal Spurlock).
Spurlock: Suddenly Expendable
3. Obtain Another Pass Rusher
While the Bucs pass rush got better as the season progressed the d-line never resembled the Bucs d-line’s of old. Monte Kiffin should be congratulated for generating as much of pass rush with this rag-tag bunch of misfits as he did but the lack of talent on the d-line was exposed by the Giants. Gaines Adams looks like he will turn out to be a very good pass rusher the Bucs defense has worked best when they have had two pass rushers (a la Sapp and Rice).
Preferably the Bucs will pick up an undertackle, seeing as how Jovan Haye has not been impressive this season. This may be the most difficult position to fill since there are such a small number of players with the skill sets required to play the position. A pass rushing defensive is also a consideration although the Bucs have a few players who fit the bill (Greg White, Kevin Carter) already.
Got any suggestions for changes you would like to see? Leave ‘em in the comments.