Tampa Bay’s roster still has holes and affordable free agents remain.
Two words dominated the discourse of Tampa Bay’s offseason prior to last week: Cap space.
The Bucs approached the new league year with a deficit of more than $50 million — the remnants of their successful all-in approach with Tom Brady — but they got creative and made some necessary moves to sneak under the cap line. Not only did they become compliant, but they did so while also retaining key free agents like Jamel Dean and Lavonte David. They also made some smart low-key additions like defensive tackle Greg Gaines and quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Current estimates have the team as $500,000 back in the red, but Jason Licht and cap wizard Mike Greenberg can implement additional tricks to create more cap space as necessary. Remaining contract maneuvers that make sense include giving Mike Evans a one-year extension (if he remains interested in staying with the only team he’s ever known) or cutting kicker Ryan Succop.
Nevertheless, the team still has multiple needs if they hope to contend for another division crown in 2023, and they can’t expect all of them to be filled by rookies and veteran minimum contracts. The Bucs may still be exploring some other low-risk, high-reward options that cost a little more than minimum but still provide respectable quality.
Here are some possible options:
Terrell Edmunds, Safety
The Bucs have now lost Mike Edwards (the Kansas City Chiefs) and Jordan Whitehead (New York Jets) in back-to-back offseasons, and veterans Logan Ryan and Keanu Neal also remain unsigned. This leaves a huge gap currently in the backend of Todd Bowles’s defense, and that will need to be addressed one way or another with some major investment moving forward given how often Bowles likes to deploy rotations and three-safety looks.
A rookie makes tons of sense either way, but adding a veteran strong safety to pair with Antoine Winfield Jr. is a no-brainer. Enter Terrell Edmunds.
A first rounder back in 2018, Edmunds analysts often regarded him as a reach then and suffered some rough years before gradually settling into a role that allowed him to be a solid player. The 26-year-old had the second-best season of his career in 2022 by Pro Football Focus grading, logging a 69.1. He’s best playing closer to the box, and he could fill the same role as Whitehead and Neal but with much more athletic upside than either.
Nice job by Mark Robinson to recover and find the football, but Terrell Edmunds stepping in to take on this puller is what keeps Dobbins from getting through crease full speed. What a stack by Edmunds pic.twitter.com/4kutqWpDAK
— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) January 6, 2023
Spotrac gives Edmunds a valuation of $5.5 million per year, possibly 2 years at around $11 million. A multi-year deal would make sense for both cap relief and solidifying the starting safety duo — presuming the Bucs extend Winfield Jr. next offseason.
Irv Smith Jr., Tight End
An injury-prone tight end from Alabama might cause some trepidation among Bucs Nation, but you could do far worse on buy-low options than Smith. A former second-round pick, Smith played in only 37 games throughout his rookie deal with 15 starts, but he still flashed interesting athleticism and football savvy.
He missed 9 games in 2022 and all of 2021, but 2020 saw him log a 70 overall grade on PFF with 30 catches for 365 yards and five touchdowns. His career numbers are 91 catches for 858 yards and 9 TDs.
The depth of this draft is heralded, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see Tampa look to add someone with one of their picks, but it’s worth noting that tight end is one of the least productive positions for rookies. If the Bucs believe in Cade Otton taking a big second-year leap, they may want to pair him with another veteran option to maximize their 12 personnel sets.
Cousins finds Irv Smith Jr for a Vikings touchdown! #SKOL pic.twitter.com/R0PdkmErVG
— uSTADIUM (@uSTADIUM) November 8, 2020
PFF values the 24-year-old Smith Jr. at $4.25 million per year, so a two-year deal worth $9 million with low guarantees would likely be affordable for the franchise.
Troy Hill, Cornerback
The Bucs losing Sean Murphy-Bunting to the Tennessee Titans is not crippling by any means, but he was a versatile player who often played in the slot. The team has no obvious option in that mold right now, and it might behoove the coaching staff to bring in a veteran for that rather a rookie who might be quickly overwhelmed by the position’s demands.
Hill is a seven-year veteran who has plenty of experience with playing outside and inside, and he’s put up a strong track record of consistent production for both the Los Angeles Rams and Cleveland Browns.
Troy Hill undercuts the route and comes up with the interception pic.twitter.com/QwyVgLqqxA
— Speak Up (@_SpeakU) September 9, 2022
With 39 starts and 8 career interceptions, the Bucs would field a quality starting corner trio between Dean, Hill and Carlton Davis while allowing younger players or any possible rookies to learn with limited snaps.
Spotrac has Hill’s market value at $3.6 million for 1 year, which makes sense for a 31-year-old who’s not a premier athlete.
Byron Pringle, Wide Receiver
The top three of Tampa’s receiver corps can go against anyone else in the league thanks to Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Russell Gage. However, the depth behind themis far from ideal.
The only others currently under contract are Deven Thompkins and Kaylon Geiger, who look more like special teams contributors. The team could use more reliable downfield speed, but they also need some outside receiver depth.
Pringle didn’t show much last year due to the terrible passing offense of the Chicago Bears, but he’s got good size (6-foot-1, 203 pounds) and is a dependable run blocker. He’s also just a couple years removed from a solid season with the Kansas City Chiefs, catching 42 passes for 568 yards and five touchdowns. He also has kick return experience, which seems to always be a need for the Bucs.
This game changed on a dime. 101 yard touchdown return courtesy of Byron Pringle.pic.twitter.com/eESQkQJiIc
— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) October 25, 2020
He made just $4 million last year and would likely come in for less as he hopes to re-establish himself in his age-29 season.
This isn’t an endorsement for signing all of these players, as the cap likely wouldn’t allow it. Instead, the team would have to pick and choose which positions benefit the most from having a more experienced presence in the fold.
There are plenty of names outside of those listed above who make sense, too. Ultimately, you’ll see some more additions as the spring and summer churn forward, and some might even be familiar to the franchise like William Gholston or Logan Ryan.