The early hours of free agency have brought the Tampa Bay Buccaneers big help on both sides of the ball.
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The Buccaneers made a big splash on the first day of free agency last week, promptly signing two key players – wide receiver DeSean Jackson and defensive lineman Chris Baker. Both players were starters for the Redskins a year ago and are expected to make an immediate impact with the Buccaneers in 2017.
It hasn’t quite reached the level of the famous franchise kickoff return drought that Micheal Spurlock finally ended in 2007, but the Bucs’ unwanted run in this category has become notable. It’s the longest drought for any team in the league, with Jacksonville having last had a 10-sack performance in 2006. The other 30 teams have all had at least one since 2010.
On Thursday afternoon, the tampa bay buccaneers throwback jersey agreed to terms with defensive lineman Chris Baker on a multi-year contract. That news came at roughly the same time the team was announcing the acquisition of big-play wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Both Baker and Jackson were unrestricted free agents, coincidentally both coming over from the Washington Redskins.
Tampa Bay’s defense engineered a stunning turnaround in the middle of Mike Smith’s first year as the coordinator last fall. Over the last eight weeks, the Buccaneers allowed the fourth-fewest points per game, forced the most turnovers and tied for fifth in sacks recorded. The team has already taken steps to keep that momentum going in 2017, with Smith returning to his post after entertaining head coaching offers and defensive end Will Gholston signing a five-year contract extension. Now, the addition of Baker to a deep and talented front line should accelerate that process even further.
Through the first 10 days of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 2017 training camp, Chris Conte and Keith Tandy have been taking most of the first-team snaps at the safety position. That makes sense because both Conte and Tandy are incumbent starters from the previous season.
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Tandy’s first start of 2016 – and just the eighth of his NFL career – came in Tampa Bay’s rousing road victory at San Diego, a tight 28-21 finish that added to the Bucs’ growing playoff hopes. The game was so tight, in fact, that it was still very much in doubt until Tandy picked off a deep Philip Rivers pass intended for Dontrelle Inman. Tandy leapt for the pick and fell into the end zone, holding on as he landed with three minutes left in the game to secure the big road win.
Notably, that Pro Bowl came at the end of the 2015 season, after he had racked up 147 tackles, three interceptions, three sacks, 10 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and 13 passes defensed. Last year, David’s tackle total topped out at 87 and he had just one interception, though he did rack up 17 tackles for loss, five sacks and four forced fumbles. You can pick among those numbers to rate one season over the other, but the fact is that David himself was not satisfied in his output in his first year under Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith.
The Buccaneers have been working to build D-Line depth and a relentless pass-rush rotation for years, and it appears to be coming together nicely for the 2017 season. The latest addition is former Washington defensive tackle Chris Baker, whom General Manager Jason Licht referred to as an “elite defensive interior” player in terms of making plays in the backfield.
With the Buccaneers’ signing of Chris Baker this spring, it’s unlikely the team will target a defensive tackle with their first-round pick. But the Bucs could be in the market for a pass-rusher, and there should be plenty available when they make their selection at No. 19. Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett and Stanford’s Solomon Thomas are considered to be the two top defensive ends in this year’s class, but both will be long gone by the bottom of the first round. Tennessee’s Derek Barnett, Michigan’s Taco Charlton and Missouri’s Charles Harris could all be on the board and all three have been linked to the Buccaneers this offseason. Harris and Barnett were both listed as potential selections for Tampa Bay in this week’s Mock Draft Roundup.
In 2017, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hope to apply pressure on opposing quarterbacks in unrelenting fashion, one wave after another. The recent addition of former Washington defensive tackle Chris Baker through free agency is the latest step in that plan.