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Bucs A Landing Spot For Free Agent DL?

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By: Joshua Queipo

Of all the positions the Bucs are set to address in the offseason, defensive tackle is probably not the most important. Technically, as of right now, the 2024 depth chart has just one quarterback under contract and no Mike Evans, Lavonte David or Antoine Winfield Jr. under contract.

Add in question marks along the interior of the offensive line, who will start at linebacker, and how they will address strong safety, and you can see why interior defensive line just doesn’t pop on the radar.

Jets DL Quinton Jefferson Photo by: USA Today

But don’t count the Bucs out of dipping their toes in the free agent pool to solidify one of the strongest rooms on the roster. Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger thinks that’s a possibility, anyway. He lists the Bucs as a potential landing spot for free agent defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson in a recent article highlighting potential fits for upcoming free agency. Here is what he had to say:

Tampa looks to have hit on another crop of draft picks in 2023, with first-round interior defender Calijah Kancey generating 11 quarterback pressures in his first two playoff games. But the unit needs more depth alongside Kancey and Vita Vea.

Washington has the dynamic duo of Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne but not much behind them to spell them and still get after the quarterback. Enter interior pass-rush specialist Quinton Jefferson, who never played for Dan Quinn but has worked with many of his proteges over the years.”

Bucs May Have Need For Defensive Line Depth

The Bucs have their starting duo set in Calijah Kancey and Vita Vea. There’s also 2022 second-round pick Logan Hall, who made positive strides last year as a rotational piece who can play 4i on early run downs.

Bucs DTs Vita Vea and Calijah Kancey

Bucs DTs Vita Vea and Calijah Kancey – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

But beyond those three, things get murkier. Will Gholston had a solid season, but his snap count decreased for the third straight year to a career-low 244 and is currently unsigned for 2024. The Bucs re-signed him on the eve of training camp last year. He will be 33 years old when the 2024 season begins, and he’s someone who could be on retirement watch.

Greg Gaines and Pat O’Connor are both pending free agents as well. Mike Greene had a few nice games last year, but is far from a reliable player at this point in his career. There is room to add to the position group.

Jefferson is a former fifth-round pick who had a solid start to his career in Seattle from 2016-2019, where he amassed 88 tackles, 16 for a loss, 13 sacks, two fumble recoveries and seven passes defensed. Since then, he has played 64 games across four seasons for the Bills, Raiders, back with the Seahawks, and Jets. He is a quality rotational pass rusher who has struggled to defend the run over the years. Since 2018, Jefferson has averaged 38 quarterback pressures and a 9.7% pressure rate.

Given this draft class isn’t the deepest at interior defensive line, it makes sense that the Bucs would use free agency to shore up depth at that position group. And Jefferson can be had for both a short time commitment (one year) and at a very reasonable price ($2 million-$4 million).

Based on his comments at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine, general manager Jason Licht will very much focus his efforts first on re-signing Tampa Bay’s own high-priority free agents. But from there, he and his staff can get to work on building the roster in a way that sets the team up to improve on its NFC Divisional Round appearance last season.

The free agency period begins in under two weeks, so we’ll see how the Bucs approach things soon enough.

The post Bucs A Landing Spot For Free Agent DL? appeared first on Pewter Report.

Originally posted on Pewter Report