USA TODAY Sports
We take a look the Tampa Bay Bucs as they head into the offseason.
It should really be said from the get-go that the Bucs are in a position in which they will live or die based upon Josh Freeman's play. I think this is largely borne out upon examining last season. The Bucs started out strong with a nice 6-4 record. Freeman was playing well, surrounded by a bevy of players, not the least of which was Vincent Jackson and Doug Martin. After a loss to the Falcons, though, the Bucs went downhill, ending the season at 7-9. Whose play was a major contributor to their downfall? Mr. Freeman's.
It wasn't all Josh Freeman, though. Much blame should also shift to the secondary. One could argue that Tampa Bay has one of the worst secondaries in the NFL. The trade of Aqib Talib didn't help, but injuries had to be the main culprit. Eric Wright, while never playing at an elite level, was plagued all season. E.J. Biggers was never able to keep up, especially in run support (which is not necessarily a problem for this team). But CB was not the only problem in that secondary. Ronde Barber - a FA this season - switched to FS. And while he actually had an impressive season, it wasn't enough to compensate for the young Mark Barron. Barron's not a lost cause, but he will really have to improve his coverage skills this offseason. Fortunately for the Tampa Bay defense in general, they have one of the best run-stopping defenses in the NFL.
On offense, the Bucs need to fill the Dallas Clark spot. The TE is a free agent this season. Due to his age, it's doubtful he will return as the featured TE. Tackle Jeremy Trueblood is also headed to free agency, and the Bucs will want to look at replacing him. If they do so in-house, they might still want to bring in another Tackle for depth.
In general, though, this team could actually be pretty competitive. I wouldn't be surprised to see them take off next season. This will all depend, though, upon Josh Freeman.
Key Free Agents: DE Michael Bennet, CB E.J. Biggers, S Ronde Barber, DT Roy Miller, TE Dallas Clark.