Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik has been focussed the past few years in addressing the Bucs defensive line. Players like Adrian Clayborn, Da’Quan Bowers, Gerald McCoy, Roy Miller, and Brian Price have all been drafted in early rounds.
With Brian Price already gone and Roy Miller heading for free agency along with Michael Bennett, the Bucs could find themselves in the market for another defensive tackle and a defensive end that can rush the passer.
We will start with the available defensive tackles that could play next to Gerald McCoy.
Sedrick Ellis, 27, (Saints) – Mark Dominik has shown an affinity for signing players in free agency with ties to division rivals. With the Saints switching to a 3-4 defense, Ellis is not really a fit for their type of defense or for their salary cap constraints.
Terrance Knighton, 26, (Jaguars) – Knighton is a massive nose tackle who had become a team captain under coach Jack Del Rio with the Jaguars. According to multiple reports, Knighton has a passion for working in the community. Knighton lost his starting job in 2012 to CJ Mosely after recording 7 tackles and a sack in the first 4 games of last season. Mike Mularky made that decision and has since been fired.
Sammie Lee Hill, 26, (Lions) – Like Knighton, Hill is a massive nose tackle (6’4” 329 lbs) who can take up multiple blockers. It is no surprise that Hill will hit the open market with the Lions focused on Cliff Avril and having Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairly already at defensive tackle. Hill did not record a sack in 2012, but was credited with 17 quarterback hurries in 2012.
Alan Branch, 28, (Seahawks) – Branch has expressed a desire to return to the Seahawks, but if he hits the open market, Branch will be a very enticing nose tackle. Branch had become a starter the past two seasons after having questions about his work ethic coming out of Michigan in the 2007 NFL draft.
Glenn Dorsey, 27, (Chiefs) – One of the big bargains in free agency might be Dorsey. He was a top prospect when he came into the NFL a few years ago, but after the Chiefs switched to the 3-4 defense, he was out of position.
Jason Jones, 26, (Seahawks) – Jones is a versatile player who can play end or defensive tackle. At 276 lbs, Jones is not big enough to be a nose tackle, but could be a nice rotational player along a defensive line. Jones dealt with knee soreness for most of 2012, so durability is a concern.
Cliff Avril, 26, (Lions) – Avril has 20.5 sacks in the last 32 games. The biggest issue with Avril is that he’s aiming to get a contract like Mario Williams’ $100 million contract from last year. Reports have 3-4 teams being the most interested.
John Abraham, 34, (Falcons) – Unlike Dwight Freeney, I feel Abraham won’t be looking for one more pay-day. Abraham’s days as an every-down lineman are likely over. Abraham will be best suited as a situational pass rusher, which is exactly what the Buccaneers need. Despite his advanced age, Abraham had 10 sacks last season, which would have been tops for the Buccaneers roster. Like with Sedrick Ellis above, Mark Dominik has shown a likeness for signing players from within the Bucs division.
Osi Umenyiora, 31, (Giants) – Umenyiora has lost his starting job with the Giants the past couple of years. Despite losing his starting position, Umenyiora accumulated 15 sacks over the past 32 games. However, at 31 years old, there is some concern that Umenyiora will start to slide through the duration of his next contract.
Dwight Freeney, 33, (Colts) – Freeney has been one of the best pass rushers in the NFL over the past decade. Freeney could still be looking for a big pay-day, and at 33 years old, that wouldn’t seem logical for the Bucs. Injuries and diminishing talent are major concerns.
After looking at the lack of names in free agency for defensive ends, it might behoove the Bucs to either resign Michael Bennett to a reasonable deal or draft a defensive end early in April’s draft.
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