TAMPA — The most punchless offense in the NFL received a boost Thursday night with the selection of Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans, but the Buccaneers have several more gaping holes to address before the draft concludes.
Adding Evans gives quarterback Josh McCown another 6-foot-5 target opposite veteran Vincent Jackson and the Bucs signed wide receiver Louis Murphy and tight end Brandon Myers as free agents. But those new weapons won’t be nearly as effective unless Tampa Bay’s offensive line plays far more effectively this fall.
Given the uncertain health status of former All-Pro left guard Carl Nicks and the release of veteran Davin Joseph on the right side, the Bucs appear vulnerable in the interior. Injuries have limited Nicks to only nine games in the past two years and even if Nicks returns, Tampa Bay needs more competition for Jamon Meredith at Joseph’s spot.
In the midst of speculation that the Bucs will soon be attempting to trade second-year pro Mike Glennon, new coach Lovie Smith proclaimed Glennon as Tampa Bay’s “quarterback of the future’’ behind McCown, who was signed to a 2-year deal.
That description would appear to lessen the chances of the Bucs using a premium pick on a quarterback tonight, when Tampa Bay is slated to draft sixth in the second round and No. 5 in the third round.
Lavonte David earned All-Pro honors in his second NFL season, but the Bucs need more depth and competition at the linebacker position.
Mason Foster, a 3-year starter in the middle, may not boast the coverage skills downfield that Smith covets at the position as the Bucs focus on a return to the core Tampa 2 principles that once defined an elite defense.
On the strong side, Jonathan Casillas returns after making four starts in 2013. The departures of Dekoda Watson and Adam Hayward weakened the unit and the Bucs would like to add a challenger to Casillas, who was signed as a free agent from New Orleans a year ago.
Myers, veteran Tom Crabtree and second-year pro Tim Wright give the Bucs some options at tight end, but Tampa Bay could use a solid blocker at the position who will help in short-yardage situations.
In the secondary, the Bucs have second-year pro Johnthan Banks and new addition Mike Jenkins to compete for playing time opposite Alterraun Verner, a Pro Bowler signed from Tennessee as a free agent.
Smith wants more competition at the position because nickelbacks are on the field more than half the time. At safety, Dashon Goldson is coming off an ankle injury that could keep him sidelined until training camp.
And as always, NFL teams never seem to have enough pass rushers. With Michael Johnson and Adrian Clayborn expected to start at defensive end, Da’Quan Bowers returns for one final chance to impress a new coaching staff.