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Monday, Sep 22, 2014
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

What Bucs need to do for 2014 season

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5 Key issues

QUARTERBACK

The next Bucs head coach and general manager won’t have any ties to Mike Glennon, the third-round draft pick out of North Carolina State who threw 19 touchdown passes and only nine interceptions as a rookie. Glennon’s passer rating of 83.9 was better than Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, Robert Griffin III or Ryan Tannehill. The Bucs could select a quarterback with the seventh pick in the draft and build around him, or seek a potential veteran free agent like Jay Cutler.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Thought to be a team strength, this high-priced unit was wildly uneven, contributing to an offense which ranked last in the league. Left tackle Donald Penn and right guard Davin Joseph struggled and Pro Bowl left guard Carl Nicks has played only nine of 32 games since signing as a free agent from New Orleans. If Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel falls to them at No. 7, the Bucs figure to be interested.

WIDE RECEIVER/TIGHT END

Vincent Jackson turned in another productive year, topping the 1,000-yard mark for both of his seasons in Tampa, but the torn hamstring that sidelined Mike Williams for 10 games was a major blow because Kevin Ogletree turned out to be a free-agent bust. The Bucs covet a speedy slot receiver who can take an 11-yard slant to the house. Rookie tight end Tim Wright was a revelation with 54 catches, but Tampa Bay needs more depth at the position.

PASS RUSH

The Bucs improved from 27 sacks to 35 and DE Adrian Clayborn made a nice recovery from a knee injury that sidelined him for the final 13 games in 2012. Disruptive defensive tackle Gerald McCoy turned in another Pro Bowl season and defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan’s blitz packages were more effective as linebacker Lavonte David posted six sacks. Finding an effective edge rusher is vital because Da’Quan Bowers, a second-round pick in 2011, was invisible while finishing with one sack.

LINEBACKER

David enjoyed a spectacular year on the weak side and middle linebacker Mason Foster continues to improve, but the Bucs could lose some key contributors — Dekoda Watson, Adam Hayward and Jonathan Casillas — in free agency. Hayward is a savvy special teams captain and Watson is a versatile defender adept at blocking kicks. Casillas was effective in four starts before being placed on injured reserve on Dec. 4.

2014 free agents

The 2014 offseason will be a busy one for the Buccaneers as they approach the March 11 start of free agency. Here is a list of Tampa Bay’s potential free agents and their status.

Unrestricted free agents

Player is free to negotiate with any team

LB Jonathan Casillas — Veteran started four games, contributed on special teams.

LS Andrew Economos — Dependable long snapper since 2007.

DT Gary Gibson — Started two games in his two years with the Bucs.

CB Danny Gorrer — Started one game since being claimed off waivers midway through 2012 season.

LB Adam Hayward — Special teams captain has contributed for seven seasons.

OL Ted Larsen — Made 31 starts for the Bucs in four years.

RB Brian Leonard — Versatile back had only 47 carries this year.

K Rian Lindell — Made 23-of-29 field goal attempts as an emergency fill-in for Connor Barth.

RB Erik Lorig — Solid blocker who has never carried the ball in four-year NFL career.

T Jamon Meredith — Started 20 games in his two seasons as a Buccaneer.

QB Dan Orlovsky — Veteran backup never threw a pass for Tampa Bay.

DE Daniel Te’o-Nesheim — Started 27 games in his final two seasons with the Bucs.

WR Tiquan Underwood — Averaged 18.3 yards on 24 catches this year.

LB Dekoda Watson — Rangy athlete who can make plays off the edge and on special teams.

Restricted free agents

Bucs can match any offer or receive compensation

TE Kyle Adams — Signed as a free agent in November and didn’t catch a pass.

TE Nate Byham — Started six games for the Bucs in two years, with six receptions.

WR Eric Page — Caught four passes for 68 yards and handled kickoff and return duties in 2013.

DT Matthew Masiflo — On Tampa Bay’s practice squad most of the season.

Exclusive-rights free agents

Player can sign only with the Bucs if an offer is made

CB Deveron Carr — Signed in April, he played in nine games with the Bucs this season.

LB Danny Lansanah — Added to roster as a free agent in December.

S Bradley McDougald — Claimed off waivers from Kansas City in November and played in four games.

RB Bobby Rainey — Shifty back led Bucs with 532 rushing yards and scored six TDs.

2014 opponents

Tampa Bay will play two games each against NFC South division opponents Atlanta, Carolina and New Orleans. The rotation calls for the Bucs to play all four teams from the NFC North and AFC North, plus the last-place teams in the NFC East and NFC West. Dates and times will be announced at a later date.

Home: Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans, Green Bay, Minnesota, Baltimore, Cincinnati and St. Louis.

Away: Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Washington.

2014 draft picks

After finishing 4-12, Tampa Bay has the seventh pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft, to be held May 8-10 in New York. Pending trades and compensatory picks, the team will have five draft picks. The Bucs traded their third-round choice to the Jets in the Darrelle Revis deal and surrendered a sixth-round pick to Chicago in acquiring offensive lineman Gabe Carimi.

Key NFL dates for 2014

Jan. 25: Senior Bowl, Mobile, Ala.

Feb. 2: Super Bowl, East Rutherford, N.J.

Feb. 19-25: Scouting combine, Indianapolis

March 11: Start of free agency

March 23-26: NFL meetings, Orlando

May 8-10: NFL draft, New York

Sept. 4: Tentative start of regular season

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