By J.T. Olson
Special to Sports Talk Florida
It has been an exciting few days for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In the span of 24 hours Tom Brady came of of retirement and the Bucs were able to re-sign Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen and star cornerback Carlton Davis. All this in addition to bringing back wide receiver Chris Godwin on the franchise tag last week.
However, there is still a lot of work to be done in rounding out this roster. And while bringing back the core players was critical, now the Bucs have a very small amount of money to work with. This means they will have to find value in their signings. Here are five low cost options who could help the Buccaneers.
Akiem Hicks, Defensive Line
Hicks has been one of the most disruptive defensive linemen in the NFL every time he stepped on the field for the Bears. He’s had 31 sacks over the last six years, including three seasons with 7 or more. He would bring that interior pass rush that the Buccaneers are looking for.
So what’s the catch? Hicks Will be turning 33 years old this season, so he’s definitely getting long in the tooth. He also hasn’t played a full season since 2018. Players rarely get more durable as they get towards the end of their careers. With that said, if the Bucs take a flyer on Hicks as a rotational guy then he could be a very impactful signing come playoff time.
Will Hernandez, Guard
Ryan Jensen coming back completely changes the outlook of this offensive line. Now between re-signing Aaron Stinnie, drafting Robert Hainsey last year and likely investing a high pick in a guard in the coming draft and you have to feel decent about the interior offensive line. However, all of these guys would be very unproven in the NFL.
Adding a veteran like Hernandez to compete with that group van only help. He’s a powerful people mover with surprisingly light feet. Hernandez was the 34th overall pick in 2018 and showed flashes with the Giants. Perhaps playing next to an All Pro caliber center like Jensen would help Hernandez find the constancy that eluded him in New York.
David Johnson, Running Back
There’s an obvious history between Johnson and Bruce Arians stemming back to their days with the Arizona Cardinals. In that time Johnson went from a largely unknown rookie out of Northern Iowa to one of the most productive running backs in the NFL. Not only did he make a name for himself as a ball carrier, but as a great pass catcher as well.
Johnson is towards the end of his career now and will turn 31 this year. And while he has lost a step in his old age, he can still be part of a running back rotation. His blocking and pass catching skills are still there which would make Johnson a great veteran presence for a group that will likely include two players on rookie contracts.
Maxx Williams, Tight End
Of course the hope is that Rob Gronkowski will come back to Tampa and reunite with Tom Brady. And while anything feels possible right now, the Buccaneers have to run out of money at some point, right?
Williams could be an acceptable replacement if Gronkowski doesn’t return. Sure there would be a drop-off in pass catching production, but Williams can step in and be the same type of blocker. Nit a splashy signing, but Williams can be a contributor for the Buccaneers at a reasonable price.
Auden Tate, Wide Receiver
If you’re looking for bottom of the barrel value then Tate is the guy for you. His 6’5 and 230 lbs size add a dimension to this wide receiver group that only Mike Evans provides. And while he lacks speed, he can do the little things such as block and make tough contested catches.
I can’t tell you that Tate would solve all the Buccaneers receiving issues. However, I think he can bring more to this offense than a guy like Tyler Johnson. Tate could be the depth pass catcher that this team needs and was so obviously lacking last season.
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