Free Agent Options To Bolster The Buccaneers Run Game

Buccaneers top Vikings 20-17 as Baker Mayfield finishes strong in his debut ap/photo

By –Jeremy Morrow – Bucs Report Special to Sports Talk Florida

For the Buccaneers offense to become more dynamic they may need to add some more help out of the backfield. Spelling Rachaad White would provide a boost to his endurance through games and a wrinkle in the play calling. Here are three inexpensive free-agent options that the Buccaneers could bring in in order to help the situation.

J.K Dobbins

There is a huge question mark that looms over Dobbins at this moment. It all stems from injury concerns. After an impressive rookie season Dobbins missed the entire 2021 season with a torn ACL that he suffered in the last preseason game. In 2022 Dobbins didn’t see the field until week three and in week six suffered yet another knee injury. Then, as a final nail in the coffin in Baltimore, Dobbins suffered a torn Achilles.  With only four years in the NFL he’s only been able to participate in 24 total games. So why would the Buccaneers consider the potential of an injury prone player?

First, Dobbins isn’t a candidate to supplant White. In fact his use would be limited ultimately keeping his snaps low and hopefully mitigating injury concerns. Second, given his history, he’s not going to command much money.

The draw for the Buccaneers is the potential that Dobbins has. In his rookie campaign, Dobbins rushed 134 times for 805 yards. A whopping six yards a carry. This resulted in nine rushing touchdowns and 38 first downs. One key number from the 2020 season is his very high 2.9 yards after contact average. Those are chain moving numbers. In his brief return in 2022 he posted similar numbers. On 92 attempts he averaged 5.7 yards a carry with 2.2 yards after contact average.  All phenomenal numbers.

If he can return to even 75% of his former self the price the Buccaneers would pay would still come across as a bargain. If he can’t the likely prove it deal wouldn’t be too detrimental to the cap.

Kareem Hunt

It seems as though whenever Hunt is available Buccaneers fans, including myself, are always intrigued by the thoughts of bringing him in. This may be due in part to earlier in his career where he showed himself as a duel threat, shifty running back with the potential to burst into big plays. The question becomes how much does he have left. Currently he’s 28 years old and coming off of sparing use over the past few years. This could indicate he has some treed left on the tiers and could be cost effective.

There is some upside that could be had with Hunt. One big plus is his skill set looks similar to that of White’s. Providing new offensive coordinator Liam Coen with an opportunity, when resting White, to maintain the same style of play calling. Another plus is he may have some carry over with Baker Mayfield from his time in Cleveland. This familiarity would instantly provide a level of trust between quarterback and running back if Baker is retained too. Unfortunately as we break down Hunt’s use from last season he has posted some of his worst numbers yet. 2023 saw his lowest yards per attempt and yards a reception.

Could he revive a little of his former self in Tampa? Possibly, and it wouldn’t cost much.

Antonio Gibson

Often overlooked are players on losing teams. They fall to the way side and don’t command as much respect as they should simply because they are tied to a losing effort. This is the case for Gibson. Adding to detraction is the fact that he also falls behind Brian Robinson Jr. on the depth chart. Further burying him from being highlighted. This however can help the Buccaneers secure a quality and complimentary back to White for a lower than expected price for his output.

Averaging 4.1 yards per carry and 7.5 yards per catch so far in his career Gibson has been a model of consistency. This in particular stands out considering the abysmal offensive lines Washington has fielded for a few years. Add in the fact that with mismanaged team things typically go sideways. Players typical suffer, especially an offensive player and their stat line. For Gibson it’s come in the way of snap share with Robinson, nothing more. But this too helps the Buccaneers. His lack of starting quality snaps reduces the wear and tear on his body. For example last season he only had 65 total snaps.

Final Thought

I think at this point the Buccaneers bring in another running back this offseason. To do so free agency offers some really good options. Of those listed above I feel as though Gibson would be a great fit. He’s a change of pace do it all back who has been in a bad situation in Washington. Given they are rebuilding he may take a chance on the Buccaneers who should be in the hunt for the payoffs. Add in the small contract he likely will receive elsewhere he may be tempted by the Florida income tax situation.

More importantly is another key aspect. Sneakily Gibson averaged more yards per carry than Saquan Barkley, Josh Jacobs, Derrick Henry, Austin Ekler, and Tony Pollard last season. Moreover, he averaged more yards per catch than all those mentioned, and D’Andre Swift with the exception of Austin Ekler. Not bad.

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