There’s no doubt that the Buccaneers want to rid themselves of a disappointing 5-11, 2017 season, as soon as possible. And they, like the other 31 NFL teams, have begun the process of re-tooling, adding and subtracting players, already.
And with those changes, come questions about existing players on the roster and their future roles.
Tuesday morning at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando, Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter addressed some of those changes and what it means for guys that he has coming back for 2018.
First, with RB Doug Martin released (later signing with the Raiders), the Bucs don’t have full time proven starting running back on their roster. As we have written, soon to be third year un-drafted Peyton Barber did get a couple of starts last year and is the logical guy in line to get reps in training camp and preseason as the starter.
Further, the Buccaneers did not sign a proven running back, as of yet, in free agency. So, on Tuesday, when Koetter was asked about Barber, this answer was not a surprise:
"Peyton Barber is our starting running back right now," said Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter, adding that his confidence level in him is "high." But he also indicated that it could change. They did target a free agent running back and that it's a talented… https://t.co/M8wjoPmhII
— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) March 27, 2018
It’s also entirely possible that Tampa Bay will draft a running back coming up. Now, it’s not likely that they will do so at the #7 pick. Instead, it’s believed that there will be plenty of backs later in the first round, the second, etc. that could come in and help.
Next the subject of the shifting on the offensive line came up Tuesday morning. And since the Bucs spent heavily on Ravens free agent center Ryan Jensen, that means that last year’s center, Ali Marpet is moving back to guard. We wrote about this previously, also, as Marpet played right guard his first two years in the NFL.
Interestingly, Koetter told the media at the breakfast that the team intends to use Marpet, for now, at left guard., when training camp, etc. get started:
Bucs Ali Marpet will play LG according to Dirk Koetter.
— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) March 27, 2018
That would be different for him, and would also place him next to one of his best friends, left tackle Donovan Smith. They were both drafted together in the second round of the 2015 draft class.
It also means that the right guard J.R. Sweezy, who started 14 games there in 2017, but was largely a disappointment last season, is for now, going to be back.
We write, “for now,” because Sweezy is scheduled to make $6.5 million this year. And, the Buccaneers have re-signed veteran guard Evan Smith over the weekend, who has played significantly at both guard positions in his four years in Tampa Bay and previously, with the Packers.
The Bucs could also draft a guard at #7 (Quenton Nelson of Notre Dame, anyone?), too.
Finally, Koetter was asked about former 2016 #1 pick, DB Vernon Hargreaves, who struggled at times last season, was demoted to third corner back. He played in the slot more, as the year went on, and eventually suffered a hamstring injury that put him on I.R.
Koetter told the media that he has confidence in Hargreaves and where they are using him:
Koetter said Hargreaves played good at nickel. Not a team in the league that wouldn’t want Vernon as a nickel. At very least will be our starting nickel.
— PewterReport (@PewterReport) March 27, 2018
The Bucs re-sgined veteran Brent Grimes, but have allowed Robert McClain to test free agency for now. And if McClain leaves, then Hargreaves may very well get the shot to go back and play outside receivers, again.
All in all, an interesting March Tuesday morning breakfast for Buc fans to get updates on their team.
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