After the Monday afternoon release of Tanard Jackson, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers depth chart at the safety position looks awfully bare. With Jackson out and Cody Grimm’s future uncertain after a knee injury, the Bucs have only the trio of Larry Asante, Ahmad Black, and Devin Holland on the roster. None of the three have ever started a game at the NFL level. Ever.
So what are the Bucs to do? Go with unproven athletes at a vital position? In 2011, everyone witnessed what happens when you do that (see Mason Foster). With the amount of effort ($$) put into this upcoming season’s unit already, it is unlikely that Tampa will let the safety position fall by the wayside.
Despite the fact that many of the top tier players are already gone from the market (LaRon Landry, Thomas DeCoud, Tyvon Branch, Dashon Goldson), there are options out there for the Buccaneers.
Melvin Bullitt (Colts), Husain Abdullah (Vikings), Paul Oliver (Chargers) and Gibril Wilson (Bengals) all offer the Bucs options under the age of 30 years old.
Bullitt is likely the most sought after of the four, as he has been a visible contributor in the Colts secondary for the past five years. The problem with Bullitt has been injuries: he has started just five games over the past two seasons in Indy. He is a talented safety when he plays, the challenge would be to make sure that he is physically ready to go. Bullitt would also not cost all that much, considering that Landry took a one-year, $4 million deal from the Jets.
Wilson is another intriguing possibility. With over 600 career tackles and 13 interceptions, Wilson has a proven track record. But now, though, it looks like its year to year with the seven-year man out of Tennessee. Wilson has bounced from the Giants to the Raiders to Miami and then to Cincy over the past four seasons. He did rack up 128 tackles and a pair of picks three seasons ago in Oakland. Wilson could be a possible quick fix.
And then there is the crapshoot that is the NFL Draft. The “experts” see only two top rung guys at the position in this year’s class: Alabama’s Mark Barron and Notre Dame’s Harrison Smith. Neither player is worthy of the Bucs selection at number five, so Tampa will likely take shots in later rounds. There is a trio of intriguing middle round projections that could make sense for the Bucs.
LSU’s Brandon Taylor is one. Taylor’s draft stock has picked up steam as of late and he may go too high for the Bucs liking. He is fast and ferocious AND he was tutored by the current defensive backs coach in Tampa – Ron Cooper. Taylor looks a lot like Landry when he came out of Baton Rouge, only with less fanfare. Bringing a talent like Taylor on board in the third round would be a coup for the pewter and red.
Antonio Allen of South Carolina is another player that continues to rise up the board. Allen is big-time tackler and should thrive against the run. His pass defense has been questioned as has his speed, but his pedigree at a solid SEC program should get him a chance. Taking Allen in the third is a stretch, seeing him in the fourth would be nice, though.
And finally there’s a wild card. Janzen Jackson, a 5’11” free safety out of McNeese State University, has all the tools to be an every down NFL player. Janzen was dismissed from the University of Tennessee after some off-the-field issues before joining McNeese, something that may turn off the Tampa brass. Janzen is fast and a great cover safety. He needs to improve in the run game but has the physical tools to make it. Janzen would be a phenomenal pick in the fifth round.
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