Video: Breaking Down the Bucs’ Free Agency on Defense

The first week of NFL Free Agency has ended and who could have anticipated that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would have made so many moves? A total of nine new free agents signed with the team, including two that came on Sunday, right after we shot this video. In this two-part series I discuss the new additions on both sides of the ball, starting with the defense. In a third video, I discuss the departure of Darrelle Revis.

I’ve mentioned on here before that Tampa Bay needed a dominant edge rusher in the likeness of a Simeon Rice, Julius Peppers, Jared Allen — something that is imperative to make this defense work. The Bucs believe they got that in Michael Johnson, a player I mentioned last week in my Free Agency Preview last week. In his best season, 2012, Johnson had a breakout year, recording 11 1/2 sacks.

In 2013, he saw his sack production drop swiftly, registering just 3 1/2 sacks, yet managed to record career-highs in quarterback pressures (61) and tackles (56), and fared better against the run. The potential is there, and you could see it in 2012, but Johnson needs to become more consistent as a pass rusher to help this defense thrive.

Johnson’s deal is for five years, $43.75 million with $9 million guaranteed in 2014 and an average yearly salary of $8.75 million, which is ninth in the league, just ahead of Everson Griffen, who I also mentioned in my free agency preview and will make an average of $8.5 million with the Vikings. Griffen, however, will make more guaranteed. Bottom line — they didn’t operate outside their means and didn’t break the bank to land him.

The Bucs added bolstered the pass rush even more by adding defensive tackle Clinton McDonald from the Seahawks. McDonald isn’t the run-stuffer that Roy Miller was and that Akeem Spence showed he can be. He’s a pass rushing nose tackle who recorded 5 1/2 sacks last year. Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy has never played with a force like this inside, so I’m anxious to see how those two mesh. His deal is for four years and $12 million.

The Bucs landed a cornerback in Alterraun Verner, signing him to a four-year deal worth $25.5 million, a move that ultimately allowed them to part ways with Darrelle Revis. Is he the next Revis? No, but he doesn’t need to man an island in this defense. Verner has the ball skills, the instincts and the quickness to thrive in a zone-based scheme.  And they got him at a bargain. Sam Shields re-upped with the Packers for four years and $39 million. Aqib Talib signed with the Broncos for six years and $57 million.

The Bucs finished out the week signing linebacker Dane Fletcher shortly after this video was taken. Fletcher was a special teams ace for the Patriots and showed a lot of versatility, playing outside and inside linebacker and even lining up at fullback in red zone situations. With Adam Hayward’s departure, it was crucial to find a player who has this type of versatility, as it ultimately leads to more roster flexibility.