THE QB MUST GO DOWN
Tom Jones, @tomwjones: The exact same thing the Bucs have needed the past decade: an elite edge pass-rusher. They haven't had a decent one since Simeon Rice. And it's so bad that Rice volunteered to come back and play again. There are two ways to get a pass rusher. One is through free agency, but you need a Brink's truck for that. The second (and best) way is to draft one. And the Bucs should get a high enough first-round pick to get one next spring.
Ernest Hooper, @hoop4you: I know I keep hammering away at this theme, but to me it's the difference between winning and losing the close games. Sure, they need a better pass rush and a stronger secondary to contend with Drew Brees and Matt Ryan, but to beat the likes of Buffalo and a "Rodger-less" Green Bay, someone has to step up and show them to how to prepare, how to start games and how to close them out. I'd pluck a veteran free agent from the Super Bowl champion and have him spend the summer at the Derrick Brooks/Dave Andreychuk Leadership Institute to ensure he's ready.
INVEST IN SACKS
Greg Auman, @gregauman: From a personnel standpoint, it has to start with an elite pass-rusher, if not two. If that means writing a big check for a Calais Campbell-level impact addition in free agency, it might be worth going against the Bucs’ usual priority of saving the biggest contracts for in-house extensions. Whatever defense they run in 2018, its success will be predicated on getting to the quarterback, at least occasionally.
CLONE J.J. WATT?
Thomas Bassinger, @tometrics: Above all else, the Bucs need edge rushers. Note the plural. One isn't enough. No team has struggled to generate pressure like Tampa Bay. The Bucs hurry, hit or sack the quarterback only once every five plays. Contrast them with the Bengals, who generate pressure the most often — once every three plays. Tampa Bay will have a hard time finding a defensive end in free agency. Demarcus Lawrence and Ezekiel Ansah are two names to keep an eye on, but there's no guarantee they'll hit the market. The most cost-effective route is the draft. A 4-12 finish might sting a little less come April 26.]]>