Tampa Bay Buccaneers team needs: Pass defense will require an overhaul

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

The Buccaneers ranked as the best team in the NFL against the run, despite finishing with the No. 29 total defense, thanks to a pass defense that was the league's worst.

The Buccaneers spent plenty of money during the 2012 offseason and it appeared as though it was going to pay off with a trip to the postseason. That was until a five-game losing streak in the latter half of the season ended up costing them a chance to continue their season in the playoffs.

More: Bucs Nation

The principal concern for the team in the offseason is to fix a defense that allowed the fourth-most yardage in the NFL, despite ranking as the NFL's best defense against the run. Simply put, the pass defense was awful as opposing quarterbacks averaged more than 300 yards passing against the Buccaneers secondary.

Biggest need: Cornerback

The Buccaneers secondary was a catastrophe during the 2012 season, as it allowed the most yardage in the NFL and the fifth-most touchdowns. One of the few young talents on the team, Aqib Talib, was eventually traded to the New England Patriots, ending a tumultuous career with the team that featured a number of off-the-field troubles.

Instead the Buccaneers turned to Eric Wright, E.J. Biggers and Ronde Barber to take the majority of the team's snaps at cornerback. Biggers and Barber are each scheduled to hit free agency during the offseason and Wright is considered a candidate to be a cap casualty for the team, leaving them devoid of starters in 2013.

Sander Philipse of SB Nation's Buccaneers blog, Bucs Nation, had this to say about the team's current list of options at cornerback:

Now that's a great list of cornerbacks, isn't it? A quality player who will almost certainly be released, a third-year seventh-round pick, an undrafted free agent, a failed third-round pick and another undrafted free agent. The Bucs need cornerbacks, they need lots of them, and they need them fast. They don't even have one worthy starter on the roster right now.

Other needs: Safety, defensive end, tight end

Along with the help at cornerback, the rest of the Tampa Bay secondary could use some help as Mark Barron, the team's first-round selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, could use a complementary player next to him. Perhaps if 37-year-old Barber chooses to return for another season they'll have a stop-gap at the position again, but even then, a young replacement needs to be waiting in the wings.

Only the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Oakland Raiders, two teams selecting in the top three of the 2013 NFL Draft, finished the season with fewer sacks than the Buccaneers. While Michael Bennett and Gerald McCoy provided a decent pass rush for the team, more pass rush is certainly needed to keep quarterbacks from being as comfortable as they were against Tampa Bay in 2012.

The Buccaneers offense finished in the top 10 in yardage gained after adding offensive lineman Carl Nicks and wide receiver Vincent Jackson; however, the team could use more help in the form of a pass catching tight end. Dallas Clark's days in the NFL are numbered and Luke Stocker is much more of a blocking tight end.

NFL Draft outlook: Buccaneers on the outside of the top 10

On the outside of the top 10 of the 2013 NFL Draft, not many expect the Buccaneers to be able to take the first cornerback off the board. Alabama's Dee Milliner isn't considered by most to be the elite cornerback prospect that Patrick Peterson was; however, it would surprise most if he was available at pick 13.

Regardless, in the latest mock draft from SB Nation's and Matthew Fairburn, he projected the Buccaneers to address their huge need at cornerback with their first round selecting, as they predicted it'll be Florida State's Xavier Rhodes instead.

After trading Aqib Talib, the Buccaneers' secondary was in shambles. Xavier Rhodes may seem like a reach here, but the gap between him and Milliner is not as big as some think. He's a rangy cornerback who would step in and upgrade this secondary immediately.

Salary cap situation: Buccaneers have plenty of room under the cap

The Pewter Plank says the Buccaneers had $31.3 million in room under the salary cap, placing them among the best salary cap situations in the NFL. If they wish to free up some more room, some have suggested the release of Wright, after he was suspended during the 2012 season. If they were to do so, it would free up another $7.75 million of cap room.

Other than that, though, the Buccaneers are unlikely to make many moves to help their salary cap situation as they are already well under the cap and don't have many contracts that will cost them huge hits during the 2013 season.

More in the NFL:

NFL Mock Draft: New names rising in first round

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Ranking the NFL's top offensive free agents

Joe Flacco and the history of $100 million contracts

The NFL's disappearing middle class

NFL news roundup: Roger Goodell terrified, Shawne Merriman retires and the latest on free agency

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