Bucs should spend big on Olivier Vernon, not Doug Martin

Mike Renner identifies key players to re-sign, let walk, and target for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

| 8 months ago
(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Bucs should spend big on Olivier Vernon, not Doug Martin

The Buccaneers made a step in the right direction on offense in 2015 after drafting Jameis Winston with the No. 1-overall pick, but their defensive ineptitude relegated them to a 6-10 finish and sent Lovie Smith packing. Tampa Bay will have to overhaul their defense that is not only bereft of talent, but is also starting a handful of players that were specifically chosen for Lovie Smith’s scheme. With almost $50 million in projected cap space, the Buccaneers can use free agency as a nice crutch to take the next step towards the playoffs.


CB Sterling Moore

There aren’t too many starters from the Bucs entering free agency this offseason, though Moore was one by the end of the season. After signing a relatively inexpensive one-year deal with Tampa Bay last offseason, Moore graded out around average in 729 snaps last year. He’s a versatile player who can matchup outside or in the slot. He didn’t “wow” by any means, but the Bucs could simply use a cheap, average corner in a secondary that’s lacking talent.

Let walk

RB Doug Martin

Letting our top-ranked running back in 2015 go free might sound crazy at first, but the more I look at it, the more it makes sense. There is no doubt Martin is an impact player and he’ll likely command top dollar for the way he can impact both the run and the pass. But with a back as talented as Charles Sims locked up for the next two seasons, why risk throwing money at a running back that could revert to 2013-2014 Doug Martin if he gets nicked up?

S Chris Conte

The Bucs are desperate for help in the secondary, but holding on to Chris Conte isn’t the answer. The safety has proven to be of little use outside of a cover-2 heavy scheme throughout his career and wasn’t even anything special in that. If they are looking for a starter next year, it should be elsewhere.

DT Henry Melton

It was an odd signing from the beginning, seeing as Melton plays the same position as Gerald McCoy. Without much money invested though, the Bucs shouldn’t double down on their mistake.


DE Olivier Vernon

The Bucs are utterly desperate for edge pressure and have the cap space that Miami doesn’t have to go out and get Vernon. He’s only 25 years old and would be a cornerstone of that defense for the foreseeable future if they could nab him. Vernon’s 30 quarterback hits in 2015 were more than the entire starting defensive line for Tampa Bay. It would also allow them more freedom in the draft and not have them locked in on an edge defender.

S Walter Thurmond

More defense, go figure. They could stand to add another receiver, but their secondary is such a mess that revamping it should be a major priority. If the Bucs do go after a high priced edge rusher, they’ll want a more modestly priced safety and Walter Thurmond is that guy. He graded out positively in coverage, run defense, and pass rushing in his first year as a safety in Philadelphia and would be a step up from anyone else on the roster.

| Senior Analyst

Mike is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has also been featured on The Washington Post, ESPN Insider, and 120 Sports.

  • JudoPrince

    How much is Vernon going to cost though? I know he was rated high by PFF last year but he only had 7.5 sacks and 6.5 the year before. Will he ever be a consistent double digit sack player? Is it worth breaking the bank the bank for a player that will give you a Charles Johnson level of production?

    • D.B.

      I think the importance of someone who pressures the quarterback is really highlighted when they have a secondary behind them. If Olivier doesn’t have a secondary to keep wideouts covered, then his pressures won’t turn into sacks.

    • Frank Yi

      Valid question. His pass rush grade has increased every season, but a 40 point jump in the grade from 2014 to 2015 brings to question is he improving, or will his performance regress towards the mean? However, the Bucs have over $35 million in cap space next season, so they could afford to make a run at him.

      • Tim Edell

        It was once said that the Bucs had cap money so why not sign Anthony Collins, Michael Johnson, and Dashon Goldson. Be careful what you wish for and not bank on FA.

        • Frank Yi

          The difference here is that Collins, Johnson, and Goldson were something of a one-year wonder. Collins wasn’t a full-time player for most of his early career. Johnson had 2 positively graded seasons, the second being his breakout season. Goldson only ever graded positively ONCE in his career, and at +1.8, only barely.

          Vernon has the benefit of being a full-time player every season; the concern is how much of that was due to being in a contract year? His best comparison might be Pernell McPhee from last season. McPhee mostly improved over his career, with a big jump in his contract year. As long as you think he is a hard worker, this is the type of guy you would want to target (within a reasonable, non-Suh like contract)

    • Ron Morisseau

      There’s more to pass rushing than sacks…Over the last 10 weeks of the season Olivier Vernon recorded more pressures (64) than any other player in the NFL.

      • Baaadbuc

        The Dolphins record was 6-10 Like the Bucs, Not sure Vernon will help The Bucs anymore than he helped Miami !

        • Ron Morisseau

          Vernon will not make a difference on a 6-10 team

          • Tim Edell

            Anytime you add talented players such as Vernon of course it will make a difference…dumb statement!!

  • crosseyedlemon

    Of course if the Bucs send Doug on his way and it’s Sims who gets hit with an injury then Winston is left standing naked as a jaybird with no run support. Upgrading the defense is certainly important but having already committed to Winston I think Tampa needs to solidify their offensive situation first.

    • Frank Yi

      But there are plenty of good running backs available in the draft too, so drafting his replacement (or Sims’s backup) can come cheap

      • crosseyedlemon

        Perhaps but money isn’t the only consideration here. Winning is about attitude as much as anything else. If players see management show no loyalty to someone who has been been a huge contributor (as Martin was last season) it creates a negative psychological effect throughout the team.

        • Frank Yi

          True, how the team treats players is important. However, Martin has consistency and injury issues. It’s not like he’s been great 4 seasons in a row. They’ve rewarded Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David the last couple of seasons, so they have shown inclination to take care of their own

  • Ben harvey

    RBs are easy to come by but elite ones are not. Martin was extremely important to Winston last year and with all the money they have available, why risk letting him walk over a few million? I only give Martin 1 year of injury as the 2014-2015 down year for Martin was also due to the fact the Bucs had the worst oline in franchise history. In fact, charles sims posted even worse stats than martin that year. Twice in Martins career he finished 2nd in rushing. If backs were a dime a dozen youd see more teams picking up backs that could do similar production but they cant. If you want an elite back, they are drafted in first round which the bucs invested in Martin. Now time to pay him. They can still go out and get a pass rusher as well. With jackson and mankins salary plus carter and potentially verners off the books after next year. No reason not to invest in the spark plug of this offense. Dont be cheap and try and fix something that isnt broken. Go bucs.

  • Ron Morisseau

    If I were the Dolphins I’d put a A “non-exclusive” franchise tag on Vernon thus you want him it will cost you 2 first round picks

  • Mike J.

    As I sent some Tampa Bay quasi-media folk recently:

    ”Personally, I don’t much like tying up a load of cash on a HB. They are nice to have, & I love the run game, but backs don’t win championships.”

  • bill jaffe

    i think letting Martin go is okay because RB’s are easier to replace than any other postion

  • Texas Kelly

    Bucs might have $50 million in cap space. There’s no reason we can’t afford to re-sign Martin AND get Vernon. The coaching staff is also on record that they don’t see Sims as a workhorse guy… if we were to let Martin go (which should only happen if Martin’s $ demands are obscene), we would then need to target RB in a draft we need to be focusing on the defense.

  • StackJackin

    Why not Franchise Tag Martin?
    You drop martin… Evans or Sims go down.. Lost Season

  • TJ Bucs

    Letting Doug Martin walk is a BIG mistake. I think he has put those injury ridden seasons behind him.But the Bucs seem to always mess with success. How many players have been let go by the only to excel for a new team. Doug will do the same thing and this will come back to bite the Bucs right in the ASS. Count on it.