Few teams in the NFL entered the offseason needing to alter their secondary as radically as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after Greg Schiano's team surrendered seven 300-yard performances and finished last in the league against the pass in 2012.
It has been a point of emphasis for the Bucs' over the last several weeks after the signing of hard-hitting former 49ers safety Dashon Goldson and the unexpected return of talented, but beleaguered cornerback Eric Wright. Both moves pale in comparison to the acquisition of Darrelle Revis, whom Tampa acquired on Sunday for a first-round pick in this week's Draft and a conditional 2014 fourth-round pick that could turn into a third-round selection.
CBSSports.com NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reported that the Bucs agreed to terms on a six-year deal with Revis for $96 million. Revis will not received any money guaranteed, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.
Revis' ability to lock down an opponent's primary receiver in press-man coverage could have wide-ranging ramifications for the Bucs' defense. Goldson, who is regarded for his deep coverage in single-high sets (opposing quarterbacks finished with a 44.8 rating when targeting him in 2012 according to Pro Football Focus), could be rolled often to Wright's side while Revis assumes his customary role on an island. Revis' presence could also allow the Bucs to eschew Cover-2 sets and use safety Mark Barron in the box to cover the run, which appears to suit his skill-set. The addition of Revis may even convince Ronde Barber to delay retirement and return to the Bucs, where he can be utilized at nickel to defend slot receivers on underneath routes.
While the acquisition of Revis could be considered costly, the risk may be worth it. The NFC South contains a plethora of strong, physical receivers in Julio Jones, Roddy White and Marques Colston, as well as rangy, playmaking tight ends in Jimmy Graham, Tony Gonzalez and Greg Olsen. And though Steve Smith lacks the size of the aforementioned receivers, he compensates with tenacity and superior ball skills. In six games against NFC South teams in 2012, the Bucs allowed an average of 305 passing yards per game and a completion percentage of 68.2. The trio of Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton finished with a touchdown to interception ratio of 12:4 and an average quarterback rating of 104.8.
In February, the Bucs added former Jaguars secondary coach Tony Oden to coach the cornerbacks. Defensive assistant Jeff Hafley remains on the staff to coach the safeties. Previously, Oden spent five seasons in a similar capacity with the Saints. During Oden's tenure, the Saints were adept at creating points off turnovers. From 2009 to 2011, the Saints' defense scored nine touchdowns off turnovers and ranked third in the NFL in interception return yards with 928.
Revis has been known for his big-play ability dating back to his days at the University of Pittsburgh. In 2006, the former Panthers cornerback became the first player in school history to return interceptions for touchdowns in consecutive games. Revis could be reunited with former Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt, who was added to the Bucs' staff as a Special Teams coordinator. When Revis declared for the 2007 NFL Draft, Wannstedt had little apprehension that he could materialize into an elite corner on the next level.
"Having coached in the NFL, I know what teams are looking for and Darrelle has both the necessary tangibles and intangibles,” Wannstedt said at the time. “Somebody is going to get one heck of a cornerback in this spring's draft."
The upgrades in the Bucs' secondary could be wasteful if Tampa is unable to pressure the quarterback more effectively in the upcoming season. In 2012, the Bucs ranked 31st in sacks per pass attempt (4.31 percent) -- only the Jaguars were less successful at getting to opposing quarterbacks. Tampa Bay also lost defensive linemen Michael Bennett and Roy Miller in the offseason. On the interior line, injuries have kept Gerald McCoy out of 13 games in three seasons. The Bucs could address needs at defensive end and tackle with the picks not surrendered in a trade for Revis.
When asked about acquiring Revis in recent days, Schiano has refused to answer questions on the 2009 AFC Defensive Player of the Year. The Bucs' second-year coach, though, reportedly picked Revis up from the Tampa International Jet Center on Sunday before the deal was confirmed.
"I hope you understand why I have to answer the way I do because that's the rules and I certainly understand why you ask the question," Schiano told the Tampa Bay Times on April 15. "Generically, I'll answer not in this situation [but] whenever we can get better, we're going to do it. I don't care if it's midnight."
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