Bucs Named As Potential Landing Spot For Free Agent Pass Rusher - Sport News

Bucs Named As Potential Landing Spot For Free Agent Pass Rusher

It’s no secret that the Bucs need more from their pass rush in 2024, and as a result, there is bound to be some turnover in the team’s outside linebacker room this offseason.

Shaq Barrett is a prime candidate to be a salary cap casualty, as his production no longer matches his salary cap number. He will always be one of the Bucs’ best-ever free agent signings, but he’ll likely be cut and one of the team’s starting outside linebacker spots will be vacant.

Bucs Named As Potential Landing Spot For Free Agent Pass Rusher

It seems unlikely that it will go to Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, as he lost his own starting spot to 2023 third-round pick Yaya Diaby late last season. Tryon-Shoyinka’s fifth-year option for 2025 isn’t going to be picked up, and he’ll likely be a rotational player with the likes of Anthony Nelson, Markees Watts and potentially Jose Ramirez in 2024.

So, who might slot in to fill the outside linebacker spot opposite Diaby, who was the Bucs’ leading sacker in 2023 with 7.5 quarterback captures? That’s a role that could be filled through the draft, but it’s also one that general manager Jason Licht and head coach Todd Bowles look to address in free agency.

Given how much money they’ll need to commit to their own free agents, they won’t be in the mix for top free agent pass rushers like Josh Allen and Brian Burns. If the Bucs are going to sign a free agent edge rusher, it’ll be someone on a more value-driven deal. Pewter Report’s Josh Queipo recently outlined two potential names that could interest Tampa Bay, with one being a higher-priced free agent and the other being a cheaper option.

Another potential name of interest for the Bucs, at least according to Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger, might be former Cowboys EDGE Dorance Armstrong. Spielberger named Tampa Bay as a potential landing spot for the 26-year-old in an article this week. PFF’s 85th-ranked free agent this offseason, Armstrong was linked to the Bucs and Commanders by Spielberger:

“Tampa Bay needs more juice off the edge, even with a crop of young talent making strides, and Armstrong would be a great addition to a rotation coming off the highest pass-rush grade of his career.

“New Commanders head coach Dan Quinn knows he’s joining a team that just traded both Montez Sweat and Chase Young at this past year’s deadline, so he recruits Armstrong to follow him. In the three seasons before Dan Quinn arrived in Dallas, Armstrong had 29 total quarterback pressures on 451 pass-rush snaps. In three seasons with Quinn, Armstrong had at least 34 pressures in each year on at most 325 pass-rush snaps.”

Would Dorance Armstrong Make Sense For The Bucs?
After playing his college ball at Kansas, Dorance Armstrong was the Cowboys’ fourth-pick round in the 2018 Draft. He’s only started games sparingly throughout his career, having played in 93 games with 14 starts over six years.

He had just a half-sack as a rookie and two as a second-year player before failing to register a quarterback takedown in year three. But after a five-sack output in 13 games during the 2021 season, Dallas re-signed him to a two-year, $12 million deal.

Over the last two years, Armstrong’s production has increased. In 2022, he played in all 17 games (with five starts) and tallied a career-high 8.5 sacks. Then, despite just starting one game in 2023, he posted another 7.5 sacks over 17 games as a rotational player.

Now, the 6-foot-4, 255-pound pass rusher is set to hit free agency again in 2024.

Dorance Armstrong’s Pass Rush Production Since 2018 (Hits/Hurries Per PFF):

2018: 0.5 sack, 1 QB hit, 7 hurries
2019: 2 sacks, 3 QB hits, 5 hurries
2020: 0 sacks, 1 QB hit, 9 hurries
2021: 5 sacks, 7 QB hits, 23 hurries
2022: 8.5 sacks, 10 QB hits, 24 hurries
2023: 7.5 sacks, 4 QB hits, 22 hurries

Armstrong’s production has steadily increased over the course of his career, and his PFF grades largely have too. His best-graded year was this past season.

Dorance Armstrong’s PFF Grades Since 2018:

2018: 52.6 overall, 51.5 run defense, 57.3 tackling, 55.1 pass rush, 57.5 coverage
2019: 57.4 overall, 63.8 run defense, 37.1 tackling, 52.4 pass rush, 62.3 coverage
2020: 56.0 overall, 58.8 run defense, 61.2 tackling, 43.6 pass rush, 74.4 coverage
2021: 65.7 overall, 67.5 run defense, 78.5 tackling, 60.0 pass rush, 62.0 coverage
2022: 61.7 overall, 57.3 run defense, 59.3 tackling, 60.5 pass rush, 73.5 coverage
2023: 69.6 overall, 58.1 run defense, 71.4 tackling, 69.7 pass rush, 72.4 coverage

Armstrong’s coverage grades in particular may draw Todd Bowles’ attention, but the fact that he’s ascended toward his pass rushing peak in recent years is bound to be intriguing for the Bucs’ brass as well. He only turns 27 this summer, too. Spielberger compares his free agent profile to that of Samson Ebukam, who signed a three-year, $24 million deal ($10.755 guaranteed, $9 million signing bonus) with the Colts last offseason.

A deal worth around $8 million per year for Armstrong would be along the same lines as what Pewter Report’s Josh Queipo is projecting for New England’s Josh Uche, though Queipo’s projection for Uche was for just one year (at $8.5 million) and Uche is a little over a year younger.

If Tampa Bay is looking for a starting outside linebacker, might it be a gamble to bring in a player who has just 14 career starts to his name? It could be a gamble, sure, but when you’re searching for value and can’t pony up the money for the high-end free agent pass rushers, there’s bound to be some risk involved.

Shaq Barrett only had 15 starts to his name when he came on board in 2019. Now, he proved to be an a real gem and he’s more of the exception than the rule. But at the right value, Armstrong may have enough upside be of interest to the Bucs — especially with an edge rusher draft class that isn’t all that deep.

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