Four Top Defensive Ends Bucs Can Target in 2015

NFL NEWS: Tampa Bay Bucs

One of the things the Bucs can make a splash in the off season is at defensive end where there is no shortage of talent.

The 2014 Bucs finished with the 25th ranked defense with the fifth worst passing defense and the 19th ranked rushing defense. What might explain the awful passing defense might be the lack of effective pass rush as the team finished with 36 sacks for the season, good enough tied with Washington and San Francisco for 21st.

Here are four names who can possibly make an impact to the team.

Giants_Jason Pierre-Paul_2013

Jason Pierre-Paul

The five-year, two-time Pro Bowler could be up for a homecoming to Tampa given his University of South Florida roots. Pierre-Paul had a lackluster 2013 missing five games and suffering career lows in total tackles (27), solo tackles (20) and sacks (2). Since then hes recovered this year with 77 total tackles, 53 solo tackles, 12.5 sacks and a career-high three forced fumbles.

Pierre-Paul becomes a more attractive option than Carolina Panthers Greg Hardy give the near $9 million cap difference. Pierre-Paul, who is currently making $4.6 million, wont command anywhere near Hardys $13 million on top of his past legal troubles.

For those who dream of Gerald McCoy teaming up with Detroit Lions tackle Ndamukong Suh, this might be the next best (and affordable) choice.

Pierre-Paul has 42 career sacks despite most of them coming in 2014 and 2011, when the New York Giants won Super Bowl XLVI, with a dominant 16.5 sacks for the season.

Jerry Hughes

Hughes came to his own since arriving in Buffalo with the Bills, first under defensive coordinator Mike Pettine (now Cleveland Browns head coach) then under Jim Schwartz. Hughes finished 2013 with 32 total tackles, 14 assisted, 10 sacks and two fumbles forced. The following year, he had 36 total tackles, 17 assisted, 9.5 sacks and three fumbles forced.

Adrian Clayborn, by comparison, has only 13 sacks through four years with the Bucs. Two of those years were shortened by injury.

Hughes wouldnt make a bad alternative should Pierre-Paul re-signs with the Giants or signs elsewhere.

Mario Edwards Jr. Florida StateMario Edwards, Jr.

This prospect from Florida State stands at 6-foot-3 and 300 lb. with first and second round potential. Edwards versatility can allow him to function as a 3-4 defensive end or a 4-3 defensive tackle, according to CBS Sports. His power and height can present problems for quarterbacks as an edge rusher and run stuffer. Edwards was a main factor in helping the Seminoles runs in 2013 and 2014 compiling a combined 72 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks within their title and Rose Bowl runs.

While the Bucs may focus on QB and offensive line help within the first two picks, Edwards could be an option should the Bucs invest an extra pick within the first three rounds by trading down.

Trey Flowers_GettyTrey Flowers

Flowers is an ideal defensive end for a Tampa 2 system with his speed off the corner posting a 4.8, 40 time. The Arkansas prospect stands at 6-foot-2 and 268 lb. Voted second-team All-SEC in 2014, Flowers amassed 44 tackles, including 13.5 for loss and five sacks, plus three forced fumbles and an interception. He posted similar numbers in 2013 with 50 tackles, including 13 for loss and six sacks.

According to CBS Sports, he may not have the ideal flexibility, explosive quick twitch or the straight-line speed to be a featured stand-up rusher in the NFL, but makes up for it with his versatility and pursuit.

Should Flowers drop to the third round, dont be surprised if the Bucs pick him up to shore up their pass rush.

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About Tom

Tom Chang is a freelance journalist with a background in multimedia journalism and web publishing. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Journalism and Media Studies from the University of South Florida St.Petersburg. He graduated in 2004 with a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communications at USF Tampa. Tom's interests include a little bit of everything from entertainment to sports. He also wishes to delve into creative writing writing sci-fi/fantasy stories. Tom was recently the Online Editor for USF St. Petersburg's the Crow's Nest, he joined the staff in January 2010 where he started freelance writing, photographing, copy editing and later became a staff writer. Tom’s freelance experience in journalism amassed a wide range of companies including Creative Loafing, The Focus Magazine, Lutz News, Examiner.com, and Tampa Tribune.
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