Buccaneers Could Get Exposed at Cornerback in 2024

Zyon McCollum

Getty Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Zyon McCollum.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signaled to their own team and the rest of the NFL they were making big changes at cornerback when they traded Carlton Davis and two sixth-round picks to the Detroit Lions in exchange for a third-round pick in March 2024.

The Buccaneers made the move to clear salary cap space to sign veterans like Baker Mayfield, Mike Evans, Antoine Winfield and, presumably, Tristan Wirfs, but it’s a move that might come back to hurt the team as it pursues a fourth consecutive NFC South Division title and fifth consecutive playoff berth, according to The Athletic’s Dan Pompei, who listed the cornerback position as the biggest question mark for the Buccaneers headed into training camp.

“The Buccaneers have a good (cornerback) in Jamel Dean but are counting on Zyon McCollum to become a starter,” Pompei wrote. “The 2022 fifth-round pick held up in nine starts last season, allowing three touchdowns but breaking up nine passes. The Bucs traded Carlton Davis because they needed cap space … But for their gamble to work, they need McCollum to live up to their expectations. Third-round corner Tykee Smith likely will get work as the nickel corner.”

Can McCollum Set Standard at CB for Bucs?

McCollom, 6-foot-2 and 199 pounds, blew scouts away at the NFL combine by running the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds.

Projected as a third or fourth-round pick, the Buccaneers selected McCollom in the fifth round (No. 157 overall) in the 2022 NFL draft. He was a three-time All-Southland Conference pick and won an FCS national championship then transitioned to FBS with the program and was an All-WAC pick in 2021.

In May, PFF’s Bradley Locker singled out McCollom as a possible breakout star for the Buccaneers in 2024.

“Tampa Bay sent stud cornerback Carlton Davis III to Detroit, leaving a gap in its secondary,” Locker wrote. “One of the top names to step up is McCollum, who should start on the outside next to Jamel Dean. McCollum hasn’t been superb through two seasons, with both years ending with an overall grade no higher than 50.4, but his tackling and run defense play each improved in his second year. After all, he already has Todd Bowles’ trust, with his 870 snaps in 2023 ranking fourth on Tampa.”

McCollum will be playing for nothing less than his future in the NFL this season — the Buccaneers will have to make a decision on the fifth-year option on his contract in early 2025.

Buccaneers Haven’t Had Star at CB in Years

Whether McCollum can be a serviceable starter or a star at cornerback, it’s been a long time since the Buccaneers could point to that as a position of strength on the roster.

The Buccaneers haven’t had a cornerback selected to the Pro Bowl since Darrelle Revis in 2013 and haven’t had an NFL All-Pro cornerback since Ronde Barber was a three-time All-Pro in 2001, 2004 and 2005.

In 2024, the Buccaneers have Dean, who signed a 4-year, $52 million contract extension in March 2023 and McCollum, but beyond that lack much depth. Free agent Bryce Hall and second-year player Josh Hayes, a sixth-round pick in 2023, are currently listed as the backups at cornerback on the depth chart.

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