Former NFL GM Likes Buccaneers to Replace Carlton Davis III With ‘Terrific Safety’

Todd Bowles

Getty Todd Bowles could find a replacement for Carlton Davis in the draft.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers can fill a major hole through the draft next month despite no picks until No. 26 in the first round.

ESPN’s Mike Tannenbaum wrote he likes the Buccaneers selecting Iowa cornerback Cooper DeJean in his latest mock draft. DeJean could help alleviate the Buccaneers’ loss of cornerback Carlton Davis III in a trade with the Detroit Lions, and DeJean could provide insurance for safety Antoine Winfield Jr. as Tannenbaum sees it.

“Coach Todd Bowles loves versatility on the back end, and that’s exactly what DeJean brings to the table,” Tannenbaum wrote. “DeJean had seven interceptions over his final two seasons at Iowa and is an outstanding punt returner. Although I would start him at corner, he eventually could evolve into a terrific safety because of his 6-1 size, physicality and range.”

Tampa Bay might need DeJean at safety in a year if the Buccaneers can’t keep Winfield after the franchise tag. Winfield could command $18.4 million annually in 2025 per Spotrac.

Meanwhile, the loss of Davis leaves a significant void in the Buccaneers defensive backfield. Davis, a 2020 Super Bowl starter, tallied 324 tackles and nine interceptions in six seasons with the Buccaneers.

Besides stepping in a corner, DeJean as a punt returner could bolster the Buccaneers special teams. DeJean averaged 13.1 yards per punt return on 31 attempts, and he returned one for a touchdown — something the Buccaneers haven’t seen since 2010.

Overall, DeJean excelled as a tackler with 120 total tackles and five sacks in his career. He also tallied 13 pass deflections in 85 career games, and he averaged 18.9 yards per return amid his seven interceptions.

Cooper DeJean Considered the Best Cornerback in the Draft

Pro Football Focus’ Trevor Sikkema sees DeJean’s potential much like Tannenbaum does. Sikkema considers DeJean the top cornerback prospect in the draft, and PFF gives the former Hawkeyes star an A+ grade.

“The talk of DeJean playing outside cornerback or safety or slot cornerback at the next level is not due to lack of a home position; it’s because he could truly be an impact player anywhere,” Sikkema wrote. “His footwork, ball skills and explosive athleticism make him an impactful outside cornerback — one with All-Pro potential.”

Why the Buccaneers Traded Carlton Davis III

Keeping the defensive backfield healthy for 17 games hasn’t come easy for the Buccaneers, but keeping Davis on the roster wasn’t affordable.

“Carlton [Davis]’s been an excellent player for us, and as an organization, you have to make these tough decisions,” Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles said on March 13 regarding the trade. “As a coach and as an organization going forward — in order to get your team better, in order to get the cap down, in order to get extra players, in order to get an extra [third] — it was very important for us.”

Davis had a three-year, $44.5 million deal with the Buccaneers before the trade. Detroit has him on a one-year, $14.5 million deal for 2024.

A former second-round pick from Auburn, Davis played a significant role in the Buccaneers’ 2020 Super Bowl run. He had 22 tackles and three pass deflections in four games where the Buccaneers slowed down quarterbacks Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Patrick Mahomes on the way to a Lombardi Trophy.


Read More