Buccaneers Urged to Pursue Former Pro Bowl Cornerback

Bruce Arians Buccaneers

Getty The Buccaneers could pursue Joe Haden in free agency.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could target another veteran cornerback in free agency this offseason.

As the Buccaneers enter the offseason, one of their most pressing needs may be depth at cornerback. While starter Sean Murphy-Bunting is locked in through the 2022 season, fellow starting cornerback Carlton Davis will enter free agency.

The Buccaneers relied on a trio of corners — including 33-year-old Richard Sherman, veteran Pierre Desir and Ross Cockrell — to play valuable snaps this season. Rather than go through the same scenario next season, the Bucs could target one of the most accomplished cornerbacks in the league in Joe Haden.

According to Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger, Tampa Bay should pursue Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Joe Haden, who will enter free agency this offseason.

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Why Haden Makes Sense for Bucs

“The Buccaneers got key contributions from several veteran cornerbacks in 2021, including Richard Sherman, Ross Cockrell and Pierre Desir among others,” said Spielberger. “The injury bug hit their secondary hard, but they managed to hold up relying on football IQ and instincts along with strong game-planning from defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.

Haden was seeking an extension from the Pittsburgh Steelers before the 2021 campaign, but that didn’t come to fruition. He can now perhaps go ring-chasing with Tom Brady in Tampa before calling it a career. Though Todd Bowles may be leaving for a head-coaching gig, Haden would be a good fit in Tampa’s heavy zone system. Despite getting up there in age, Haden has earned coverage grades of 65.0 or better in five straight seasons.”

There’s little chance of the Bucs bringing back Sherman as he’ll likely retire at season’s end. Desir has played very well after being signed to the active roster following the start of the season. His 69.8 defensive grade ranks 31st among all cornerbacks, according to Pro Football Focus. However, he’ll be a free agent at season’s end.

Although Haden will be 33 years of age in April, he still had a solid season for the Steelers as a starter. While appearing in 12 games, the veteran cornerback posted a 62.1 defensive grade (69th among 121 cornerbacks) and 64.2 coverage grade (58th among corners), according to PFF.

While the Bucs probably don’t want to lean on Haden as a starter, the former All-Pro corner could fit well as a No. 3 corner.

Considering Tampa Bay’s penchant for signing veteran players, Haden would fit that mold as the Buccaneers aim to win Super Bowls during Tom Brady’s final years.

Brady Could to Retire After Playoff Run?

Speaking of Brady, there’s talk that the 44-year-old could retire at the end of the 2021 season.

According to CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, some Buccaneers teammates are bracing for his retirement.

“He hasn’t signaled one way or the other what he’s going to do,” said a source close to Brady, “and maybe he doesn’t know himself. But it wouldn’t be surprising if this was the end.”

“Nothing’s been said, but there is a sense among some guys in the locker room that this is it, one way or the other,” said another source, via La Canfora. “It’s just little things here or there they are picking up on. Maybe it turns out to be nothing.”

Brady is currently locked in under contract through the 2022 season and has verbally stated in the past his desire to play until the age of 45. If Brady does retire, the veteran quarterback would retire one year earlier than that intended target date.


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