The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could probably use some cornerback help.
Even after the signings of veterans Richard Sherman and Pierre Desir, Tampa Bay is still banged up in the defensive backfield. Starting cornerbacks Sean Murphy-Bunting and Carlton Davis III are currently on injured reserve with no timetables regarding a return.
Furthermore, Jamel Dean has already been banged up this season with a knee injury while starting free safety Antoine Winfield Jr. remains out due to a concussion.
With the trade deadline coming up on Nov. 2, the Buccaneers need to make a move quickly. According to a proposed trade from Chris Roling of Bleacher Report, the Buccaneers could make a move that would send disappointing former first round draft pick O.J. Howard for disgruntled Minnesota Vikings cornerback Cameron Dantzler.
“The Buccaneers still have an excess amount of talent at tight end, so shipping someone like O.J. Howard (three targets over the first four games) for someone like Minnesota’s Cameron Dantzler could provide instant production and long-term upside at a premium position,” said Rolling.
ALL the latest Bucs news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Bucs newsletter here!
Howard Has Never Lived up to Expectations
Howard was selected with the 19th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. However, the former College Football Championship Offensive MVP has never come close to matching expectations. After starting 37 of his first 39 games, Howard has fallen out of favor under the Bruce Arians regime.
The 26-year-old was relegated to backup status entering the 2020 season following the acquisition of Rob Gronkowski. After appearing in just four games in 2020 due to a torn Achilles, Howard failed to win the No. 2 tight end spot on the depth chart entering the 2021 season — Cameron Brate currently fills that role.
Making the trade possibility even more enticing for the Buccaneers is the fact that Howard is in the midst of the last year of his deal. Tampa Bay might as well get something out of Howard while they can.
Meanwhile, Dantzler started off his career with promise. The 23-year-old started 10 of his 11 appearances during his rookie season last year. However, the former third-round draft selection has fallen out of favor in Minnesota as he’s played just 34 percent of the team’s defensive snaps this season.
Dantzler also made headlines for the wrong reason following the team’s Week 3 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. On Sunday, September 27, Dantzler tweeted the following after playing just nine snaps on special teams in the win.
“I’m tired of biting my tongue about this whole situation fr. . . .,” said Dantzler.
The tweet was deleted minutes later, but head coach Mike Zimmer caught notice.
“He will be talked to, yes,” Zimmer said, via Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press.
Dantzler a Better Corner in Pass Coverage
Of the Buccaneers’ top healthy corners, all of them grade below Dantzler’s performance in pass coverage. According to Pro Football Focus, the Vikings cornerback grades a 68.1 in coverage. Meanwhile, Ross Cockrell has a 66.8 grade in coverage, Sherman holds a 49.6 rating in coverage and Dean holds a 67.6 grade in coverage.
And if you’re scared off by Dantzler’s low number of snaps this season, the number is not a mirage. As a starting cornerback during the 2020 season, Dantzler posted an even better 69.8 coverage grade, according to PFF.
While the Buccaneers may be 4-1, the team has clear flaws on the back end of the defensive unit. Tampa Bay is currently dead last in passing yards allowed and 30th in passing touchdowns allowed this season.
If Murphy-Bunting and Davis continue to be hampered by injuries moving forward, the Buccaneers’ glaring weakness could be exploited when it matters most.
If that’s the case, Dantzler could represent as a major upgrade for a banged-up defensive backfield.