Free agency is almost here and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are wasting no time as they look to defend their title. Earlier this week we saw them resign Levonte David and brought Chris Godwin back under the franchise tag. Now the last of their big three free agents that needs to be resigned is an edge rusher, Shaq Barrett. And unfortunately, he will likely be the most difficult.
At this time it is unclear if the Bucs will be able to get this deal done. Even if they do, the team has to start thinking about replacing Jason Pierre-Paul who is entering the final year of his deal. Either way, the Bucs need to address pass rusher early in the draft. And the best option to do that who could be available at pick 32 is Texas junior Joseph Ossai.
Ossai appears to be a great fit for what the Bucs want in an outside linebacker. The first thing that jumps off the screen with him is a motor that won’t quit. His energy level and hustle will mesh well with the culture that Bruce Arians, Todd Bowles and the Bucs defense has established.
When it comes to talent and athletic ability, Ossai levels nothing to be desired. He measures in at 6’3 and 255 lbs. While these could easily be the measurements of a defensive end, most of Ossai’s career has come from a two-point stance as a linebacker. This is a reflection of how well he moves at this size.
With such an intriguing toolbox of athletic ability comes a wide variety of skills. Ossai will be an effective pass rusher at the next level. He does well with stunts and can use his length and strength to cause problems for opposing blockers. And while he has room to improve his pass-rushing arsenal, the Bucs would be a great landing spot for him with the ability to be a depth piece to start his career and learn from Jason Pierre-Paul and likely Shaq Barrett as well.
Ossai also brings some off ball skills as a linebacker. In 2019 he racked up over 60 solo tackles and 90 in total. These are strong numbers for a guy who projects as a pass rusher more than anything. He also pulled in a pair of interceptions, including one of the 2020 number one overall pick 9Joe Burrow. This blend of tackling in space and basic coverage skills make him the versatile edge rusher that Bowles will get the most out of.
What will make Ossai an option at 32 is the fact that he isn’t polished as a pass rusher? He didn’t grow up around the game and took to football later than most top high school prospects. He then went to Texas and played for an offensive-minded head coach in Tom Herman (who was fired at the end of the most recent season). This comparative lack of coaching means that he isn’t as advanced in his technique when it comes to getting off blockers. It also might mean that his best football is ahead of him.
Additionally, one of his greatest strengths is also in many ways a weakness that won’t make him a fit for everyone. While Ossai is very versatile, he’s also not great at anything. So teams that target edge rushers who are more of a hand in dirt type who have as much interest in a guy like Ossai.
In terms of fit, both in terms of scheme and culture, as well as upside Ossai is a match made in heaven for the Bucs. Ideally, he can develop behind Barrett and Pierre-Paul as a rookie and learn how to get to the quarterback more effectively. However, if he is pressed into the starting lineup as a rookie then Tampa Bay could certainly do worse than a versatile playmaker who gives maximum effort on every play.