The free-agency period has been good one way or another for every NFL team. Hence, it’s time to take a look at the positives in our newest series for End Zone Score. Which newcomer to the club was the franchise’s best offseason move and why? We got things started with the 2016 last-place teams in the eight divisions. You can get caught up on the entire series by clicking right here. Now we are onto the clubs that finished third. And that means the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in the spotlight.

DT Chris Baker

After a sluggish start on both sides of the ball this past season, Dirk Koetter’s club began to find itself. Along with the play of quarterback Jameis Winston and wide receiver Jameis Winston, the Buccaneers’ defense started to play much better. It took coordinator Mike Smith’s unit a little longer to get its act together. This is a team that won six of its final eight contests. In those games, Tampa allowed only allowed a combined 137 points (17.1 average). This was the same team that surrendered a combined 73 points in a five-day span in losses to the Oakland Raiders (30) and Atlanta Falcons (43) in Weeks 8-9.

Still, Koetter’s team relied more on takeaways this past season (29) rather than actually slowing opponents down. Hence the addition of defensive tackle Chris Baker from the Washington Redskins. He’ll team inside with perennial Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy in an attempt to improve the club’ run defense. The Buccaneers ranked 22nd in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game.

Baker and McCoy, along with outside linebacker Lavonte David and cornerback Brent Grimes, give the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a lot of hope on this side of the ball. Add in 2016 rookies in corneback Vernon Hargreaves and defensive end Noah Spence, and this is a unit very much on the rise. But will this be enough to unseat the defending conference champion Falcons in the NFC South?

Russell S. Baxter is the NFL lead columnist for EndZoneScore.com and the founder of ProFootballGuru.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BaxFootballGuru.

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