Bucs send a very direct message to Jamel Dean

Bucs send a very direct message to Jamel Dean

The Bucs are entering a new phase in the cornerback room after Tampa Bay traded Carlton Davis III to the Detroit Lions for a third-round pick this offseason. What remains are familiar faces in Jamel Dean and Zyon McCollum, who will likely be the starters this year, although newcomer Bryce Hall may have something to say about that.

We know McCollum will stay in Tampa for the next two years, as he is still on his rookie contract and was essentially a starter last season, regularly filling in for the oft-injured Davis and Dean. But for Jamel Dean, is this potentially his last season in Tampa Bay?

Dean’s contract runs through 2026, although the Bucs can essentially opt out after this year if they want.

All of Dean’s guaranteed money increased after the 2024 season, and Tampa Bay would take a minimal hit in terms of dead money if the team wanted to move on from him after this year. If they did so before June 1, the team would take in a $6.8 million cap hit. If they do so afterward, they can charge $2.3 million in dead cap space for 2025 and another $4.5 million in 2026.

Jamel Dean is projected to hit Tampa Bay’s cap hit at $15.2 million in 2025, so if the team decides to part ways with him like they did with Davis this offseason, the team would save a lot of money.

New look Bucs secondary

Bucs Cb Jamel DeanBucs Cb Jamel Dean

Bucs CB Jamel Dean – Photo by: USA Today

I’m not advocating that the Bucs go all the way, just pointing out that it’s a legitimate option. We saw it all unfold this offseason with Carlton Davis III traded to Detroit because he missed significant time over the past two seasons due to various injuries and rarely produced interceptions when he was on the ground.

Why would Tampa Bay want to move on of their best cornerback after trading away their other top corner? Jamel Dean could face a similar fate to Davis unless he stays healthy and starts producing some interceptions of his own, especially after failing to record a pick last year. Dean missed four games last year and has never played a full season in his career. Injuries aren’t necessarily the player’s fault, but it seems to happen over and over again in Dean’s case. If he wants to be the highest-paid cornerback, he needs to be available.

The team views Bryce Hall, who signed with Tampa Bay after four seasons with the New York Jets, as another starter-caliber player. So if Dean goes down again, Tampa Bay can turn to Hall with Zyon McCollum starting on the other side. This scenario certainly doesn’t bode well for Dean’s willpower.

Bucs Cb Jamel DeanBucs Cb Jamel Dean

Bucs CB Jamel Dean – Photo by: USA Today

Besides trying to stay healthy, Dean has to become more of a hawk to justify his salary. He just doesn’t understand he gets his hands on the ball enough, and when he does, he gives up potential interceptions. Look no further than a huge missed opportunity in Tampa Bay’s 31-24 playoff loss at Detroit when Dean dropped an easy interception in the end zone. The Lions scored a field goal to lead 3-0 on the next play.

Two seasons ago, Dean recorded two interceptions, but they were in the same game in Week 2. So, including three playoff games Tampa Bay has played in the last two seasons, Jamel Dean has played in 29 games consecutive without interception. What’s even worse is that he had chances to get the ball and he just dropped it.

Bucs send message to Jamel Dean

Tampa Bay cornerbacks coach Kevin Ross sent a very direct message to Jamel Dean as the 2024 season approaches: “Catch the ball. »

Eagles Wr Devonta Smith Bucs Cb Jamel DeanEagles Wr Devonta Smith Bucs Cb Jamel Dean

Eagles WR DeVonta Smith, Bucs CB Jamel Dean and Bucs S Antoine Winfield Jr. Photo by: USA Today

Those were literally the first words out of Ross’ mouth when he answered a question about how Dean could improve this year. Contributing as a regular interceptor will not only unlock much more to his game – but keep him in Tampa Bay for the long term instead of an early departure like Carlton Davis III saw this offseason.

“If (he catches passes), he’s an All-Pro, he’s a Pro Bowler,” Ross said. “All he has to do is catch the ball. We have highlighted that in this room. And it really starts with me. I need to increase more ball drills with these guys, I had these guys catch 50 balls a day during this training camp right here. We’ll see, we have to catch the ball. We could have led the league last year in takeaways if we had caught the ball like we were supposed to.

It’s certainly not just Jamel Dean who let Tampa Bay down in the takeaway department. But it’s time for the team’s best cornerback to step up. There is no doubt that Dean can be an excellent cover corner and improve Todd Bowles’ defense when he is available.

Still, given the amount he’s being paid, Jamel Dean needs to become more of a hawk or else he could follow Davis out of Tampa Bay.