The Tampa Bay Buccaneers opened their checkbook and went on a spending spree to begin 2014 free-agency period, and they landed, arguably, two of the best players on the market in defensive end Michael Johnson and cornerback Alterraun Verner.
Per Spotrac, the 27-year-old Johnson, a former Cincinnati Bengal, was inked to a five-year deal worth up to $43.75 million with $24 million guaranteed.
Verner, who's only 25, was signed to a four-year, $26.5 million contract with $14 million guaranteed.
For the money they shelled out, the Buccaneers got the best players on the market at need positions, guys with plenty of great football ahead of them.
Although defensive tackle Gerald McCoy exploded on the interior for Tampa Bay in 2013, the team's defensive ends left much to be desired.
According to Pro Football Focus, Da'Quan Bowers had the highest Pass-Rush Productivity (8.2) on the Buccaneers last year at the defensive end spot, which ranked 32nd out of 52 qualifying players at the position—he registered a mere 17 quarterback pressures on 164 pass-rush snaps.
Johnson's PRP wasn't much higher at 8.5, but he received that score at a migh higher volume. He accumulated a 61 quarterback pressures on 553 pass-rush snaps.
Interestingly enough, Johnson's specialty as become run-stopping, not getting after the opposing signal-caller. In Tampa Bay, under Lovie Smith, in a scheme that emphasizes the defensive line, the 6'7'', 266-pound former third-round pick has a fantastic opportunity to flourish as a complete 4-3 defensive end.
Essentially, Smith got his Julius Peppers—his defense needs quality defensive line play, especially on the edge.
As for Verner, Tampa Bay snagged a youthful star ideally suited to play zone in Smith's patented Cover 2.
Oh, yeah…he'll replace Darrelle Revis, who, according to Adam Schefter, will be cut this afternon by the Buccaneers.
Revis is still one of the Top 3 cornerbacks in the NFL, and, frankly, I think Tampa Bay should be able to fit him into their defense. He's quite the luxury chess piece.
But, I guess, the new regime doesn't want to play a stud man-to-man cornerback $16 million to play zone most of the time.
So be it.
Verner doesn't turn 26 until December and is fresh off a breakout season with the Tennessee Titans in which he was near the top in an assortment of PFF cornerback metrics.
Also, he led the NFL with 23 passes defended and picked off five passes.
At 5'10" and 190 pounds, Verner isn't a Seattle Seahawks-type monster corner who physically imposes his will on receivers, but he has incredibly quick hips, recognition skills and desired athleticism.
Though smaller, Verner can jump into the Charles Tillman role for Smith in Tampa Bay.
However, don't be surprised if Smith works in some man coverage duties for him.
Lastly, and probably most importantly, the Buccaneers only paid Verner $14 million guaranteed.
He'll be a fine complement to safeties Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson and should pair with Johnthan Banks out wide in 2014.
Tampa Bay identified two glaring needs at defensive end—and with Revis' impending release—and cornerback. They moved aggressively, and spent a good amount of money on young, physically talented and productive defenders.