The Tampa Bay Buccaneers released safety Tanard Jackson hours ago and in the process added even more questions to a position thin to begin with. The official reasoning was due to Tanard failing his physical. After struggling last year with injury and his return from substance abuse suspension, this is not a surprise. According to Spotrac.com, the move saves the Bucs $3 million dollars in cap room for 2012 if his signing bonus were included. Every one of those pennies should now go to finding his replacement.
With the release, the Bucs send a message about commitment to the organization and as coach Greg Schiano has said before, accountability. So what now? The move leaves safety Ahmad Black as the only player with upside at the position. Black was highly touted coming out of the University of Florida, but only participated in four games last year due to a severe ankle sprain. There has been a clamoring for Ronde Barber to move to the position and possibly even a player like Myron Lewis. The release of Jackson also puts even more emphasis on drafting Morris Claiborne with the 5th pick of the upcoming NFL Draft, especially if the team decides to move a corner back to safety. If not, only limited options remain.
A very likely target via free agency could be former Dallas Cowboys strong safety Abram Elam, who is from West Palm Beach and is currently the best safety still available. Though there is still former Miami Dolphins safety Yeremiah Bell, several teams have reportedly been in pursuit of his services already which puts the Bucs at a disadvantage. The same applies for Madeiu Williams, currently visiting rival Atlanta Falcons today. The Cincinnati Bengals recently released safety Chris Crocker, but his release was due to declining production and would not guarantee an upgrade at the position.
The Buccaneers still could chase a safety earlier than projected in the draft, but that would impact other positions of need drastically. With running back, corner back, and linebacker more pressing, taking a safety early is not an option. This leaves the team to find a replacement on the squad, sign a free agent or hope a 5th round safety pick is capable of contributing in his rookie year.