With the status of strongside linebacker Quincy Black up in the air for next season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should start thinking about a backup plan. Black may not be able to play in 2013 due to severe neck and shoulder injuries sustained in a November game against the San Diego Chargers, and he could be released soon from the team
If that happens, the Bucs will need another starter to pair with youngsters Mason Foster and Lavonte David, who was a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate last year.
Tampa Bay could decide to replace Black with in-house guys like Adam Hayward or Dekoda Watson. Hayward started five games in Black's place last season and finished the year with 24 tackles. Watson is a solid special teams player and a physical specimen like Black, but he's been used for little on defense since coming into the league in 2010.
The Bucs could also decide to grab another linebacker in free agency, which starts officially on March 12.
But if none of that happens, an intriguing option for the Bucs could be Notre Dame star/sideshow Manti Te'o. Before the whole fake girlfriend hoax, Te'o, who had an impressive career with the Fighting Irish, was thought to be a high first round selection.
However, Te'o's stock is slipping after a less than ideal showing at the NFL scouting combine. Te'o officially ran a 4.82 in the 40-yard dash. The slower-than-expected 40 time for Te'o did little to erase doubts about his ability to be a 3-down linebacker at the next level, and he could slip come draft day.
That scenario could benefit Tampa Bay. If Te'o slips to the end of the first round or even into the second round, the Bucs could look into trading up in order to secure his services. They did something similar last year when they moved up to select David in the second round.
A trio of David, Foster, and Te'o could be dominating and with all three guys being so young, the Bucs could have them around for a long time.
The Bucs could do a lot worse than the Heisman runner-up. Te'o had a great career at Notre Dame, finishing with 437 tackles, 34 tackles for a loss, 8.5 sacks, seven interceptions, 17 passes defensed, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery.
If he starts to slide and is in striking distance, it wouldn't be shocking if the Bucs started making phone calls in order to trade up and draft Te'o.
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