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Free-Agent Setup: Tampa Bay Buccaneers focus on defensive line

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The Sports Xchange
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) throws a pass against Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman Frostee Rucker (92) in the fourth quarter against the Arizona Cardinals on October 15, 2017 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Photo by Art Foxall/UPI
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) throws a pass against Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman Frostee Rucker (92) in the fourth quarter against the Arizona Cardinals on October 15, 2017 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Photo by Art Foxall/UPI | License Photo

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers already decided to part ways with running back Doug Martin and defensive tackle Chris Baker, who were released Feb. 20. The team is undecided about the future of defensive ends Robert Ayers and William Gholston, who could become free agents.

The biggest area of need is on the defensive line. To that end, they will consider bringing back free-agent defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, who had five sacks with a late-season surge. Also, defensive end Will Clarke, who joined the team during the season, had 2.5 sacks.

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Two players the Bucs will be focused on are contemplating retirement: cornerback Brent Grimes, who tied for the team lead with three interceptions, and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Grimes will be 35, but his play belies his age. His 20 interceptions ties Richard Sherman for the most in the past five years.

Fitzpatrick went 2-1 as a starter last season. The Bucs are uncertain about the outcome of the NFL investigation into Jameis Winston and a complaint that he groped a female Uber diver in 2016. So, it's imperative the Bucs secure a No. 2 quarterback who could win immediately.

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Unit-by-unit depth chart as of Super Bowl LII. Injured players listed as starters if that was their status when injured.

*Asterisk indicates player ended 2017 season on injured reserve.

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QUARTERBACKS (B): Starter - Jameis Winston. Backups - Ryan Fitzpatrick (UFA), Ryan Griffin.

RUNNING BACKS (D): Starter - Doug Martin (subsequently released). Backups - Jacquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims (UFA), Peyton Barber.

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TIGHT ENDS (A): Starter - *O.J. Howard. Backups - Cameron Brate, Antony Auclair, Alan Cross.

WIDE RECEIVERS (B): Starters - Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson. Backups - Chris Godwin, Adam Humphries, Freddie Martino, Bobo Wilson.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (C-minus): Starters - LT Donovan Smith, LG Kevin Pamphile (UFA), C *Ali Marpet, RG *J.R. Sweezy, RT *Demar Doston. Backups - G/C Evan Smith (UFA), C Joe Hawley, RT Caleb Benenoch, T Leonard Wester, T Michael Liedkte, T Cole Gardner.

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DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (D): Starters - LDE Robert Ayers, DT Chris Baker (subsequently released), DT Gerald McCoy, RDE *Noah Spence. Backups - DE William Gholston, DE Will Clarke, DE Patrick O'Connor, DT Clinton McDonald (UFA), DT Sealver Siliga (UFA), DT *Stevie Tu'ikolovatu, DE Ryan Russell, DE Channing Ward, DL *DaVonte Lambert, DE *Justin Trattou.

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LINEBACKERS (B): Starters - OLB Lavonte David, MLB Kwon Alexander, OLB Kendell Beckwith. Backups - OLB *Adarius Glanton, OLB Devante Bond, OLB Riley Bullough, OLB Nigel Harris.

DEFENSIVE BACKS (D): Starters - RCB Brent Grimes (UFA), LCB Ryan Smith, SS Chris Conte, FS *Justin Evans. Backups - CB *Vernon Hargreaves, CB Javien Elliott, CB Robert McClain (UFA), S T.J. Ward (UFA), S Keith Tandy (UFA), S Josh Robinson, CB David Rivers, CB *Jude Adjei-Barimah.

RELATED Tampa Bay Buccaneers release DT Chris Baker

SPECIAL TEAMS (D): K Patrick Murray (UFA), K *Nick Folk (subsequently released), P Bryan Anger, KOR Jacquizz Rodgers, PR Adam Humphries, LS Garrison Sanborn (UFA).

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