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Tampa Bay Bucs enter draft still searching for pass-rushing help

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The Tampa Bay Bucs renew an old search Thursday night.

Once again, the Bucs are going into the NFL draft with a decent pick. Once again, they are searching for a defensive end. Once again, they need to make opposing quarterbacks uncomfortable.

For years, this has been the pursuit of the Bucs. Yeah, yeah. With their first draft choice ever, they took Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon. But since then, and since the free agent signing of Simeon Rice, the team has turned over ever rock and looked behind every shrub to find one without luck.

This year, it is the same. Oh, a couple of mock drafts have had John Bosa falling to Tampa Bay, but no one seems to believe it. Every now and then, a mock has mentioned DeForest Buckner or Shaq Lawson or Leonard Floyd or Noah Spence. But unless the Bucs get lucky, the big time defensive end might get away again.

Remember 1982? That was the year the Bucs botched the draft as thoroughly as possible. They wanted to draft defensive end Booker Reese in the first round. But problems with the telephone connection left the representative drafting Sean Farrell instead. Compounding their mistake, the Bucs traded away their No. 1 draft pick in 1983 for Reese. Reese finished his Tampa Bay career with only two sacks. Meanwhile, after Doug Williams left, that No. 1 pick could have been Dan Marino.

Remember 1985? The team picked Ron Holmes, who was totally unsatisfying. In four years, he had 19 sacks.

Remember 1990? The team picked Keith McCants, thinking he could play linebacker or defensive end. Turns out, he could play neither.

Remember 1993? This time, it was Eric Curry. This time, the Bucs got 12 sacks from their four-year investment.

In 1996, it was Regan Upshaw, who got 18.5 sacks in four years.

In 2007, it was Gaines Adams. He played three years and had 13.5 sacks.

In 2011, the team tried twice. It picked Adrian Clayborn in the first round and Da’Quan Bowers in the second. Neither were what the team needed.

So here the Bucs are again, shopping in an aisle where they have bought too many bad products. You can argue that a pass-rushing end is the most valuable player on defense, that only his pressure can make great quarterbacks ordinary.

Will the Bucs trade up, maybe for Bosa? Will they trade back and end up with, say, Spence? Will they shrug and pick a defensive tackle or cornerback?

We’ll see. After all, someone has to rush the passer. Don’t they?

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Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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