Breaking: Buccaneers Closing In On Deal To Sign Pass Rusher With $6.5 Million Contract Posting 23.5 Sacks

Breaking: Buccaneers Closing In On Deal To Sign Pass Rusher With $6.5 Million Contract Posting 23.5 Sacks

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could add another elite pass rusher in April’s 2024 NFL draft.

The Buccaneers would select UCLA defensive end Laiatu Latu at No. 25 overall in ESPN’s seven-round mock draft, which was published on March 27. This would be Tampa Bay’s fourth consecutive year drafting a pass rusher with its first pick.

There isn’t a more effective pass-rusher in this class, according to Miller. “During the last two years at UCLA, Latu put on a pass-rushing clinic, recording 23.5 sacks and 112 pressures.”

At 6-foot-5 and 259 pounds, Latu possesses exceptional size and speed.’s Lance Zierlein compares him to T.J. Watt. He ran a 4.64-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.

“He could become a Pro Bowler as a 3-4 outside linebacker with a heavy influence on the game,” Zierlein wrote.

Latu attended Washington for his first three years of college before moving to UCLA for his final two seasons.

In 2023, he won the Ted Hendricks Award as the best defensive end in the country and the Lombardi Award as the best college offensive lineman/defensive lineman in the country. He was also selected Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and First Team Associated Press All-American.

Buccaneers Have Eye for Elite Pass-Rushing Talent

Using their first pick on defensive end Logan Hall in 2022, outside linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoyinka in 2021, and defensive end Calvin Kancey in 2023, the Buccaneers have focused mostly on selecting pass rushers in the last three rounds.

The Bucs’ third-round choice in 2023, outside linebacker YaYa Diaby, topped the club in 2023 with 7.5 sacks; other leaders included Kancey (4.0 sacks) and Tryon-Shoyinka (5.0).

Drafting Latu can also be a defensive strategy for the future. Troyon-Shoyinka’s fifth-year option for 2025 is up for decision on May 2, and the draft is set for April 25–27 in Detroit.

Per Spotrac, Troyon-Shoyinka is due to make approximately $2.1 million in 2024 — a number that could jump up to $13.25 million in 2025.

Laiatu Latu Has Shaken Off Injury Concerns

A major neck injury that sidelined Latu for two full seasons early in his college career should be taken into consideration by any team interested in picking him.

As a true freshman at Washington in 2019, Latu participated in 12 of 13 games before missing the entirety of the 2020 and 2021 seasons due to a neck injury sustained during practice.

Latu was once informed by Washington University medical professionals that his football career was finished.In 2022, Latu’s former head coach Jimmy Lake even declared that he had “medically retired” from football prior to the start of spring practice.

Latu’s mother contacted Dr. Robert Watkins, a neck expert, to seek a second opinion regarding the possibility of Latu playing football. When Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning had a possibly fatal neck injury in 2013, he went to Dr. Watkins.

Ikaika Malloe, a former assistant coach at Washington, joined UCLA after Lake and his staff were sacked at the end of the 2021 campaign. Latu, a native of Sacramento, accompanied Malloe to Westwood, where he was cleared for individual drills in 2022 spring practice.

After spring football, Latu was cleared to go back into full football mode. In January, Malloe received a promotion to defensive coordinator.

“I’ve been dreaming of the NFL since I was a kid, and I never gave up on it all,” Latu told ESPN’s Jeff Legwold in February. “I just understood what I wanted to and that I wanted to get back to playing football again.”

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