Its been far too long since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made an appearance in the NFL playoffs. The year was 2007 and the team won the NFC South. But, what has followed has been constant disappointment for the most part. There was a 10-6 season in 2010 but it didn’t result in a playoff appearance. Dating back to 2009, Raheem Morris, Greg Schiano, Lovie Smith, and now Dirk Koetter have all succeeded Jon Gruden as head coach without getting the team back to the postseason. However, Koetter enjoyed a terrific debut in 2016 as the Bucs won six of their final eight games to finish 9-7.

Could they be even better this year?

Just enough new faces

There was a time when this franchise used free agency to overhaul its roster. But, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have drafted well in recent years, and this offseason, used free agency to plug some holes. On defense, the club signed defensive lineman Chris Baker away from the Washington Redskins. He was a bright spot on a defensive unit that ranked 28th in the NFL in each of the past two seasons. Now he’s expected to team inside with Buccaneers’ perennial Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy.

In the secondary, safety J.J. Wilcox (Dallas Cowboys) was a solid addition for a group that played better football in the second half of 2016. On the other side of the ball, veteran wideout DeSean Jackson also came over from the Redskins.

He remains one of the best deep threats in the league and should prove to be an asset to Mike Evans and Jameis Winston. Speaking of the young quarterback, he now has a potent target at tight end in O.J. Howard – the Bucs’ first-round pick in April.

Positive future

While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did fall short of a playoff berth in 2016, their nine wins were one more than the team managed in the previous two seasons combined (8-24).

This was a team that beat both the Atlanta Falcons and Kansas City Chiefs on the road and the Seattle Seahawks at home this past season. All three clubs walked away with division titles and the Falcons wound up in Super Bowl LI. The team’s 6-2 second half stretch, combined with the aforementioned additions, means that this could be a very dangerous football team come 2017.

Kudos to Koetter and defensive coordinator Mike Smith for steering this program in the right direction after a slow start. Can this club surpass the Falcons and capture the NFC South for the first time since ’07? And, could the Buccaneers be the third straight team from their division to reach the Super Bowl?