How the Buccaneers can reload this offseason for back-to-back championships By Ryan Kanne

Photo by: David J. Phillip via AP

After winning their first Lombardi Trophy since 2003, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren’t exactly thinking about next season at the moment. That’s what I’m here for. After building a championship roster around Tom Brady, Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht has a difficult offseason ahead as the team tries to repeat their success.


Tampa Bay’s biggest decisions will come in the form of young wide receiver Chris Godwin and star pass rusher Shaquil Barrett. Both are exceptional players in their own right, but it will be hard to pay them both top positional money and stay under the salary cap.


Without bringing any free agents back, the Buccaneers would have about $38 million in cap space. After playing this year on the franchise tag, Barrett will likely want a long-term deal with similar compensation to other top pass-rushers like Myles Garrett and Khalil Mack. Barrett alone would be about a $25 million addition against the salary cap, but his production the last two years has more than earned him a big contract.


Stats from 2019-2020

Sacks

QB Hits

Tackles for Loss

Solo Tackles

Forced Fumbles

2020 Salary

Shaquil Barrett

27.5

53

30

88

8

$15 mil.

Joey Bosa

19.0

58

33

76

1

$43 mil.

Khalil Mack

17.5

27

19

69

8

$17 mil.

Myles Garrett

22.0

36

21

53

6

$21 mil.



Godwin will also cost a lot, but he is a candidate for the franchise tag if a longer contract isn’t worked out. This is mostly because of the wide receiver franchise tag decreasing from $17 million to just about $15 million. Either way, Godwin could be franchise tagged with the expectation a long-term deal could be worked out when Tom Brady retires, or the salary cap increases back to its pre-COVID size.


While these two extensions would bring the Bucs over the salary cap, there are a number of cuts the team can make to better utilize their money. The most obvious of these cuts is Donavan Smith. The Bucs left tackle will make about $14 million in 2021 with none of that money being guaranteed. If Smith is cut, his replacement would have to come from the draft as other free agent tackles will likely ask for similar or more money.


Another way Tampa Bay can find themselves more cap space is by asking their star quarterback to think of “The Patriot Way” once again and take a pay cut. While his 2021 salary of $28 million pales in comparison to other signal callers, freeing up even $3 million could be huge for a team like the Bucs who would still have to find replacements for several starters like Lavonte David, Ndamukong Suh, Leonard Fournette, Rob Gronkowski, and Ryan Succop.


Position

Age

Bucs Top 2021 Free Agents

LB

29

Shaquil Barrett

WR

25

Chris Godwin

MLB

31

Lavonte David

DT

34

Ndamukong Suh

RB

26

Leonard Fournette

WR

33

Antonio Brown

K

35

Ryan Succop


What little cap room available will likely be spent on trying to bring longtime Buccaneer Lavonte David back for at least one or two more seasons. Since being drafted in 2012, David has been a career-long Buccaneer and one of the best inside linebackers in the NFL. While Devin White has impressed alongside the veteran, David would be an important veteran deal to make to bring back the championship defense that helped stop Patrick Mahomes.


If the Bucs were to bring back Barrett, Godwin, and David, free agency will be very quiet in Tampa Bay. Their only options would be to find cheap replacements at running back, defensive tackle, or offensive tackle. The Super Bowl LV champions will likely look towards the draft to find replacements.


With the last pick in each round, the Bucs have to hope talent falls to them. Considering their needs, the Bucs should have no problem finding a suitable offensive or defensive lineman at the 32nd pick. Offensive tackles like Notre Dame’s Liam Eichenberg or Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw could be names to look for at the end of the first round.


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In the second and third rounds the Bucs could look for defensive tackles with upside like Jay Tufele from USC, Marvin Wilson from FSU, or Louisville’s Jared Goldwire. Running back should be no problem in later rounds as one or two seem to outplay their draft position every year.


Either way, the Bucs offseason will hinge on the draft to acquire cheap, young talent to fill in a championship roster. With Brady and most of the roster returning or set to return, it’ll be hard not to favor Tampa Bay as Super Bowl LVI favorites.



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