The Super Bowl champs have expressed their interest in running it back in 2021. Tampa Bay put together an accomplished offense and a stifling defense. This Buccaneers offseason will focus more on who will be re-signed rather than acquiring new faces. The $28 million in cap space must be spent wisely to retain some free agents and let others walk. Tom Brady made it abundantly clear that he wants his seventh ring, and this offseason is the first step.
Roster Needs: EDGE, IDL, WR
Having receivers that can get open quick enough, so the 44-year-old Brady gets the ball out quickly is a priority. Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown are slated to hit the free market and Tampa Bay will consider bringing back both.
There is no doubt that Rob Gronkowski is re-signed, keeping Brady’s favorite pass-catcher. Young tight end OJ Howard missed the season due to an Achilles injury. His return makes Cameron Brate a prime cut candidate. Or, if Howard does not show progress, he could be cut too. Releasing either of the two tight ends frees up over $6 million which should be enough to keep Gronk on board.
After breaking out in 2019 to the tune of 1,333 yards and 9 touchdowns, Chris Godwin struggled with injuries missing multiple games in 2020. When healthy he proved he is still amongst the best in the league. With Tom Brady at the helm, Godwin averaged 70 yards per game and increased his catch percentage to 77%, 5th best amongst all receivers this season. The 24-year-old will be an expensive but necessary signing this Buccaneers offseason.
Then there is Antonio Brown. A few years ago, Brown was considered the best receiver in the NFL before a series of off-the-field issues derailed his career and stints with other teams. Brady’s connection with Brown led to his advocation for Brown’s signing midway through the season. Brown had his shortcomings picking up the playbook midway through the year before exploding onto the scene in week 17 amassing 138 yards and 2 touchdowns. Since then, Brown was a red zone favorite of Brady’s and should be brought back given their obvious chemistry.
Retaining both receivers and Gronk will be tough but restructuring the contract of Mike Evans will clear more space. Brady and the second-best passing attack (4,626 yards) in 2020 will be primed to make another Super Bowl run with the all-star receiving group of Godwin, Evans, Brown, and Gronkowski.
The defensive side of the ball is where Tampa will see star players walk. Starting with edge rusher Shaq Barrett, the money does not add up for them to keep him. He followed up a league-leading 19.5 sacks 2019 with 8 sacks in 2020. His plethora of pass-rushing moves will force a team to break the bank to sign him.
Fortunately, Tampa still has Jason Pierre-Paul on the other side of the line, but the departure of Barrett must be addressed. Acquiring an edge rusher on a rookie deal through the draft is the best way to go. There will be high-upside options at the end of the first round given the deep edge class.
Azeez Ojulari can come in and make an immediate impact. The Georgia product fits Todd Bowles’s system while being the most advanced pass-rusher in the class. His speed and hands give Tampa Bay a real chance at repeating despite the loss of Barrett.
At linebacker, LaVonte David is set to hit free agency, but will surely be brought back. The modern-day linebacker is lockdown in coverage while filling holes in the run game. His new contract will limit Tampa’s chances at keeping defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Other interior linemen, William Gholston must be cut to clear the $6 million to re-sign Suh. Used more as a rotational piece in 2020, Suh still generated 6 sacks. If he can be plugged into an every-down role he will be well worth the contract to stay.