The PewterReport.com Roundtable features the opinions of the PR staff as it tackles a topic each week that involves the Bucs.
Table of Contents
This week’s topic: Will Bucs Re-Sign All 3 Key Free Agents? (Chris Godwin, Lavonte David, Shaq Barrett)
Scott Reynolds: The Bucs Can Bring All Three Back, But I’m Not Sure It Happens
I lobbied to make this “all four key free agents” – including kicker Ryan Succop – but to no avail. I think the 34-year old Succop is an absolute must to re-sign by Tampa Bay, so I’ll just come right out and say it first. Do I can think the Bucs can re-sign all three key free agents? Yes. I have faith in director of football administration Mike Greenberg to do enough extensions (quarterback Tom Brady, left tackle Donovan Smith, center Ryan Jensen) and restructure the deals of wide receiver Mike Evans and guard Ali Marpet to create enough cap room in 2021 to make it work and bring back wide receiver Chris Godwin, inside linebacker Lavonte David and outside linebacker Shaq Barrett. The Bucs can do it, but that wasn’t the question. The question is will they do it? I have my doubts.
The reason why is because Greenberg, the Bucs’ capologist, and general manager Jason Licht assign a value to each player based on their position and estimated worth. Very rarely do the Bucs cross that line once they put it in place, and there is a reason for that. Whatever happens with these big three stars impacts the team’s ability to bring back some less expensive players like defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, tight end Rob Gronkowski and my guy Succop because the salary cap will contract from $198 million to around $180-185 million due to the revenue loss in 2020 from COVID-19, which affected stadium attendance revenues around the league. Using the franchise tag on Godwin is easy. He’ll be on the books for about $16 million this year and the team can attempt to work on a long-term extension after the 2021 season.
But Barrett now has two Super Bowl rings (he won Super Bowl 50 with Denver) and David finally made it to the playoffs and won the ultimate prize – a Lombardi Trophy. The lure of an ever-elusive Super Bowl championship is now gone. With Barrett at age 28 and David at age 31, this will be the last contract for both players and they will want to cash in – even if it means going elsewhere. That’s not to say that the Bucs won’t make a competitive offer. They will. But if Tampa Bay offers Barrett $18 million per year for example and he gets $20 million per year elsewhere, that could lead to Barrett’s departure. It’s the same thing for David, although the price tag won’t be as high. I just think that either Barrett or David will ask for too much and the Bucs will have to say “no.” I hope I’m wrong, but it will be up to the players’ contract demands – not the Bucs’ – for them to ultimately return.
Mark Cook: I Have Faith In The Bucs Front Office To Bring All Three Back
Winning a Super Bowl is the pinnacle for every NFL team and it is why they line up for 16 – now maybe 17 – weeks starting every September. But with a championship, comes headaches, none more than keeping all the egos happy and making sure everyone gets paid their value. This football team is about as “ego-less” as you’ll find, but that doesn’t mean the players don’t want to get paid. Keeping the big three together and set to return for 2021 won’t be easy, but it can – and likely – will get done.
Outside linebacker Shaq Barrett, wide receiver Chris Godwin and linebacker Lavonte David deserve all the money they can get. Really every player on the roster does, as the toil it takes to play in the NFL and the wear and tear on the body is unlike probably any other professional sport. None of these three are expendable and all were huge parts of this team that took home the Lombardi Trophy past month in Tampa. The Bucs front office must find a way to keep all three in the fold for 2021 and beyond if they have serious aspiration of repeating as champs.
With the salary cap expected to make a monumental jump in 2022 after a new television/broadcast rights deal get signed (The NFL is reportedly looking to double its current deal), there will be plenty of money moving forward – jut not this season. So it will take some create contract structuring from cap guru Mike Greenberg and general manager Jason Licht to make it happen, but they – in particular Greenberg – have shown the ability in the past to think outside the box in terms of how they sign players. Have little fear Bucs fans, the big three likely returns and the Buccaneers will be favorites to get back to the Super Bowl in 2021. No pressure on Licht and Greenberg. No pressure at all.
Jon Ledyard: Bucs Defy Free Agency Odds – Again
It’s very rare for a team to re-sign three top-tier free agents in the same offseason, but not much about the 2020-2021 Tampa Bay Buccaneers is common, so I’ll bet on them to keep defying the odds. Outside linebacker Shaq Barrett, wide receiver Chris Godwin and linebacker Lavonte David deserve to be paid this offseason, and my guess is the Bucs will feel comfortable doing just that, especially given the fact that it is unlikely to hurt them much in the long run.
In terms of the team’s long-term prognosis with the cap, the Bucs are currently slated to be among the league leaders in cap space in 2022 and 2023, which allows them to have a ton of flexibility to push some money into those two years, especially 2022. That’s when they can plan for the biggest portions of Barrett and David’s cap hits, while saving most of their room this year to deal with Godwin’s likely franchise tag ($15.8-$16.4 million range).
The Bucs know they have a short window, probably the next year or two, in which they’ll be among the league favorites to win the Super Bowl (again). There may be some dancing in 2022 and 2023 to make the cap work, especially if the team wants to re-sign left tackle Donovan Smith and cornerback Carlton Davis next offseason, but the Bucs are far from being in an Eagles/Saints/Steelers situation. It’ll require some creativity to get everyone under the cap in 2021, but Tampa Bay can do it, and its big three free agents are players they really can’t afford to lose in a Super Bowl-contending window.
Taylor Jenkins: Bucs’ Front Office Will Have To Work Wonders To Make It Happen
Almost immediately after the Bucs hoisted the Lombardi Trophy following Super Bowl LV, head coach Bruce Arians and general manager Jason Licht made it abundantly clear that they intended to make a run in 2021 at a second consecutive championship, and that they intended to do that by keeping their core in tact. And while the Bucs were able to put together a stellar roster, they face the issue that many championship-caliber teams do, trying to keep that group together.
With Shaq Barrett, Chris Godwin and Lavonte David all set to get their own individual pay day, a seemingly modest cap situation will run thin extremely quick, especially when you consider that there are other major players like Ndamukong Suh and Rob Gronkowski who will require new contracts as well. David, a nine-year veteran within the Bucs’ organization, would be my most-likely candidate to return. I expect the front office to make his return an extreme priority given what he brings on the field and what he means to the organization as a whole. After that the Bucs will deal with two more expensive deals. Godwin has proven himself to be a more-than-capable receiver that would immediately step in as a team’s No. 1 pass-catcher on many rosters and he could be a prime candidate for the franchise tag in 2021, a deal that would pay him around $16 million. This leaves Barrett, arguably the largest threat to depart among the Bucs’ major free agents given his production over the past two seasons with Tampa Bay and quite plainly the going rate for edge rushers on the open market.
But as we’ve seen in the past, Licht and cap specialist Mike Greenberg are wizards when it comes to finding room and that may have to come in the form of extensions and restructures. The Bucs are already reportedly working on an extension with quarterback Tom Brady that would free up some cap space for 2021 and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that with other players along the roster like Donovan Smith or Ryan Jensen. Add in players like Mike Evans and Cam Brate who have already been willing to restructure their contracts in the past to open up more space – obviously if the players are once again willing, as Evans has stated that he is – and it gives Tampa Bay even more breathing room. But at the end of the day some of the Bucs’ cards will be in the hands of the players. Getting their Big 3 back will take some sacrifice as all three may have to choose between a slightly more lucrative contract with another team or taking slightly less to return for another chance at a Super Bowl with the Bucs.
Matt Matera: It’s Too Difficult To Bring Back Everyone After Winning A Super Bowl
The problem here is that while the question asks for the “big three” players to be re-signed, you can make the case that it’s really a “big five” when you also include defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and tight end Rob Gronkowski. Those players are more than likely going to go year-by-year on contracts for the rest of their career, so it makes it feasible that they’ll be easier to bring back, which doesn’t leave enough money for inside linebacker Lavonte David, wide receiver Chris Godwin and outside linebacker Shaq Barrett, who will want more lucrative contracts.