The PR Bucs Monday Mailbag is where PewterReport.com’s Mark Cook answers your questions from our Pewter Report Twitter account. You can submit your question each week via Twitter using the hashtag #PRMailbag.
Below are the questions we chose for this week’s edition of the PR Bucs Monday Mailbag.
Question: Do you think the Bucs can keep everybody?
Answer: Everybody? No, but some of the departures will be by choice. Of the major free agents, yes the Bucs can keep everyone most likely, but again they could choose to move on from one or two.
Let’s look at the free agents that were starters in 2020 first. Receivers Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown are two players the Buccaneers would like to have back with the obvious priority being Godwin who is younger and has more upside than Brown. Of course, that also makes him more expensive, but with the Bucs clearly in repeat mode for 2021 they likely work towards a deal for Godwin, giving him the franchise tag at the very least. Brown could also be back on a one or two year team-friendly contract if he chooses, but it is unlikely the Bucs want to shell out a ton of money for a player at his age who could still be described as somewhat volatile, despite being on his best behavior since joining Tampa Bay. A half-season of good behavior doesn’t necessarily ease the minds of everyone inside the organization.
Running back Leonard Fournette is also set to become an unrestricted free agent and Tampa Bay would like him back – but at their price. How much money and interest Fournette commands on the open market will determine where he ends up in 2021.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski will almost certainly be back with the Buccaneers in 2021. Both sides want that to happen, and while Gronkowski would likely be offered more money by some other teams, one of the big reasons he came back in 2020 was to play with his good friend Tom Brady and win another Super Bowl, which he was able to do. Those same factors still apply this offseason, and my guess is if Gronkowski doesn’t play in Tampa Bay in 2021 it is because he decides to retire again, although all indications point to a return.
Defensively the Bucs have three major pieces slated to become free agents next month. Star linebacker Lavonte David isn’t going anywhere in my opinion. The team loves what he brings to the locker room and of course on the field, and it would be shocking to see the two sides not reach an agreement to keep David in Tampa Bay and to retire a Buccaneer.
Outside linebacker Shaq Barrett might be little tricker. Both sides want him to remain in Tampa Bay, but making it happen will depend on if Barrett is willing to compromise and give the team a bit of a “hometown discount.” There is little doubt Barrett will have an opportunity to make more money elsewhere, but a chance to stay in Tampa Bay and and a chance to get back to the Super Bowl is a big draw as well. Lastly, Ndamukong Suh and the team should be able to reach an agreement on a one-year deal for likely a little less than Suh made in 2020.
It won’t be as easy to keep the band together as it would have been in a non-COVID, unreduced revenue season, but general manager Jason Licht and his right hand man Mike Greenberg can maneuver around the salary cap enough to keep as many of the main free agents in red and pewter through 2021, especially with how much cap space the team currently has in 2022 and 2023..
Question: How much harder/easier is next year’s schedule, considering both the opponent and the Bucs possible improvement on offense?
Answer: Trying to determine strength of schedule in February before teams add/reduce via free agency and the draft is nearly impossible. Add in potential injury and chemistry issues and it is really a crap shoot. With that said, on the surface it looks like a mixed bag of some good teams and some teams the Buccaneers will be heavily favored against.
The Buccaneers will face all the NFC and AFC East teams in 2021 and with the exception of the Bills, none strike much fear in me when looking at the rosters. The Falcons, Eagles and Jets will be fielding new head coaches and the Washington Football Team and the Giants have second-year coaches and both are still early in rebuilding mode. The Dolphins game could be tricky, but Tampa Bay likely will be favored as they should be against the Patriots. The Rams game looks like a toss up at this point, and the same could be said for the Saints, who the Bucs will face twice. Of course that could change in the Bucs favor if the Saints end up gutting their team due to salary cap issues. The Falcons and Panthers are two teams the Bucs will face twice, but there is no reason to think the Bucs won’t be strong favorites in all four of those games. That leaves home games against the Bears and Cowboys, and I’ll take the Buccaneers all day long against those two teams.
As I said, it is too early to really tell how good the Bucs opponents, or really the Bucs themselves, will be by the time the season kicks off in September, but if the season started right now I could see the Buccaneers favored against all 16 teams on their schedule. They won’t go 16-0 in 2021, but barring anything crazy with injuries, the Bucs should at least win their division and be strong favorites to represent the NFC in next year’s Super Bowl.
Question: Does the coaching staff diversify the Bucs run scheme during the offseason? It felt like a predictable part of a potent offense.
Answer: Being predictable is only a bad thing if teams can stop you. And while it wasn’t always pretty in 2020 in terms of the running game, it worked all the way to a Super Bowl championship. I don’t really see any type of major overhaul offensively taking place. I don’t think it is far-fetched to think some tweaks might take place of course. And I suspect we will see a veteran added to the mix, especially if Fournette moves on, that might change some of the things the team does in the running game based on the skill set of a new player.
But the basic philosophy and scheme isn’t changing as long as Byron Leftwich and Bruce Arians are calling the shots and Harold Goodwin and Joe Gilbert are coaching. The Bucs would love to improve on their 28th-ranked rushing attack in 2021, but they won’t make any crazy changes to their scheme or play-calling when you have a quarterback like Brady under center with the weapons he has to throw to.
Question: What is it that you absolutely DO NOT want to see the Bucs do this offseason? What would be your worst case scenario?
Answer: For me, seeing Lavonte David not part of the Buccaneers defense in 2021 would be a crime. Even worse than seeing John Lynch in a Broncos uniform or even Warren Sapp wearing the silver and black of the Raiders. That is the absolute worst-case scenario I can think of barring Tom Brady unexpectedly deciding to walk away.
Fortunately neither of those two things are likely to happen and I would be flabbergasted to see David not lined up next to Devin White for the next couple of years. David deserves to retire as a Buccaneer and I believe the organization, especially the Glazer family, wants to see David here for a few more years and will do everything in their power to make that happen
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at email@example.com
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