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.

Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski and WR Chris Godwin

Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski and WR Chris Godwin – Photo by: USA Today

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.

Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski

Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski – Photo by: USA Today

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.

Bucs OC Byron Leftwich

Bucs OC Byron Leftwich – Photo by: USA Today

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

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About the Author: Mark Cook

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, the beach and family time.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 mark@pewterreport.com
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Horse
3 months ago

Godwin is the only perfect example to pay him enough to keep him here for 4-5 more years. I would hope some of the 30 and over group realize most all have seen their best years behind them; leave some for others. Go Bucs; keep the dream alive!

Tyler21
3 months ago

lavonte david has to be back, if it comes between him and shaq, you got let shaq leave for the money and find a cheaper replacement. shaq is a great player but we can replace is production in the draft or free agency. Lavonte is the heart of the defense and he has been for the last 10 years, hopefully he stays and finally gets some pro bowl nods (he’s better than wagner and has been his whole career). i hope we bring godwin back, ik mike has said he wants to play with him forever so hopefully he will… Read more »

Horse
Reply to  Tyler21
3 months ago

Agree with you. I’m sure we will sign David to a new contract and I think he will have the understanding he’s not going to make any higher yearly income, but it will still be generous. This alone shows the respect we have for him.

^^mtn^^
^^mtn^^
Reply to  Tyler21
3 months ago

Yes, that Fla tax break is a great point when trying to retain or lure a FA. But I’m not sure it’s as big a savings as you’re suggesting Tyler because they play up to 8 away games every season that have state tax.

Tyler21
Reply to  ^^mtn^^
3 months ago

that’s 8 game checks without taxes

SaskBucs
3 months ago

I am very happy to hear what you are saying about David and hope you are right. It would be upsetting to watch him with any other team, hopefully both sides want him a Buccaneer for life!

lambeau
3 months ago

Mark, you say the run game “worked”, they’d love to improve it’s 28th ranking, but no change can be expected. Confusing. Could it be they won despite a pedestrian ground game, and complacency is likely to threaten repeated success?

drdneast
3 months ago

A players age will certainly be a factor in a number of these FA signings to the detriment of the players. David, Suh, Brown, and Grankowski,are all in their 30s and their best years really are behind them. I don’t see a lot of teams wanting to sign 30 plus year old players to big contracts and neither should we. Another factor to consider when signing an older player is injuries and health. The Bucs were really lucky last year that none of their older veterans went out with serious injuries but that is usually not the case. Godwin and… Read more »

inspecto
Reply to  drdneast
3 months ago

Alvin Harper, please do not remind me of a complete waste of time and money .

Mike Pengelly
3 months ago

Agree with drdneast. Godwin can be replaced with a cheaper alternative. I see him, AB and Fournette gone and hope we can do restructuring or whateveer to get Gronk, Suh, Barrette and David back. If we lose Suh or Barrette, go after other free agents or the draft to fill the holes. Keep our kicker too…he is clutch!

FLBoy84
3 months ago

Agree it would be great to have LVD retire in a Bucs uniform, though reality says that’s not likely to happen. Know it’s sacrilege to some to hear that, but history show’s it’s true (… see Brady, Tom). Teams typically decide to move on before the player does. If the $$ is reasonable, can see him signed to a 2-3 year deal, though he’ll likely want a 4-5.

mark2001
3 months ago

I have great regard for Godwin. But if you ask who we might more easily replace…Godwin, or David, or Barrett, I’d have to say Godwin. We have Johnson who is showing some of the spark Godwin showed. And if we can get back AB, and Scooter, Watson and Johnson spend the offseason catching balls from Brady, I think we will still have a fine receiving corp. Barrett…David replacements? A definite drop-off unless we hit on a free agent. Hopefully, we don’t have to find out if I’m right or wrong.

Last edited 3 months ago by mark2001
TropicOfCapricorn
3 months ago

Salary cap makes no sense to me, sadly. Every time I hear talk of the Saints it’s “If” they end up gutting their roster. If? As in, “It’s possible they won’t”? They’re a billion dollars over the cap!
If the Saints aren’t gutted, then there is no salary cap, and there is zero reason we can’t keep everyone, and sign JJ Watt and OBJ, and be just fine.
Why do the laws of “physics” apply to everyone else except New Orleans?

Eddie
3 months ago

Maybe that is due to injury, Goodwin just have too many drops to be considered a must have. Brady need a quick, cat like sure handed receiver that can win balls in tight windows, just to move the chain. Goodwin is so far, not that receiver. Miller, maybe, but still not quick enough. Maybe with one more off season of hard work he can be there.

seat26
3 months ago

With 30 free agents, obviously, the team will look a little different. Bucs don’t have a lot of cap room, and Godwin, David, and Fournette will be expensive. For me, Godwin has to be a priority. David next, and Fournette 3rd. Suh will likely stay, and Gronk is the icing on the cake, but we are deep with TEs. Barrett will probably get a lot of good offers, and hopefully, it will come down to how much he would like to be on a Superbowl Team. We gotta sign the kicker too before Licht tries to draft another one…(kidding)

Dave
3 months ago

I know it’s hard to not link emotions to players being resigned, traded, or let go. But it’s kind of shocking to me to see the overwhelming opinion that 1) we absolutely have to resign Lavonte, regardless if we have to overpay. And 2) Godwin isn’t worth the money, and is the most replaceable. Take your emotions out of it when thinking about this. Lavonte is 31, and we drafted a stud in the first round who just turned 23, and plays the same position as him. Lavonte is one of my all time favorite Bucs, and it would be… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by Dave
FLBoy84
Reply to  Dave
3 months ago

Agreed, and well said.