This offseason hasn’t been short on major storylines for the Bucs. Tom Brady retired in February. He then returned just before free agency began. That led to some major moves for Tampa Bay and — if Tuesday’s addition of Akiem Hicks is any indication — the front office still isn’t done.
Oh, there was also the matter of a coaching change. Bruce Arians stepped into a front office role at the end of March, making way for the promotion of defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.
So, how does the Bucs’ offseason stack up against the rest of the NFL? Pretty well, at least according to ESPN’s Bill Barnwell.
Ranking each team’s offseason from best to worst (ESPN+ subscription required), Barnwell placed Tampa Bay at No. 4. His “what went right” section kicked off with what a win it was for Brady to return from his brief retirement. It also included a harsh-but-fair assessment of what the team’s prospects might’ve been with Kyle Trask leading the way.
“A Buccaneers team that had been staring down a future with Kyle Trask as its quarterback had to be thrilled,” Barnwell wrote.
Bucs WR Chris Godwin – Photo by: USA Today
Brady’s return led to the return of Ryan Jensen, as well as the addition of Russell Gage. Barnwell also noted Tampa Bay’s ability to retain both Carlton Davis III and Chris Godwin on contracts that are “reasonable for two of the top players at their respective positions.”
While acknowledging that the Bucs had to be disappointed to lose Ali Marpet to retirement, Barnwell called the newly traded for Shaq Mason a “very solid alternative.” He did raise an eyebrow at New England letting Mason go for a fifth-round pick, but called it a risk worth the reward for the Bucs.
In his “what’s next” section, Barnwell suggested the “inevitable” move of bringing Rob Gronkowski back for another year. That seems likely to happen.
Nitpicking What Went Wrong For The Bucs This Offseason
As far as where the Bucs went wrong this offseason, Barnwell said he wasn’t particularly thrilled with the team signing Leonard Fournette to a three-year deal. He does say that it isn’t “egregious” given that Tampa Bay can get out of the contract after just one year and $9 million.
Bucs RB Leonard Fournette – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
He addresses the Fournette move once again in his “what they could’ve done differently” section. After writing that the team could’ve gone in a cheaper direction at running back and instead made a move on the defensive line, he mentions Harrison Phillips as an alternative addition with that money. Then again, Barnwell caps everything off with the following statement:
“In general, though, I can’t fault too much of Tampa Bay’s decision-making,” he wrote.
Truly, finding any issues within the team’s process would require some nit-picking. The Bucs are loaded up and ready for another run at the Lombardi Trophy.
How Did Tampa Bay’s Offseason Compare?
Coming in at No. 4, the Bucs’ offseason ranked behind only that of the Broncos, Eagles and Chargers. Of course, that means they had the No. 2 offseason in the NFC, according to Barnwell.
Looking at other NFC contenders, the Bucs finished ahead of the Rams (No. 8) and Packers (No. 9). The 49ers (No. 21), Cowboys (No. 24) and Cardinals (No. 30) all had their offseasons ranked in the bottom half of the league.
Tampa Bay’s offseason also blew away the rest of the NFC South. The Panthers (No. 18) followed behind the Bucs, while the Saints (No. 29) and Falcons (No. 31) found themselves near the very bottom of the NFL.