The Current State Of The Buccaneers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the best offseason in the NFL last year, re-signing outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, in addition to using the franchise tag on outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett. Oh, and general manager Jason Licht and head coach Bruce Arians were also able to lure the greatest quarterback of all time, Tom Brady, to Tampa Bay and also trade for future Hall of Fame tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians and GM Jason Licht
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians and GM Jason Licht – Photo by: USA Today

Those moves, plus the selection of star right tackle Tristan Wirfs and free safety Antoine Winfield, Jr. in the first two rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft culminated in the Bucs making NFL history by hosting and winning the Super Bowl at Raymond James Stadium against Kansas City, 31-9. Despite the team’s supreme success, the Bucs’ coaching staff didn’t get pilfered outside of offensive assistant Antwaan Randle El, who left for Detroit to be the Lions wide receivers coach. That’s a huge plus as Tampa Bay looks to defend its championship in 2021.

The NFC South appears to be there for the taking for Tampa Bay if most or all of the team’s stars can return in 2021. New Orleans is expected to see star quarterback Drew Brees retire and the Saints are in terrible salary cap shape and will have to make some unwanted roster cuts. Atlanta underwent a regime change and isn’t expected to make the playoffs again this year, and Carolina looks to be a year or two away from Matt Rhule took over as head coach last year, and is in search of a new quarterback to replace Teddy Bridgewater.But repeating as Super Bowl champs won’t be easy if the team can’t be kept intact. That will be a challenge this offseason, as Licht and director of football administration Mike Greenberg have a lot of free agents to re-sign this offseason first. Among them are Barrett, Suh, Gronkowski, running back Leonard Fournette and kicker Ryan Succop among others. The front office has moved quickly, re-signing star linebacker Lavonte David on Tuesday, shortly after applying the franchise tag to wide receiver Chris Godwin.

Explaining The Bucs Battle Plans For The 2021 Offseason writers Scott Reynolds, Mark Cook, Jon Ledyard, Matt Matera and Taylor Jenkins have devised their own Bucs Battle Plans For The 2021 Offseason that feature free agent signings, trades, roster moves and draft picks designed to help Tampa Bay repeat as Super Bowl champions. Here’s my Bucs Battle Plan – let me know what you think of it in the comments section below.

Remember, these Bucs Battle Plans are how the staff members would reshape the team this offseason – not necessarily what we think Tampa Bay will do in free agency and the draft, although there could be some overlap with certain players the team may be targeting.

Bucs GM Jason Licht and director of football administration
Bucs GM Jason Licht and director of football administration Mike Greenberg – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Licht and Greenberg can create a good deal of salary cap space by doing restructures to the contracts of wide receiver Mike Evans and left guard Ali Marpet, and the team can also extend the contracts of Brady, left tackle Donovan Smith and center Ryan Jensen. We’re going to assume for all of this year’s Bucs Battle Plans that Greenberg and Licht will make some or all of these moves to clear a substantial amount of room, so we won’t be using financials in this year’s free agency period due to the uncertainty.

The big challenge regarding this year’s Bucs Battle Plan is that the 2021 salary cap hasn’t been set yet, although it’s expected to be between $180-$185 million, which is a decrease of about $13-$18 million from the $198 million in 2020 due to the lost stadium revenue from COVID-19. Tampa Bay has between $11 million and $19 million in available salary cap room between and

Jenkins’ Bucs Battle Plan For The 2021 Offseason

While Licht’s first few years as general manager for Tampa Bay may not have painted a pretty picture, he was able to bring head coach Bruce Arians to the Bucs. And Licht has built a young, extremely talented core through the draft and filled glaring needs through trades and free agency en route to the organization’s second Super Bowl victory. Now the Bucs are taking the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach as they attempt to keep that championship roster together in 2021. And that’s what I tried to do through my Battle Plan. Tampa Bay was even kind enough to handle some of that work for me this week, officially using their franchise tag on receiver Chris Godwin and re-signing linebacker Lavonte David to a team-friendly deal with a cap hit of just $3.5 million in 2021.

Bucs’ Salary Cuts

Bucs TE Cameron Brate
Bucs TE Cameron Brate – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Defensive end Will Gholston and tight end Cam Brate are both in an interesting position this upcoming season. While they’re both getting older as players in the league with both players set to hit 30-years-old before the 2021 season kicks off, neither player has likely ever seen their value look higher around the league despite both being primarily best suited for rotational backup roles.

Brate still has three years remaining on his deal, loves living in Tampa and has already taken a pay cut once, so he may be an easier nut to crack as far as a restructure is concerned. As important as he was to Tampa Bay following O.J. Howard’s season-ending injury, $6.5 million is far too much to pay a third-string tight end. I cut Brate’s 2021 money from $6.5 million down to $3 million and try to work Gholston’s $5.5 million down to $4 million for the final year of his deal.

Unrestricted Free Agent Signings

OLB Shaq Barrett – 4-year deal, $74 million
Barrett has made it clear that he would like to come back and the Bucs want him back. Lavonte David’s team-friendly cap hit in 2021, along with a few extensions and pay cuts, allow me to re-sign Barrett on a back-loaded contract that increases year-by-year as the league-wide salary cap is expected to bounce back.

TE Rob Gronkowski – 1-year deal, $5 million
Gronkowski wants to play again in 2021 and it seems relatively certain that he only wants that to happen with Brady in Tampa. While the all-time great tight end could likely find a better payday elsewhere, Gronkowski didn’t leave retirement to chase a massive pay day.

DT Ndamukong Suh – 2-year deal, $12 million
Following the Super Bowl, Suh stated that he has the fire to continue playing for a few more years and, most importantly, he got the okay from his wife, as twins are on the horizon. Suh showed this season that he still has more than enough in the tank to be a contributor and Tampa Bay needs him in the lineup, otherwise they’re in desperate need of a replacement quickly. This contract will come with $6 million fully guaranteed that allows the Bucs to get out from under any significant dead cap should the two sides go separate ways in 2022.

K Ryan Succop – 2-year deal, $6 million
Succop has the chance to break a dubious streak by the Buccaneers in 2022, a team that has seen a new starting kicker in the lineup for nine consecutive Week 1 kickoffs. NINE. I re-sign him and let Succop continue kicking his way into Bucs’ lore.

Bucs QB Blaine Gabbert
Bucs QB Blaine Gabbert – Photo by: USA Today

QB Blaine Gabbert – 1-year deal, $2 million
Gabbert is a strong-armed veteran that knows the system and the organization likes what he brings to the table. I would expect Gabbert to remain the backup for at least one more year in Tampa, if not longer as Arians stays around.

ILB Kevin Minter – 1-year deal, $990,000
Minter is valuable on special teams, comfortable in Todd Bowles’ defense and brings a key veteran presence to the locker room. He returns on a one-year deal keeping him behind David and Devin White in Tampa Bay for at least one more run.

OT Josh Wells – 1-year deal, $1.5 million
Wells has been with the Bucs for two years, making three starts in that time. He’s been the primary spot-starter at offensive tackle and I bring him back to continue those duties.