The Current State Of The Buccaneers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming off a franchise-best 13-4 season and a last-second, heartbreaking loss to the Rams in the playoffs. The Bucs have also had to cope with the retirements of two Pro Bowlers in quarterback Tom Brady and left guard Ali Marpet. Those losses are huge and will make the team’s focus in 2022 winning the NFC South rather than legitimately contending for another Super Bowl.

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians and GM Jason Licht

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians and GM Jason Licht – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

The Bucs have a plethora of starters slated for free agency, including tight end Rob Gronkowski, cornerback Carlton Davis III, center Ryan Jensen, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, safety Jordan Whitehead, running back Leonard Fournette, right guard Alex Cappa, defensive end Will Gholston and outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul. Tampa Bay can’t afford to bring them all back.

The biggest question will be at quarterback where the team is resigned to the fact that it can’t land a big name via a trade. With a weak free agent class, the Bucs are expected to re-sign free agent backup Blaine Gabbert to compete with Kyle Trask, last year’s second-round pick. Tampa Bay will need to add two more quarterbacks for depth and competition, but the pickings are slim.

The Bucs coaching staff remains largely intact with inside linebackers coach Mike Caldwell being the only major loss. Larry Foote moves from outside linebackers coach to take over. Bob Sanders, who coached with Bruce Arians in Arizona, was signed to coach outside linebackers.

Explaining The Bucs Battle Plans For 2022

PewterReport.com writers Scott Reynolds, Jon Ledyard, Matt Matera, JC Allen and Josh Queipo have devised their own Bucs Plans For the 2022 offseason. These come complete with free agent signings, trades, roster moves and draft picks to help Tampa Bay repeat as NFC South champions and make another playoff run.

Remember, these Bucs Battle Plans are how the PewterReport.com 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.

The Bucs have approximately $2.7 million worth of salary cap space right now, according to OverTheCap.com.

Bucs NT Vita Vea and OLB Shaq Barrett

Bucs NT Vita Vea and OLB Shaq Barrett – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Bucs general manager Jason Licht and vice president of football administration Mike Greenberg can create plenty of salary cap space by restructuring the contracts of several players and lowering their 2022 cap values. Wide receiver Mike Evans ($20,622,500 cap value in 2022), outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett ($19.75 million cap value in 2022), left tackle Donovan Smith ($18.4 million cap value in 2022) and nose tackle Vita Vea ($11,887,311 cap value in 2022) are the prime candidates. The Bucs might even extend the contracts of Evans and Smith this offseason rather than just doing restructures.

The free agents that Tampa Bay signs and re-sign will all have one or two years worth of guaranteed money. That’s a Greenberg staple when it comes to contracts. But the first year salaries will also be lower than the average yearly cap value of the contract to help the Bucs’ cap in 2022. The cap is expected to rise in 2023 and Tampa Bay can defer some money into later years.

Ledyard’s Bucs Battle Plan For The 2022 Offseason

Each of the Pewter Report Bucs Battle Plans are meant to reflect the preferences of the writer. We each don the general manager cap and shape what the franchise’s offseason looks like in our own way. However, that doesn’t mean we abandon the parameters of reality either. I want my plan to be in line with outcomes that are actually possible, not just desirable.

So expect to see me target Bucs prototypes in free agents, not just the best players. The same guidelines will be followed for my Bucs mock draft as well.

Bucs Stay Put In Draft

It’s easy to mock trades up to give the Bucs more draft picks in these Battle Plans. But I’m not cutting those corners. I do think the Bucs could be a trade down candidate in Round 1, but it depends how the board falls.

Tampa Bay’s 2022 NFL Draft Picks

Round 1 – No. 27
Round 2 – No. 60
Round 3 – No. 91
Round 4 – No. 131
Round 5 – No. 169
Round 7 – No. 246
Round 7 – No. 261 (expected compensatory pick)

Bucs’ Pay Cuts

For the third straight year, tight end Cameron Brate is going to have to take a pay cut. He’s set to make $7,285,000 in 2022. Last year, Brate made just under $2 million. He’ll have to take a similar cut to stay in Tampa Bay at age 31.

Unrestricted Free Agents Re-Signed

WR Chris Godwin – 4-year deal, $76 million
I think Godwin ultimately slots in around $19 million per year over a four-year deal. He’ll get less money per year than Mike Williams, but more guaranteed cash, which is king. The fact that there is no state income tax in Florida makes the take-home pay about equal.

CB Carlton Davis III – 4-year deal, $66 million
I no longer remain optimistic that Davis will be back in Tampa Bay on a long-term deal. The Bucs will let him test free agency, where they could be outbid. But I strongly disagree with that decision, and will choose to re-sign Davis in my battle plan.

Bucs RG Alex Cappa

Bucs RG Alex Cappa – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

RG Alex Cappa – 3-year deal, $27 million
Tampa Bay can’t afford to lose their whole interior offensive line, and Cappa is affordable for them. He’s improved every year and doesn’t break the bank.

SS Jordan Whitehead – 3-year deal, $18 million
A strong safety market will keep Whitehead attainable for the Bucs if they want him back. Will they? I would pull the trigger on a deal if I’m Tampa Bay. Whitehead is affordable and he’s a difference-maker around the box. There’s a value in that at the right price.

DT Will Gholston – 2-years, $10 million
The 30-year old has no desire to play anywhere other than Tampa Bay, and the Bucs sure could use him back. They’ll incentivize his deal on top of paying him $5 million per season.

QB Blaine Gabbert – 1-year, $4 million
Gabbert returning to the Bucs is a formality at this point. He’ll compete for the starting job with Kyle Trask, unless a better option magically presents itself.

G Aaron Stinnie – 1-year, $1.5 million
Stinnie is re-signed to a cheap, one-year deal and will compete for the left guard job vacated by Marpet’s retirement.

OT Josh Wells – 1-year, $1.2 million
Wells is back for the league minimum to provide depth at left and right tackle.

Bucs RB Giovani Bernard

Bucs RB Giovani Bernard – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

RB Giovani Bernard – 1-year, $2 million
I think Bernard returns on a short-term deal. He has a great chance to re-ignite his NFL stock given the state of the Bucs backfield. Bernard is a good player, and in 2022 he should get more opportunity to show it.

Andrew Adams – 1-year, $1.2 million
Adams is a valuable veteran backup who will come back for the league minimum.

DT Pat O’Connor – 1-year, $1.2 million
O’Connor, who injured his knee last season, is re-signed for the league minimum.

LS Zach Triner – 1-year, $1.2 million
The Bucs bring back their long snapper for another year.

Unrestricted Free Agents Not Re-Signed

Bucs C Ryan Jensen

Bucs C Ryan Jensen – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

C Ryan Jensen
Ultimately, the Bucs might chase Ryan Jensen’s price tag on the open market over re-signing Cappa. I think pursuing Jensen in the $13 million range would be a mistake. He’s an awesome player, but he’s a 31-year old center who has played through injuries the past two years. His body will break down during his next contract. Tampa Bay isn’t in a window where that’s an acceptable outcome for them. And center is a more replaceable position than many others.

DT Ndamukong Suh 

I think Suh might want to continue playing, but the Bucs need to get younger and more explosive at defensive tackle this offseason. With Rakeem Nunez-Roches and Gholston returning alongside Vea, the Bucs are okay with letting Suh survey the market.

OLB Jason Pierre-Paul
At age 33, Pierre-Paul is nearing the end. Given his recovery from a torn rotator cuff, I’m not sure he’ll be signed this spring. Pierre-Paul could be a summer signing for a contender. I doubt he’ll be back in Tampa Bay.

TE Rob Gronkowski
I’m guessing Gronkowski retires. If he comes back, I think he’ll opt to play for a team that contends in 2022. Probably Buffalo or Cincinnati.

RB Leonard Fournette
In a weak running back draft and free agency class, Fournette is going to get a nice contract. It’s just unlikely to be from the Bucs, who won’t try to re-sign everyone. Fournette improved a lot in 2021, but the Bucs know the running back position is the most replaceable on an NFL roster.

WR Breshad Perriman
No thanks to Round 3 of this adventure.

ILB Kevin Minter
Minter’s play fell off considerably last year. The Bucs shouldn’t need to bring him back with K.J. Britt ascending.

TE O.J. Howard
If not for injuries, Howard could be breaking the bank. But he just hasn’t been able to stay healthy, and he’s coming off the worst season of his career. Howard needs a prove-it deal and a fresh start somewhere.

Bucs RB Ronald Jones II

Bucs RB Ronald Jones II – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

RB Ronald Jones II
It’s easy to forget that Jones’ career could not have started much worse. He rushed for 44 yards and averaged under 2 yards per carry as an immature rookie. That’s usually a death knell for a position that should start fast in the NFL. It’s remarkable the Bucs were able to get two fairly productive seasons out of him. Jones is talented, but it would be stunning if he was back in Tampa Bay.

CB Richard Sherman
Sherman seems like he will retire.

DT Steve McLendon
I love McLendon, and he might come back for cheap. But if he does it’ll be late in free agency, perhaps even after the draft.

CB Pierre Desir
If the Bucs lose Davis I think Desir may return to Tampa Bay. But in my battle plan I’ll let him walk.

RB Le’Veon Bell
He’s cooked. Time to move on to boxing.

QB Ryan Griffin
Not trying to be mean, but Ryan Griffin just isn’t good enough to play in the NFL. And I’d like someone who is good enough on the roster.

New Unrestricted Free Agents Signed

QB Ryan Fitzpatrick – 1 year, $3.5 million (plus incentives)
Yes, you read that correctly. The Bucs loved Fitzpatrick when he was in Tampa Bay, but he left for a better opportunity. Now Fitzpatrick’s career is nearing an end after he missed last season with a hip injury. But he could have one more chance to go out in a blaze of glory in an offense his gunslinger ways would thrive in. If Fitzpatrick is healthy, he could give the Bucs a fun season competing with Gabbert, at least for awhile.

RB Sony Michel – 2 years, $9 million
Michel is one of the best pass protecting backs in the NFL and a very reliable rusher. He’s played in multiple systems and schemes, which will help playing alongside a young quarterback. Michel can share the load with Bernard and Vaughn, while providing competency on all three downs.

Ravens C Bradley Bozeman Bucs

Ravens C Bradley Bozeman – Photo by: USA Today

C Bradley Bozeman – 3 years, $24 million
I think there will be mutual interest between Bozeman and the Bucs in free agency. Tampa Bay would love to add a veteran to compete with Robert Hainsey next season. Adding a player like Bozeman would push Hainsey to guard or keep him on the bench. How confident are the Bucs in last year’s third round pick? I think they’ll want a veteran to pair with Kyle Trask this season.

TE Maxx Williams – 2 years, $7 million
Williams is a reliable pass catcher and a ferocious blocker. The Bucs are looking at a committee approach at tight end and running back this season. Williams should slot in perfectly as an asset in the run game and a decent red zone target.

DT Maurice Hurst – 1 year, $1.5 million
I loved Hurst coming out of the draft, but a heart issue dropped him to a day three pick. He’s played well, just struggled to stay healthy. But he’s so cheap and provides such a strong rotational pass rush presence that I’m all about Tampa Bay adding him this offseason.

WR Byron Pringle – 2 years, $8 million
Pringle, a Tampa native, comes home for a great price to compete for the No. 3 receiver role in Tampa Bay. He improved every year in Kansas City, sporting a well-rounded game that fits what the Bucs want in a wideout. Pringle caught 42 passes for 568 yards and five touchdowns last year. His ability to play inside or outside and makes plays after the catch will pair nicely with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.

LB Josh Bynes – 1 year, $1.1 million
Bynes has been a solid starter/contributor at linebacker for most of his career. But at almost 33 years old, he’s nearing the end. Tampa Bay needs to upgrade Kevin Minter’s old spot, and Bynes is a cheap option to reunite with Bruce Arians. He’ll step in more effectively than Minter did if Lavonte David or Devin White goes down.

Ledyard’s 2022 Bucs Draft Picks

Round 1 – Georgia DT Devonte Wyatt • 6-3, 304

In terms of talent, Wyatt has to be exactly what the Bucs are trying to pair next to Vita Vea. He’s explosive, athletic and can make plays behind the line of scrimmage. Wyatt isn’t a developed pass rusher yet, but the traits are there, as is the motor. You don’t have to worry about him sitting on blocks. Also, Wyatt might talk more trash than Nunez-Roches, and he defends the run well too. If he’s there at No. 27, it’s a great pick.

Round 2 – North Dakota State WR Christian Watson • 6-4, 208

Some people are going to say Watson won’t be on the board at No. 60. Truth be told, I spent more time than I should have researching and pondering this. Bottom line: I don’t think it’s crazy to believe an FCS receiver who never hit 850 yards in a season and who nobody ever heard of six weeks ago could be a late second-round pick. True, Watson’s absurd Combine testing could push a team to take a swing on him. But if he’s around the Bucs’ striking distance, they could make a small move up to get him. Watson is the exact type of receiver Tampa Bay would love to pair with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin long term.

Round 3 – Central Michigan OG Luke Goedeke • 6-5, 312

Goedeke is a tackle prospect who could move inside in the NFL. He’s nasty and physical, which fits the Bucs mold in the trenches. His arm length will scare some teams, but Goedeke is powerful with an outstanding build. A lot of his issues on tape in college will be mitigated by moving inside. He’ll have time to develop behind the Bucs current roster options too.

Round 4 – Florida RB Dameon Pierce • 5-10, 218

Pierce is fun to watch on tape. Not many backs that can combine burst and contact balance have to share the workload in college, but Pierce did. Because of that, his draft stock could remain relatively quiet. In fact, the lack of college carries could actually help extend Pierce’s career in the NFL, a la Alvin Kamara. He’s a well-rounded back with sure-hands and great willingness in pass protection too. His energizer bunny demeanor will be a welcome disposition alongside the quiet-tempered Vaughn, too.

Round 5 – San Diego State TE Daniel Bellinger • 6-5, 253

Bellinger hails from an offense where he was asked to block a lot in the run game. He can improve in his execution, and the Combine revealed he has the size and athleticism to do so. I think the best could be yet to come for Bellinger, who will develop as the Bucs No. 3 tight end this season.

Round 7 – Pitt CB Damarri Mathis • 5-11, 196

Mathis is under 6-feet tall, but has nearly 32-inch arms and sports a compact frame. He ran 4.39 at the Combine, which could boost his stick beyond this pick. Mathis is unlikely to be an early starter in the NFL, but he has good zone processing and physicality. His profile is intriguing enough to develop, while letting him ball on special teams.

Round 7 (comp pick) – Kansas State QB Skylar Thompson • 6-2, 217

I’ve seen a little bit of Thompson in college, and always been impressed by his play. However the quarterback has battled injuries and will be a 25-year old rookie. Still, two of the quarterback evaluators I trust think Thompson has a chance to be the sleeper quarterback in this class. Of course, he has to stay healthy and have a lot of things break his way. But he’ll get a chance to learn on the practice squad.

Ledyard’s “Way Too Early” Bucs 53-Man Roster Projection

QUARTERBACKS – 3
Blaine Gabbert
Kyle Trask
Ryan Fitzpatrick

Analysis: What a training camp battle this would be. I can’t wait. Skyler Thompson will spend the year on the practice squad.

RUNNING BACKS – 4
Sony Michel
Giovani Bernard
Ke’Shawn Vaughn
Dameon Pierce

Analysis: Michel could begin the season as the starter, while Bernard picked up the third-down duties. Vaughn would assume change-of-pace opportunities, until Pierce passes him on the depth chart. Expect a shared backfield with plenty of touches to go around.

Chiefs WR Byron Pringle

Chiefs WR Byron Pringle – Photo by: USA Today

WIDE RECEIVERS – 6
Mike Evans
Chris Godwin
Byron Pringle
Christian Watson
Tyler Johnson
Jaelon Darden

Analysis: I think adding Pringle and Watson this offseason is one of the more realistic paths to clear upgrades at the No. 3/4 wide receiver spots. Still, I believe Tyler Johnson sticks around for now, while Darden gets another crack at returning kicks.

TIGHT ENDS – 3
Cam Brate
Maxx Williams
Daniel Bellinger

Analysis: Brate and Williams will share the lion’s share of the responsibilities, with Bellinger still developing. It could be a year full of opportunity for Brate, a fortuitous situation for him given how he played last season.

OFFENSIVE LINE – 9
LT Donovan Smith
OG Aaron Stinnie
C Bradley Bozeman
RG Alex Cappa
RT Tristan Wirfs
C Robert Hainsey
OT Josh Wells
OG Cody Goedeke

Analysis: The Bucs will need to replace two interior offensive line starters this season, which isn’t ideal. But they could do worse than Bozeman and Goedeke, the latter of whom won’t need to start right away. Aaron Stinnie has proven capable in a pinch, and Nick Leverett provides insurance from the practice squad.

DEFENSIVE LINE – 6
Will Gholston
Vita Vea
Devonte Wyatt
Rakeem Nunez-Roches
Maurice Hurst
Pat O’Connor

Analysis: Adding Wyatt and Hurst to this interior defensive line would be a home run offseason for the Bucs’ front. And don’t forget about Pat O’Connor coming back from injury. He was flashing nicely in a pass-rushing role before he got hurt. I’d be very excited about this group’s potential in 2022 and beyond.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS – 4
Shaquil Barrett
Joe Tryon-Shoyinka
Anthony Nelson
Cam Gill

Analysis: I think the Bucs enter this offseason with a lot of faith in their edge defender room. Joe Tryon-Shoyinka has star potential, Anthony Nelson developed wonderfully last year and Cam Gill has been an undrafted surprise. If the Bucs get to camp and have questions, they can always kick the can on Pierre-Paul closer to the season.

Bucs ILBs KJ Britt and Grant Stuard

Bucs ILBs KJ Britt and Grant Stuard – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

INSIDE LINEBACKERS – 5
Devin White
Lavonte David
Josh Bynes
K.J. Britt
Grant Stuard

Analysis: Because Grant Stuard is essentially just a special teamer, I’m fine with carrying five linebackers into the season. GM Jason Licht praised Britt and Stuard’s development at the NFL Combine, which was interesting. Both may be fine special teamers, but Britt does not have an attractive future as an NFL starting linebacker. In a deep linebacker class, I wonder if the Bucs look for Lavonte David’s eventual replacement in April.

CORNERBACKS – 6
Carlton Davis III
Jamel Dean
Sean Murphy-Bunting
Ross Cockrell
Damarri Mathis
Dee Delaney

Analysis: I think Cockrell could be cut this offseason, but I had no obvious replacement in this battle plan. So I kept him, and hoped that Mathis could develop into an ideal slot cornerback someday. Remember, this is what I would do as Bucs GM. There’s a very real chance this cornerback room looks quite different in a few days.

SAFETIES – 4
Antoine Winfield, Jr.
Jordan Whitehead
Mike Edwards
Andrew Adams

Analysis: Tampa Bay keeps last year’s safety room intact by re-signing Whitehead and Adams.

SPECIAL TEAMS – 3
K Ryan Succop
P Bradley Pinion
LS Zach Triner

Analysis: It’s possible Succop and Pinion could be beaten out for their jobs by cheaper options. But I’d rather roll with the veterans until others prove themselves. We’ll see what happens in camp.

What Did You Think?

Did you like my Bucs Battle Plan for the 2022 offseason? Does it adequately address Tampa Bay’s needs? Which additions did you like best? Let me know what you think in the article comments section below.

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About the Author: Jon Ledyard

Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
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Captain Sly
Captain Sly
3 months ago

Haha dude you’re Too Funny!! Ryan Fitzpatrick can’t stop laughing 😂 he’s Jamies 2.0! I really needed that laugh. Seriously the rest of your plan looks good, that Sony Michel signing could be epic and I absolutely love our 1st rd pick. Fantasy I know so don’t pinch me

fredster
fredster
3 months ago

I’d prefer Succup gone. Tired of his weak leg and somewhat inconsistency even on short FG’s at times. Fitztragic again? Ugh. I guess we really won’t have many other options. Dude has had a long and good career and I like him, but if he’s our QB we have no chance of being better than mediocre. Likely don’t have chance being better than mediocre with Trask or Gabby either though. The roster you put together looks decent on paper. I still get a bad feeling when I look at the CB’s. Davis might be gone and the rest all suck.… Read more »

tomcin
tomcin
3 months ago

I agree mostly but I would get rid of both kickers & not sure about Fitz. I think I’d rather have Jameis. Also think your wrong about Griffin. They really need Lenny back at a decent price. Get a punter in the draft. Other than that you did fine.

gcolerick
gcolerick
3 months ago

Don’t really like the Fitzpatrick move. Whether you like Trask or not, he is on the roster to be our QB of the future and I think Fitzpatrick would just slow down that development. The only other part of your plan that I really have an issue with is holding on to Succop. I believe his best days are behind him.

FinkleisEinhorn
FinkleisEinhorn
3 months ago

Hey Jon – 2 questions for you…

  1. Did you know Devonte Wyatt will be 24 when the season starts? Because of that, I wouldn’t draft him in the first.
  2. I see multiple PR plans have us signing Bozeman from Baltimore. Is there a general consensus the Raven won’t be re-signing him? If so, why is that? They have more cap space than us.
BrooklynBucsFan
BrooklynBucsFan
3 months ago

Like the plan, but only if Fitz is our back up. If we have to settle at QB, we gotta see what Trask has so they know if they need to draft someone next year.

Joseph
Joseph
3 months ago

I wouldn’t mind seeing Fitz back I’m not expecting much out of the 2022 season so why not I prefere the nickname fitzmagic rather than fitztragic lol

scubog
scubog
3 months ago

I about spit my morning coffee all over the computer screen when I saw Ryan Fitzpatrick’s photo. The same, coming off an injury, Ryan Fitzpatrick who has been on and let go by more teams than Elizabeth Taylor was husbands. She too had a repeat with one of them. Please, not us! If we’re destined to “suck” at QB like some here believe, then can’t we at least “suck” with someone who might “suck” less next season and beyond?

Dman
Dman
Reply to  scubog
3 months ago

Ok now that’s funny.

Dman
Dman
3 months ago

Jon, this was m favorite battle plan until you pulled the string on Fitz. Still like your FA picks, keeping Davis and Cappa, Bozeman and Hurst. Like Wyatt in RD1 and rest of draft is decent. Starts with signing Davis and Cappa. Will be interesting.