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.
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.
Bucs GM Jason Licht – Photo by: USA Today
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.
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.
Explaining The Bucs Battle Plans For The 2021 Offseason
PewterReport.com 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 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.
Bucs director of football administration Mike Greenberg and GM Jason Licht – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
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 OverTheCap.com and Spotrac.com.
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.
Matera’s Bucs Battle Plan For The 2021 Offseason
Much like the previous mock drafts of this week, I tried to keep it fairly realistic to what could happen this year. After Chris Godwin was given the franchise tag and Lavonte David was re-signed for just a $3.5 million cap hit this season, the free agency plan is coming into focus, too. I may have taken some liberties with the assumption in the previous paragraph that Greenberg would create cap space with extensions and restructured contracts. Obviously the main goal was to bring back all of Tampa Bay’s top players and to sprinkle in a key free agent to help the team.
In order to re-sign the likes of outside linebacker Shaq Barrett and company, money will need to be found in other places. Tight end Cam Brate is a fan favorite who is and well liked by everyone in the organization and plays well in the playoffs. Unfortunately, though, he’s expendable with Rob Gronkowski returning and O.J. Howard getting healthy, plus there’s no cap hit by the move. The Bucs save $6.5 million and Brate has a chance to get more playing time with another team.
Bucs’ Salary Cuts
Defensive end Will Gholston is too important for depth purposes to get cut, but I do ask him to take a $2 million pay cut. That’ll push Gholston’s salary to $3.5 million, opening up a little more room.
Unrestricted Free Agent Signings
OLB Shaq Barrett – 4-year deal, $76 million
After Godwin’s franchise tag and the two-year deal with David, Barrett becomes the Bucs’ number one target this free agency. Barrett “gets the bag” as they say, receiving $19 million per year as Tampa Bay locks down a premiere pass rusher over the next four seasons.
DT Ndamukong Suh – 1-year deal, $5 million It’s up to Suh if he wants to continue playing, but if he does, it’ll only be with the Bucs, as he pursues a second straight Super Bowl with a defense he’s played very well in. He takes a little less than last year to stay with a championship winning team.
TE Rob Gronkowski – 1-year deal, $5 million
We know he wants to come back and he only wants to play with Tom Brady, which makes negotiations not that tough. Even if Brady extends his deal, I think this is the last year for Gronk, who has enjoyed returning and still playing at a high level.
WR Antonio Brown – 1-year deal, $3 million
It’s difficult to predict what the market will be like for Brown due to all the baggage that comes with him. He’s obviously still very talented, but I don’t think that 11 games is enough to say that Brown’s image has been repaired. There’s a risk involved signing Brown for a season, which drives his price down and keeps other teams away.
K Ryan Succop – 2-year deal, $6 million
The man that broke the Bucs’ kicking curse deserves a pay raise and some job security. And along with Brady, he probably also deserves a key to the city.
QB Blaine Gabbert – 1-year deal, $2 million
Gabbert knows the system and has been here for two years already. He resumes his role as the primary backup.
ILB Kevin Minter – 2-year deal, $2 million
Minter has proven to be a locker room leader as a captain on special teams and has stepped into big spots at linebacker when needed. Let’s skip this process again next season and sign him up for two.
OT Josh Wells – 1-year deal, $1.5 million
Depth on the offensive line proved to be important for the Bucs, so Wells comes back as a solid backup for the unit.
Bucs CB Ross Cockrell – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
CB Ross Cockrell – 1-year deal, $1.5 million
Cockrell was a pleasant surprise that came out of nowhere and was reliable as a third corner when Sean Murphy-Bunting was struggling and Jamel Dean was out. He’s earned a contract here.
S Andrew Adams – 1-year deal, $1 million
A solid piece on the back end that can play special teams and fill in at safety and hold it together when his number his called, just like it was in the NFC championship.
QB Ryan Griffin – 1-year deal, $990,000
Griffin continues a remarkable run of making the team as a third string quarterback with hardly any snaps in a regular season game.
CB Ryan Smith – 1-year, $990,000
Hands down Smith is one of the best special teams players on the Bucs roster, if not the best. He’s important to what they do with that group.
Unrestricted Free Agents Not Re-Signed
RB Leonard Fournette
It was a heck of a playoff run from Fournette, who now goes by the moniker of “Lombardi Lenny.” Fans won’t forget what he did on the way to a Super Bowl, but he’s going to get paid much more than last season and the Bucs won’t be able to afford him with the other players they have to re-sign.
OT Joe Haeg
He played solid as a blocking tight end in certain packages, though he was responsible for blocked field goals and extra points on more than one occasion.
TE Antony Auclair
The Bucs have depth at tight end and he was hurt for most of last year. He could get a training camp invite and a chance to sign later on if he doesn’t get an offer elsewhere.
Bucs RB LeSean McCoy – Photo by: USA Today
RB LeSean McCoy A good mentor to the younger Bucs’ running backs, McCoy didn’t provide much else last season and clearly doesn’t have much more to give after a great career.
RB T.J. Logan
Arians is a fan of his, but injuries have slowed him down and returners can be found elsewhere.
DT Rakeem Nunez-Roches
Everyone loves Nacho, and it’ll be tough to see him go. However, between free agency and the draft, the Bucs can upgrade in their depth at defensive tackle. There’s also a chance Nunez-Roches gets more money somewhere else after winning a Super Bowl.
DT Steve McLendon
Enjoy that Super Bowl ring and happy a retirement to you. McLendon retires after winning a championship as a role player on the defensive line with the Bucs.
LB Deone Bucannon
He was barely on the team last year until signing late for the postseason. Could be an option again if there are injuries.
LB Jack Cichy
There was always hope for the potential of Cichy, but he unfortunately just can’t stay healthy.
New Unrestricted Free Agents Signed
RB Marlon Mack – 2-year deal, $4 million
Everyone likes a good homecoming, right? The former USF back decides to return back to his college playing days after coming off of a season ending Achilles injury suffered in Week 1. The Bucs need a receiving back, and while his numbers may not stand out, Mack is definitely a huge upgrade in this area who can catch the ball and be a threat in the Bucs’ screen game and on swing passes. Ronald Jones II had five drops alone last season, and Mack hasn’t had one in his career. Mack has plenty of experience as well as a lead running back, so he can tote the rock as a change-of-pace back when Jones is out, or even be a third down back. Since he’s coming off an injury, you can get him for an inexpensive deal, and if the Jones leaves next season, Mack is the starter.
RB Marlon Mack – Photo by: USA Today
DL Henry Anderson – 1-year deal, $2 million
Anderson is another good run stopping defensive lineman that also has brings an above average pass rushing skill set to the defense. He’s familiar with Todd Bowles’ defense after playing for Bowles in his last season as head coach of the Jets. He even got the best out of Anderson, who had a career high seven sacks that year they were together.
OL Taylor Sambrailo – 1-year deal, $1.2 million
He got some starting time in Tennessee when Taylor Lewan was out. His experience doing that will be useful to the offensive line if he needs to be put in another similar role like that.
Restricted Rights Free Agents Signed
OG Aaron Stinnie – 1-year deal, $2.133 million
He was very important taking over for the injured Cappa at guard in the playoffs. Stinnie is great for depth.
Exclusive Rights Free Agents Signed
TE Tanner Hudson – 1-year deal, $850,000
It could be a big year for Hudson as he steps into an upgraded role as the third-string tight end. He hasn’t been able turn is solid training camps and turn that into a productive regular seasons.
DL Patrick O’Connor – 1-year deal, $850,000
A locker room favorite of his teammates and a good special teams player. He takes that role again.
LS Zach Triner – 1-year deal, $850,000
There’s no reason to switch things up at long snapper, especially after the year Succop had kicking.
Exclusive Rights Free Agent Not Re-Signed
DL Jeremiah Ledbetter
There’s just so many players on the defensive line now and every dollar saved counts as they re-sign their most important players. He could be brought back after the draft if the Bucs feel they need to add some depth.
A big man and eats up double team blockers on a regular basis, Barmore is a powerful defensive lineman that can win with the bull rush but also has quick hands to make the initial push. He’ll need to develop some more pass rushing moves, but with Tampa Bay’s coaching staff, he’s in a good spot. What’s great is that Barmore played his best football in the big moments, dominating in the college football playoff and championship games. He is the eventual successor to Suh, and he’ll have a great mentor entering the league.
Roche spent his first three college football seasons at Temple and dominated as a pass rusher there, recording 26 sacks in that time. Expected to be the top guy at Miami, it was Jaelan Phillips who was The U’s best edge rusher, and Roche recorded 4.5 sacks. But that shouldn’t stop the Bucs from picking him. Roche is solid as a run stopper and possesses good instincts on the pass rush. He plays the angles against opposing tackles and beats them to the corner on the edge with solid hand usage as well. With him, it’s all about technique and creating turnovers. Roche will compete with Anthony Nelson for third string.
Round 3 – North Carolina RB Michael Carter Senior • 5-8, 199
The Bucs get that sure handed receiving running back that everyone has been banging the table for. Not only does he bring a toughness to his running style, but he’s great in the open field with a nice quickness to his game and the ability to make defenders miss when he makes the initial cut. Carter is used to playing in a two-running back system, so he’ll fit in well with the committee the Bucs have.
Sooner rather than later the Bucs will have to look to replace David in two years, while simultaneously looking for a fourth string linebacker this year. They get a head start with Barnes, who brings the energy on the field. He’s your typical blue-collar linebacker that will always put his nose to the football and lay a helmet on the ball carrier. Barnes provides a physical aspect to his game that helps him get off of blockers. Though limited athletically a bit, Barnes played special teams early in his career and that’s exactly the role he’ll be playing this season.
Round 5 – David Moore G-C Grambling State Senior • 6-2, 350
It can’t be a Bucs draft without taking an offensive lineman from a small non-division I school. Moore is a bit of a developmental project in the fifth round, but who better to coach him than Harold Goodwin and Joe Gilbert. Moore’s massive size helps as a run blocker. He has an aggressive style to his game, which we know the Bucs’ offensive line like to have. His strength helps him in pass blocking, but he needs more balance.
We’re flooding the position at edge rusher with this comped pick that the Bucs just received on Wednesday. Bradley-King is best equipped for a 3-4 defense with his instinctual ability to anticipate where a play is going. Some of his best traits include his creativity when rushing the passer. He’ll compete for a roster spot this training camp.
After putting up great numbers at South Alabama, Cole is a player that relies on his intelligence and instinct to complete a play. Cole recorded 96 tackles his senior year, which was a huge jump fro 56 the year before. He’ll compete for a special teams job.
Another player that’ll push Justin Watson for one of last spots on the wide receiver depth chart. He played behind a lot of talented receivers at Florida and still had a productive year with 589 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. He’s good at catching contested passes and can block as well. That should help him on special teams.
Matera’s “Way Too Early” Bucs’ 53-Man Roster Projection
Quarterbacks – 3 QB Tom Brady QB Blaine Gabbert QB Ryan Griffin Analysis: The Bucs are Super Bowl favorites again as they go for two straight, and that’s with a full year of knowing the offense under Brady’s belt. Gabbert and Griffin return due to their experience in Bruce Arians’ system.
Running Backs – 4 RB Ronald Jones II RB Marlon Mack RB Michael Carter RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn Analysis: Jones could finally surpass 1,000 yards this season. Mack will be eager to get back on the field after missing all of last season. Carter could be the best receiving back and useful weapon out of the backfield, and Vaughn has a great opportunity to develop his game.
Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: USA Today
Wide Receivers – 6 WR Mike Evans WR Chris Godwin WR Antonio Brown WR Scotty Miller WR Tyler Johnson WR Trevon Grimes Analysis: Once again the Bucs have the best receiving group in football between Evans, Godwin and Brown. Miller will get a chance to continue to be a huge downfield threat and Johnson gets a chance to learn under the tutelage of the best.
Tight Ends – 4 TE Rob Gronkowski TE O.J. Howard TE Tanner Hudson TE Codey McElroy Analysis: It’ll be exciting to see Howard return after missing most of last season. If they continue to use Gronkowski as their primary blocker to go with his receiving skills, Howard has a chance to carve out a huge role as a receiver. Hudson and McElroy get an opportunity to develop their game.
Offensive Line – 9 OT Donovan Smith OG Ali Marpet C Ryan Jensen RG Alex Cappa RT Tristan Wirfs OT Josh Wells OT Taylor Sambrailo OG Aaron Stinnie OG David Moore Analysis: Keeping the same exact group for another seasons is so important to this team. They did a great job of protecting Brady last season and also excelled in the run game. They’ll be a Top 10 offensive line this season, if not Top 5. I’m a big fan of the depth as well.
Defensive Line – 6 DE Will Gholston DT Ndamukong Suh NT Vita Vea DL Henry Anderson DE Pat O’Connor DT Christian Barmore Analysis: Good luck to any offensive line that has to deal with Vea and Suh on a regular basis. The defensive line dominated last year with Vea gone for most of the year, and we saw the impact he had in the NFC Championship game and Super Bowl. Barmore makes them that much better, and there’s great depth behind that with Gholston and Anderson.
Bucs OLBs Shaquil Barrett andJason Pierre-Paul and DT Ndamukong Suh – Photo by: USA Today
Outside Linebackers – 5 OLB Shaq Barrett OLB Jason Pierre-Paul OLB Anthony Nelson OLB Cam Gill OLB Quincy Roche Analysis: Barrett and Pierre-Paul hate coming out, so they’ll get the majority of the snaps as they continue on their menacing pass rushing pace that helped win them a Super Bowl. Nelson hasn’t broken out yet and most likely won’t, but Roche has a promising future.
Inside Linebackers – 4 ILB Lavonte David ILB Devin White ILB Kevin Minter ILB Derrick Barnes Analysis: It’s the best linebacking duo in the NFL between White and David with Minter as an important backup. One if not both will make the Pro Bowl, and don’t be surprised if White makes All-Pro, either.
Cornerbacks – 5 CB Carlton Davis III CB Jamel Dean CB Sean Murphy-Bunting CB Ross Cockrell CB Ryan Smith Analysis: Davis is already a No. 1 corner and is well on the path to becoming a premiere shutdown corner by the end of the season. His two match-ups against Michael Thomas will be must watch television. Dean is a steady No. 2. The player to watch is Murphy-Bunting as the nickel corner. Will we see the regular season corner that struggled, or the one that had three interceptions in four games of the postseason? If he falters, Cockrell could see a lot of playing time.
Safeties – 4 SS Antoine Winfield Jr. SS Jordan Whitehead FS Mike Edwards FS Andrew Adams Analysis: The same group remains intact as the second year Winfield and third year Edwards continue their growth in the league. This should be a very fun group to watch between Whitehead’s hard-hitting style, Edwards ball hawking skills and all of Winfield’s versatility.
Special Teams – 3 K Ryan Succop P Bradley Pinion LS Zach Triner Analysis: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It was mostly smooth sailing for this group last season, they keep it going this year.
What Did You Think?
Did you like my Bucs Battle Plan for the 2021 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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