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.
The Bucs have a plethora of starters slated for free agency, including tight end Rob Gronkowski, wide receiver Chris Godwin, 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.
Bucs HC Bruce Arians and GM Jason Licht – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
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 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.
Matera’s Bucs Battle Plan For The 2022 Offseason
The way I went about building my Bucs Battle Plan is a mixture of keeping the team competitive for the 2022 season while also understanding that this is a stop-gap year based on the quarterback position. It’s difficult to stay under the cap this year and re-sign every player, but I tried making a splash signing or two. A lot of this relies on younger players stepping up into bigger roles without tying up a ton of money to aging players on long-term deals.
Godwin Franchise Tagged
Well, the huge news on Tuesday was that the Bucs used the franchise tag on wide receiver Chris Godwin. That’s $19.2 million on Tampa Bay’s cap since it’s the second year Godwin has been tagged. The good news is he remains a Buccaneer. The bad news is that it’s a giant hit to the cap when they’ve had a year to reach a long-term deal. They could still come to an agreement by July – or even before the start of free agency.
Bucs Pay Cuts
We’ve seen this song and dance before. Tight end Cameron Brate has taken a pay cut the last two seasons and will need to take another this year. He knows the drill. Brate made just under $2 million last year, so he’ll do the same and save the Bucs $5 million.
LG Ali Marpet – Marpet leaves one last parting gift for the Bucs by clearing $10 million in cap room.
NT Vita Vea – Even after a new deal, they can convert a chunk of Vea’s salary into a bonus and go from $11.89M to $4.25M on the cap.
OLB Shaq Barrett – Same thought process here just like Vea. A restructure to Barrett can save the Bucs just under $10 million.
Bucs Extend Evans and Smith
The pillars of the current Bucs roster reside around Mike Evans and Donovan Smith among others. Evans has always been team first and has restructured his contract in the past to open up more cap room. Smith is another team-first guy that the Bucs have treated well when it comes to agreeing to a deal.
By converting their salaries to mostly signing bonuses and extending their contract, Tampa Bay opens up $19 million.
P Bradley Pinion
Pinion’s fate might have been sealed when he kicked two kickoffs out of bounds in the divisional playoff round. He dealt with injuries last year and was essentially run of the mill. For his price, he can be replaced. The Bucs save $2.9 million here.
K Ryan Succop
Succop was solid last year but not as good as he was in 2020. He doesn’t have a strong leg, and because of that the Bucs couldn’t settle for many field goals that were 50-plus. When Tom Brady is your quarterback you can get away with it. But that isn’t the case anymore. The league is spread with kickers who can boot the ball. Tampa Bay already has his replacement on the roster with Jose Borregales. This opens up an extra $2.5 million in cap room.
Unrestricted Free Agents Re-Signed
CB Carlton Davis III – 4 years, $70 million
If you can’t tag him, sign him. Davis is a shut-down corner for the Bucs and they can’t afford to lose him. Giving him enough guaranteed money at the start should keep him happy. It doesn’t leave the Bucs in a hole either, if they can get his 2022 cap number to around $14 million. There are other top level corners available out there, but with Davis’ age and fit on the team, it makes sense to bring him back instead of signing some else. I understand his injury history, but it’s a risk the Bucs have to bet on.
RG Alex Cappa – 3 years, $25.5 million
Cappa continues to improve as a player and he’s a cheaper option than re-signing Ryan Jensen. He’ll help lessen the blow of losing Marpet. Locking Cappa up for three years keeps a little stability on the offensive line.
DT Will Gholston – 1 year, $4.5 million
He’s a long tenured Buc that fits great in this defense. Gholston comes up with a handful of splash plays each season, playing well with 4.5 sacks. I call him the ameba because he can adapt to anything.
QB Blaine Gabbert – 1 year, $4 million With his salary doubled and an opportunity to be a starting quarterback again, Gabbert is back on a cheap deal. This helps the Bucs sign other players. All aboard the Blaine Train, he could be under center the first week.
OG Aaron Stinnie – 2 years, $3 million
Stinnie gets some stability with a second year. He’s proved he can hold his own when he started during the Super Bowl run. He’ll compete to be the full-time starter this offseason.
OT Josh Wells – 1 year, $1.2 million
Wells is a serviceable backup that filled in when Tristan Wirfs was out. He takes the same role this season.
RB Giovani Bernard – 1 year, $1.2 million
I like the idea of Bernard coming back and being a mentor to the younger backs again. He’ll have a role on third down.
S Andrew Adams – 1 year, $1.2 million
He knows the offense and is a favorable veteran backup.
LS Zach Triner – 1 year, $1.2 million
There’s been no snapping problems, so bring him back.
DT Pat O’Connor – 1 year, $1.2 million
A solid player on special teams and all-around good locker room guy.
QB Ryan Griffin – 1 year, $1.2 million
Griffin might end up with a longer playing career than Tom Brady with the way he keeps re-signing with the Bucs.
Unrestricted Players Not Re-Signed
Bucs S Jordan Whitehead – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
SS Jordan Whitehead I’d like for Whitehead to come back to the Bucs, but I’m projecting he’ll get overpaid. He’s an old school safety that hits hard and brings energy to the defense. We all know how helpful he is in the run game, but if a team is going to give him $9 million, that’s too much for the Bucs.
C Ryan Jensen
It’s tough to lose Jensen. He’s one of the leaders on offense and arguably the best center in football. For his asking price, it’s just too much. I’m more concerned on if he’ll break down in the later years of his contract than his outlook for the 2022 season.
DT Ndamukong Suh Suh has been formidable for the Bucs up front and helped with having the best run defense in the NFL. At some point they have to get younger and I’d rather have some defensive tackles that you know will be there for multiple seasons.
OLB Jason Pierre-Paul JPP is a warrior that has constantly played through difficult injuries. You won’t find many more determined players than him. The injuries keep piling up, though, and his play declined. His departure gives free reign to Joe Tryon-Shoyinka at outside linebacker.
TE Rob Gronkowski He’s either retiring or playing for a team with a more established quarterback.
RB Leonard Fournette I love Lombardi Lenny. It just doesn’t make sense to pay a running back a lucrative deal. I hope he gets the bag somewhere else.
RB Ronald Jones II Jones was unhappy about his playing time last year after getting losing the running back competition to Fournette. He’ll look for another team.
TE O.J. Howard Howard was used sparingly in the Bucs’ offense last year. Some will say he can still reach his potential. A fresh start would give him that chance.
ILB Kevin Minter Minter is great on special teams as a team captain. He got a bit exposed at inside linebacker when Lavonte David was out.
CB Richard Sherman He’s aging and his body is breaking down. I wouldn’t be surprised if he calls it a career.
Bucs DT Steve McLendon – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
NT Steve McLendon I was surprised that McLendon came back this year. He could retire this time, but either way, the Bucs need to get younger at defensive tackle. He’ll always have that interception.
RB Le’Veon Bell Bell was brought in because of injuries at running back. Look out for him on TV in a boxing match.
CB Pierre Desir I’m fine if the Bucs want to sign him late in the summer to compete in training camp.
New Unrestricted Free Agents Signed
S Marcus Maye – 1 year, $5 million
For this scenario, Whitehead gets more money thrown at him that’s too rich for the Bucs. In comes Maye, who has to play on a prove it deal following an Achilles injury last season. He’s a talented safety that can do a little bit of everything on defense and be moved around in different spots. Maye played only six games last season, but before that played a full season in the past two years. In 2020, Maye recorded 88 tackles, two interceptions, 11 pass breakups, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Those are quite similar numbers to Whitehead from that year. Maye was drafted in 2018 by the Jets. Who was the head coach then? You guessed it, Todd Bowles.
C Brian Allen – 3 years, $17 million
Allen is young at 26, and can replace Jensen at center if the Bucs don’t trust Robert Hainsey yet. He has an injury history as well, suffering an MCL injury in 2019 and taking longer to recover than expected in 2020. With that said, he bounced back in 2021, helping the Rams win the Super Bowl. Allen plays well in a zone blocking scheme and is very mobile at his position despite the previous injury.
The Bucs add depth with Edmonds in the backfield. He’s used to playing in a rotational role having shared time with James Conner on the Cardinals. He can be a lead back if the Bucs go that way or also handle third down responsibilities. There would be familiarity on the coaching staff as Edmonds played under Byron Leftwich in Arizona. Edmonds recorded 592 rushing yards and two touchdowns along with 43 receptions for 311 yards in 12 games last season.
TE Mo Alie-Cox – 3 years, $18 million
This is a good opportunity for Alie-Cox to capture a starting role for the Bucs after splitting time with the Colts. He provides a solid combination as a receiving tight end and a player that can block. You know Tampa Bay’s coaching staff is keying in on that. He caught 24 catches for 316 yards and four touchdowns the previous season. There’s a lot of upside potential here.
DT Larry Ogunjobi – 3 years, $24 million
After four years with the Cleveland Browns, Ogunjobi went to the other NFL team in Ohio to sign a one-year, $6 million deal with the Cincinnati Bengals. He played in 16 games this season before injuring his foot in the playoffs. He recorded seven sacks in that time, which makes him an enticing addition to the Bucs lining next to Vea. The Bucs sign a younger guy to replace Suh, and it comes with more years and around the same money they’d give to the veteran player.
Matera’s 2022 Bucs Draft Picks
Round 1 – Ohio State WR Chris Olave, 6-3, 187
What would make Olave so exciting for the Bucs is his route-running ability. He’s considered one of the best at it in this year’s receiver class. Tampa Bay’s offense is heavily predicated on wide receivers winning their battles down the field, and his route-running has helped him separate from defenders. Olave has a knack for making the huge catch as a deep threat. The Bucs can take a lot of deep shots with him or just quickly throw it and let him do the rest. He had his best year as a senior at Ohio State, making 65 catches for 936 yards and a team best 13 receiving touchdowns in 11 games. Olave is a threat to opposing defenses at all times when lining up. He turned heads at the NFL Combine running a 4.39 40-yard dash.
Round 2 – Montana State LB Troy Andersen, 6-3, 243
The Bucs love small school guys and Anderson fits that mold. I know that we don’t want to live in a world where Lavonte David isn’t starting at linebacker, but he’s only under contract for one more season. Andersen is a tackling machine, racking up 150 tackles in his last year. I don’t care what conference you’re in, those are huge numbers. After previously playing quarterback and running back, he’s used that for great instincts on the field and can get sideline to sideline quickly. After having a great Senior Bowl, Andersen impressed at the Combine with a 4.42 40 – the fastest of all linebackers. I know the Bucs drafted Grant Stuard and K.J. Britt last season, but they seem more like special teams players. Andersen can be David’s future replacement.
Round 3 – Memphis OL Dylan Parham, 6-3, 311
Parham is a versatile offensive lineman that went from a tight end to tackle and then settling at guard. He’s got good footwork because of his experience as a tight end, which fits his mobility going across and up the field. Remember when Leonard Fournette had his Super Bowl touchdown run? What about his touchdown to seal the game against the Colts last season? That was all from a pulling linemen on the play. I can see Parham excelling in those types of plays. He’ll need to keep bulking up, but he’s been doing that each season and should continue progressing.
Round 4 – Oklahoma DT Perrion Winfrey, 6-4, 290
Winfrey has a good first step and fast hands. The Bucs are looking for quicker defensive tackles this year, so Winfrey might just be a fit. He’s shown that he has a number of passing rushing moves he can go to, which was evident by the way he stood out at the Senior Bowl. Winfrey recorded 40 tackles, six sacks, 16.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble with the Sooners in two years.
Round 5 – Missouri CB Akayleb Evans, 6-2, 197
The Bucs like corners with length and that’s exactly what Evans has. He’s a physical player that is strong at the point of contact. Evans welcomes competition too, transferring from Tulsa to Missouri and facing better competition. There’s a lot of raw talent with Evans, and he has struggled with finding the ball in the air and with some zone coverages. It’ll be on Tampa Bay’s coaches to help him improve in those areas. Another cool fact, Evans started his own charity, the Akayleb Evans Foundation, which gives back to kids and adults in his hometown of Mckinney, Texas. He recorded 82 tackles, one sack, 11 pass deflections and a forced fumble at Tulsa followed by 28 tackles, one interception, six pass breakups and another forced fumble in his lone season with Mizzou playing SEC football.
Round 7 – FIU RB D’Vonte Price 6-2, 215
Price used to run track so he’s a speedster at the position. He’s a smooth runner that can go in between the tackles and take it to the outside as well. Price can pass block when asked to and doesn’t shy away from it. He’s also got some power to his game and can help out in the passing attack. He ran for 2,203 yards and 15 touchdowns in his FIU career, along with making 45 catches for 307 yards and a score.
Round 7 (Comp’d Pick) – Colorado State P Ryan Stonehouse, 5-11, 185
The Bucs need a punter to replace Pinion. If Matt Arazia is off the board, Stonehouse is the next option. He’s a three-time first team All-Mountain West punter. In 2021 he was named to the second team behind Arazia. As a senior Stonehouse had an average of 50.9 yards on his punts.
Matera’s “Way Too Early” Bucs 53-Man Roster Projection
Analysis: It’s a quarterback competition between Gabbert and Trask come training camp! With a weakened NFC South, there’s still a path for the Bucs to make the postseason. This gives the nod to Gabbert considering he knows the offense better than any quarterback on the roster. If the Bucs are out of it late, look for Trask to get some reps as a starter.
Analysis: It’ll be running back by committee this season. Who gets the first crack as the starter will be determined during training camp. This should make for a fun competition to watch. Vaughn has a lot to prove while Edmonds is a veteran that can get the job done. Bernard will play on third down and we’ll see what we get from Price.
WIDE RECEIVERS – 5
WR Mike Evans
WR Chris Godwin
WR Chris Olave
WR Tyler Johnson
WR Jaelon Darden
Analysis: The Bucs keep their dynamic duo intact with Evans and Godwin. Olave brings a lot of excitement as the No. 3 wide receiver. I’m not as down on Darden after only one season, but it’s now or never for Johnson.
TIGHT ENDS – 3
Analysis: Alie-Cox becomes the starter. Brate stays as the second tight end. He’ll have a role as per usual. McElroy has been developing behind the scenes and it pays off by earning a spot the 53-man roster for the season.
OFFENSIVE LINE – 10
LT Donovan Smith
LG Aaron Stinnie
C Brian Allen
RG Alex Cappa
RT Tristan Wirfs
C Robert Hainsey
OT Josh Wells
G Dylan Parham
OL Nick Leverett
G Sadarius Hutcherson
Analysis: The offensive line looks quite different this year without Marpet or Jensen. Allen comes in to start at center while Stinnie and Parham compete at left guard. Overall solid depth with the backups that can be moved around.
Oklahoma DT Perrion Winfrey – Photo by: USA Today
DEFENSIVE LINE – 6
NT Vita Vea
DT Larry Ogunjobi
DE Will Gholston
DT Perrion Winfrey
NT Rakeem Nunez-Roches
DE Pat O’Connor
Analysis: Ogunjobi is the new addition that plays a starting role alongside Vea. Winfrey will get some playing time rotating in but also gets to learn from the veterans in front of him. Gholston takes the same role he’s had with the team.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS – 4
OLB Shaquil Barrett
OLB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka
OLB Anthony Nelson
OLB Cam Gill
Analysis: I don’t expect Barrett or the young JTS to come off the field that much. That makes Gill possible as the fourth outside linebacker. Nelson is in a contract year with much to prove. He was good last year and will look to build on that.
INSIDE LINEBACKERS – 5
ILB Devin White
ILB Lavonte David
ILB Troy Andersen
ILB K.J. Britt
ILB Grant Stuard
Analysis: David and White are the leaders of the team and that’s not changing. Andersen gets to learn under the duo, and gets the first shot of filling in if there were to be an injury. Britt and Stuard remain as core special teamers.
CORNERBACKS – 6
CB Carlton Davis III
CB Jamel Dean
CB Sean Murphy-Bunting
CB Akayleb Evans
CB Ross Cockrell
CB Dee Delaney
Analysis: Pretty much the same group of corners as last year along with the addition of Evans. It’s a huge year for Dean and Murphy-Bunting. The Bucs most likely won’t be able to keep both next season.
Bucs S Mike Edwards – Photo by: USA Today
SAFETIES – 4
FS Antoine Winfield, Jr.
SS Marcus Maye
SS Mike Edwards
FS Andrew Adams
Analysis: Winfield Jr. and Maye will lead the way as the last line of defense. It’s intriguing to see how they will work together given their capabilities. Edwards should see the field as well with his ball-hawking abilities.
SPECIAL TEAMS – 3
K Jose Borregales
P Ryan Stonehouse
LS Zach Triner
Analysis: Triner is the only returning special teamer from last year. Borregales has been with the team and done well in practice, but in-game is a different test. It’ll be interesting to see how Stonehouse does in the NFL, along with the unit.
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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