If you click over to Sportsbook Review, you will find all of the best online sportsbooks, including Intertops, and there you will see that the Bucs, tied with the Jets, are being offered at roughly 80-1 to win next season’s Super Bowl. Although playing in February is a starry-eyed scenario for Tampa Bay, the fact of the matter is that the Bucs appear to be trending up with new head coach Bruce Arians at the helm.
In his first move, Arians chose to release Vinny Curry, signed last year to a three-year $23 million pact with $6.5 million in guaranteed money. As you may recall, Curry was brought in to upgrade their defensive line when they released Robert Ayers, Jr. last year. Curry was plagued by a balky ankle and started seven of the dozen games he played in. Arians and general manager Jason Licht obviously believed the $8 million earmarked for the 30-year-old defensive end would be better spent elsewhere after former Browns Carl Nassib wrestled the starting job away. Tampa Bay has to make some salary cap cuts, and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy ($13 million), wide receiver DeSean Jackson ($10 million) and defensive tackle Beau Allen ($5 million) could all be on the chopping block to create more cap room.
The Bucs now have north of $15 million in cap space with more moves anticipated. There is free agency looming, but Tampa Bay must address the contracts of left tackle Donovan Smith and wideout Adam Humphries among them. In addition, there is also the NFL Draft and the Bucs, as a dubious reward for their hapless season, get the No. 5 pick. If the Bucs are smart, they will trade down, although not too far, and get another team to give them a king’s ransom for the opportunity to select the quarterback of their dreams.
This draft is replete with quality defensive linemen so whoever gets picked, before the Bucs select at their new draft spot, may not be as great as a player Tampa Bay picks later in the first round, as there are roughly half a dozen edge rushers and interior defensive linemen all graded in the same category, with Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa and Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams being the leaders of the pack.
Some have conjectured that the Bucs will take a running back at No. 5 but that would be absurdity. There is no Saquon Barkley in this year’s lot and Tampa Bay did use a second-rounder on USC’s Ronald Jones last April, which may prove to be a busted pick. However, it would be foolhardy of the Bucs to give up completely on Jones, and Peyton Barber could be re-signed as a restricted free agent for relatively cheap money. Yet, that one-two punch lacked luster last season, and the Bucs will be looking to add a running back through the draft. However, tapping Josh Jacobs out of Alabama early in the first-round doesn’t make much sense with so many other voids to fill. Atlanta’s Tevin Coleman or Jacksonville’s T.J. Yeldon could be had at the right price if the Bucs wanted a back with NFL experience.
If the Bucs stay put, they could decide to score a personal bodyguard for Jameis Winston in Florida’s Jawaan Taylor or add to their linebacking corps with LSU’s Devin White. There are a variety of options at Tampa’s disposal but the straw that stirs the drink is indeed Winston. The Bucs pulled the trigger on Winston’s fifth-year option from his rookie deal, which will cost the team $20.922 million.
Many have speculated that management will craft a long-term deal to keep Winston in a Bucs uniform for several more years if he can step up his game this year and reduce his amount of turnovers. Winston will either thrive under the paternal Arians or he will melt under his more disciplined regime. It’s sink-or-swim time for Winston to become the quarterback and leader he has purported to be throughout his career. Only time will tell.