The PewterReport.com Roundtable features the opinions of the PR staff as it tackles a topic each week that involves the Bucs.
This week’s topic: Most Important Free Agent For Bucs To Re-Sign
Table of Contents
Scott Reynolds: Believe It Or Not – It’s Succop
Is Ryan Succop the most important Bucs free agent-to-be this offseason? In some regards, yes. While I laid out the argument for Tampa Bay using the franchise tag on slot receiver Chris Godwin in my SR’s Fab 5 column on Friday (it saves the Bucs about $4 million), and making an attempt to re-sign inside linebacker Lavonte David and outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett makes a lot of sense, keeping Succop is of the utmost importance for a franchise that has absolutely sucked – pun intended – at the kicker position for a decade.
Bucs K Ryan Succop – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
It’s no coincidence that the Bucs won Super Bowl LV in a season in which the team had its best kicker in franchise history, and that’s exactly what Succop was – connecting on 90.3 percent of his field goals (28-of-31) and 91.2 percent of his extra points (52-of-57). And Succop had three kicks blocked in his first season in Tampa Bay, which was no fault of his own. So those percentages could – and should – be higher. Yes, Tom Brady coming to the Bucs played a huge role in the team going to and winning the Super Bowl. But the fact that Succop broke the team’s single-season record for most points scored with 136 was also a huge factor. I’m not sure the Bucs win 11 games in the regular season or all four postseason games with a 75 percent kicker last year.
The 34-year old Succop was a great addition by general manager Jason Licht, who tried all avenues (in vain) since 2014 to solidify the Bucs’ kicking situation. Licht tried signing some high-profile free agents in Nick Folk and Chandler Catanzaro, drafted two kickers in Roberto Aguayo and Matt Gay, traded for a kicker in Kyle Brindza and signed a couple of in-season replacements in Pat Murray and Cairo Santos. None were even close to as good as Succop. Don’t let that guy go. By the way, Succop has never missed in the postseason, going 13-of-13 in eight career playoff games, including four last season in Tampa Bay. That’s the guy I want as my kicker if I’m Licht and head coach Bruce Arians. Succop signed a one-year, $1,050,000 deal last year. He deserves to be re-signed to a three-year, $12 million deal as a thank you for a job well done in my opinion.
Mark Cook: Keeping Godwin Vital To Continued Offensive Success
Everyone here has made some good choices and arguments in terms of who and why they think is most important. But for me it has to be wide receiver Chris Godwin. The Buccaneers averaged over 30 points in their last seven games, which by the way all happened to be win. So disrupting that cog in the wheel would be foolish. If you can put up over 30 points a game, you aren’t going to lose very often as we saw this past season.
And while Godwin didn’t have his best statistical season, he was vital in the success of the offense. It isn’t just receptions that defines why Godwin is important, it is the little things that often goes unnoticed that helps this offense hum. Head coach Bruce Arians mentioned it last week, saying, “When you look at what he does as an outside receiver and a slot receiver, he’s so unique in that regard, and then you put the blocking in there. He’s a huge part of what we do offensively. It’s more than stats. It’s also what the guy brings to the huddle.”
Bucs WR Chris Godwin – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
And another reason why brining Godwin back makes the most sense is the fact he is just 24 years old. Read that again, 24 years old. Godwin, despite having a 1,300 season already on his resumé, still has room to get better. And the Bucs should find a way to do it long term this offseason, if not Godwin might reset the receiver market through the NFL as a free agent. He is the youngest or the team’s 2021 free agents and out of everyone, still has them most upside. Tampa Bay wants everyone back, but they need Godwin back the most.
Jon Ledyard: Losing Barrett Would Hurt Bucs’ Chances The Most
I don’t think there’s a wrong answer to this question out of the Bucs’ big three free agents, but to me outside linebacker Shaq Barrett is the hardest to replace if he’s gone. There’s nothing on the roster behind him, Jason Pierre-Paul is aging and has a significant injury history, and if the Bucs wanted to replace Barrett in free agency, they’d probably have a hard time doing that for less than what the veteran edge rusher is going to make in free agency.
Tampa Bay just won a Super Bowl in large part because of its pass rush, a unit that featured several good players, but of which Barrett has been the best and most consistent each of the past two years. After your offensive passing game, I would argue a defense’s ability to stop the pass is the next most important thing about your team, and for Todd Bowles’ unit a huge part of that is always going to be pass rush. Yes, he loves to blitz, but we saw this season how often he needed to get home with four, including against Kansas City in the Super Bowl.
Barrett isn’t a top 10 edge defender in the NFL, but he’s probably in the next tier, and he’s as steady as they come. There’s a lot to be said for knowing the character and work ethic of the guy you’re going to war with in another Super Bowl or bust season. If the Bucs lost wide receiver Chris Godwin or linebacker Lavonte David it would sting significantly, but Tampa Bay’s receiver room is talented enough to find a way to stay productive, especially with Tom Brady at quarterback. And Devin White looks ready to break out in year three. With JPP entering the last year of his contract and the Bucs yet to find any promising developmental players at outside linebacker, bringing back Barrett is critical to the team’s 2021 success.
Matt Matera: David Is Overlooked Nationally, Don’t Make The Same Mistake Locally
It’s been often said that Lavonte David is the most underrated and under-appreciated linebacker in football. Now that Tampa Bay has won the Super Bowl, David finally enjoyed the fruits of his labor as the longest tenured Buc, and he played quite well during the postseason to earn the title. While David had another solid year again recording 117 tackles, the most important reason to bring him back is that he means so much more to this team than you can see with just numbers.
Bucs LB Lavonte David – Photo by: USA Today
The 31-year old David has been the heart and soul of Tampa Bay’s defense for years. He’s a leader who is looked up to by his teammates because he helps everyone get the best out of themselves, whether by words of encouragement or breaking down defensive assignments. He’s not a rah-rah guy like Devin White, but he leads by example and that’s resonated in the locker room. David brings a continuity to this defense that helped them play so well down the stretch and you won’t have that same type of fluidity next season if he’s not around. I understand there are many variables when it comes to re-signing a player, but David’s accountability has to be recognized.
Another important factor that David brings is the impact he’s had on White in two seasons. He’s been a great mentor to the eventual Pro Bowl linebacker to help him get better each year. Does White develop into as talented of a player that he is already if it wasn’t for David? I sure don’t, and neither does Bucs’ general manager Jason Licht. “I don’t know if Devin would be the kind of player he’s evolving into without Lavonte,” Licht said on Wednesday. You can’t just look at what David’s done on the field. It expands much further than that.
Taylor Jenkins: Barrett Is A Must-Have For Tampa Bay
After a miraculous season in which outside linebacker Shaq Barrett racked up a franchise record-setting and league-leading 19.5 sacks on a one-year prove-it deal in 2019, the veteran pass-rusher turned in another solid year for the Bucs’ in 2020 en route to a Super Bowl Championship, even if he wasn’t able to recreate the magic of his first campaign in red and pewter. I think it’s easy to say that the 2020 version of Barrett is a far better representation of what he is as a player than the 2019 version. It’s unlikely to think that Barrett will consistently be the other-worldly edge threat that he was in 2019, but he’s a hard worker and an above average producer at a vital position that’s becoming harder and harder to find a cornerstone.
Bucs OLB Shaq Barrett – Photo by: USA Today
In Todd Bowles’ defense pressure is everything and Barrett gives you that with consistency, especially with Vita Vea in the lineup. Barrett’s 77 total quarterback pressures this season ranked second in the NFL, trailing only the defensive player of the year Aaron Donald per Pro Football Focus. That’s in addition to hiss eight sacks and thirteen tackles for loss. But Barrett’s talent and production is just one facet of his signing being among – if not the – Bucs’ top priority when trying to bring back their impending free agents. Losing Barrett would become an especially tough pill for the Bucs to swallow because now the focus would become trying to find his replacement. Tampa Bay has little-to-no depth at edge rusher behind Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul as backups Cam Gill, Pat O’Connor and Anthony Nelson combined for just 17 tackles, two sacks, 12 hurries and six quarterback hits in limited playing time this season, and none of them are an ideal starter. Then they could look to the draft, but incoming rookies are always a gamble and with the 32nd pick the Bucs wouldn’t exactly be getting their pick of the litter. And when it comes to the free agent market, productive edge rushers are a highly-valued – and highly, highly paid – commodity.
So while the Bucs seem to be odds-on favorites to keep Rob Gronkowski and Lavonte David and Ryan Succop and Chris Godwin would be crucial departures if they ultimately walk out the door, the Bucs are in win-now mode and Barrett would prove the hardest to replace for Tampa Bay heading into next season.
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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