The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming off an impressive 9-7 season in 2016, which was the first under head coach Dirk Koetter. With a few upgrades to the team’s roster, the Bucs should have the talent to make the playoffs and compete for the NFC South title this season.
PewterReport.com writers Scott Reynolds, Mark Cook and Trevor Sikkema have all come up with their own versions of the Bucs’ 2017 Offseason Battle Plans that feature free agent signings, trades and draft picks designed to help get the Bucs get double-digit wins and into the postseason. I’ve got the first Bucs’ Battle Plan, so take a look and let me know what you think in the article comments section below.
Remember, this is how I would reshape the team this offseason – not necessarily what I think the Buccaneers will do in free agency and the draft, although there could be some overlap with certain players Tampa Bay may be targeting.
The Bucs enter the 2017 offseason with approximately $61.9 million in available salary cap space, according to OverTheCap.com. The first move I would make would be to release cornerback Alterraun Verner and give him the chance to find a better chance for playing time elsewhere. Verner, who was beaten out for a starting job by Vernon Hargreaves III, is due to make $6.5 million in base salary. Cutting him gives the Bucs $68.4 million in available cap room.
Here are the offseason roster moves I would make:
BUCS’ UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENT RE-SIGNINGS Tampa Bay DE Will Gholston – 4 years, $5.75 million per year
The Bucs lock up the big, run-stuffer to a four-year deal worth $23 million. At age 25, Gholston has plenty of upside and talent worth investing in, and Tampa Bay’s run defense remains stout with his return.
Bucs C Joe Hawley- Photo by Cliff Welch/PR
Tampa Bay C Joe Hawley – 3 years, $4 million per year
This may not be the deal that Hawley wants in free agency, but I don’t think they’ll be much of a market for him in free agency. He comes back to compete with Evan Smith and Ali Marpet for the starting center job and only his 2017 salary is guaranteed.
Tampa Bay RB Jacquizz Rodgers – 3 years, $3 million per year
Rodgers gets rewarded for a very good fill-in season in 2016 with an incentive-laden deal that includes $6 million in guaranteed money over the first two years. He has a chance to compete for the starting running back job in Tampa Bay in 2017 to replace Doug Martin.
Tampa Bay S Chris Conte – 1 year, $3 million
Conte returns to the team with another one-year, prove-it deal for $3 million, which is what he received last year. He’ll compete with Bradley McDougald and a rookie for the chance to start opposite Keith Tandy in 2017.
Tampa Bay S Bradley McDougald – 1 year, $3 million
Like Conte, McDougald returns for another year. Having these safeties back with their knowledge of Mike Smith’s scheme is helpful for continuity on defense, and McDougald will have the chance to compete to start again in 2017.
Tampa Bay WR Russell Shepard – 2 years, $2.5 million per year
The Bucs see a lot of value in Shepard, the team’s special teams captain and emotional fire-starter, but want to see more development from him as a wide receiver in 2017. He’s still a top special teams ace in Tampa Bay.
Bucs NT Akeem Spence – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Tampa Bay CB Josh Robinson – 2 years, $2.25 million per year
Robinson proved to be one of the top gunners in the NFL last year and the Bucs give him a slight pay raise to stick around for a few more years as the team’s fifth cornerback.
Tampa Bay DT Akeem Spence – 2 years, $2 million per year
Spence failed to beat out Clinton McDonald last year for the starting nose tackle job, but the Bucs liked what he could do as a reserve. At age 25, Tampa Bay feels he could develop into a starter in time and he’s worth investing a short-term deal in.
Tampa Bay DT Sealver Siliga – 2 years, $1.25 million per year
The 330-pound Siliga proved his worth in short-yardage and goal line defense for Tampa Bay last year, and he’s worth keeping around with a pay raise and a short-term deal.
BUCS UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS NOT RE-SIGNED WR Vincent Jackson
At age 34, Jackson is a shell of his former self and can’t run anymore due to knee injuries. It’s time to move on and get younger and faster at wide receiver.
QB Mike Glennon
Glennon is expected to get north of $6 million per year, which is more than starter Jameis Winston will make in 2017. The Bucs will cash on with a compensatory pick in 2018 when he hits free agency.
TE Brandon Myers
Myers is a decent blocker, but at age 31, he no longer has the speed to get many yards after the catch. The Bucs need to get younger and more athletic at tight end.
LB Daryl Smith
Smith was a great veteran presence at the Sam linebacker spot. It’s time to turn that job over to Devante Bond or Adarius Glanton.
OT Gosder Cherilus
Bad knees and age have robbed Cherilus of his mobility, but he was a great veteran presence in the locker room. The Bucs have some young tackles to develop in Caleb Benenoch and Leonard Wester.
WR Cecil Shorts
Shorts sustained a severe knee injury that could unfortunately cost him his NFL career. He won’t be able to play during the 2017 season as a result.
RB Antone Smith
Smith suffered a torn ACL during the season and he’s doubtful to play in 2017. At age 31, the Bucs need to move on from Smith and get younger at running back.
DT John Hughes
The Bucs opt to re-sign Akeem Spence and Sealver Siligia at the defensive tackle spot instead of bringing back Hughes.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENT RE-SIGNINGS Tampa Bay DE Jacquies Smith (tender) – 1 year, $1.75 million (estimated)
Smith is coming off a torn ACL that he suffered in the 2016 season opener, but should be able to participate in training camp. He’s worth a one-year low tender due to his pass-rushing ability, and the Bucs’ have the ability to match any offer he receives.
Tampa Bay QB Ryan Griffin (tender) – 1 year, $1.75 million (estimated)
The Bucs like Griffin’s ability and knowledge of the offense, and he’ll get a shot to prove he can be Winston’s backup in Tampa Bay with Glennon’s departure.
FREE AGENT ADDITIONS Washington WR DeSean Jackson – 4 years, $9.5 million per year
Tampa Bay makes a strong push in free agency to pry Jackson away from Washington and Philadelphia. The Bucs need to get more explosive at wide receiver, and even at age 30, his 17.9 yards per catch average was the best in the NFL due to his 4.35 speed. Think Joey Galloway, Bucs fans.
Cardinals TE Jermaine Gresham – Photo by: Getty Images
Arizona TE Jermaine Gresham – 4 years, $6 million per year
The Bucs land a 28-year old tight end in his prime, who is a nasty blocker and a big target in the passing game at 6-foot-5, 260 pounds. Gresham, a former first-round pick, is a significant upgrade over Brandon Myers and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, helps the running game and is a co-starter along with emerging weapon Cameron Brate.
With these signings, the Buccaneers will have spent an estimated $43.5 million worth of salary cap space in free agency. There is plenty of room left to sign wide receiver Mike Evans to a contract extension worth an average of $14 million per year that will represent only about $11 million in new money for 2017.
Evans’ new contract leaves Tampa Bay with $13.9 million in salary cap room. The Bucs will need about $5 million in salary cap room for their rookies this year, which will leave $8.9 million left to sign players as needed during the season.
After the draft, I plan on cutting running back Doug Martin, who has proven to be too unreliable, and won’t be eligible for the first three games of the 2017 season due to a suspension for PED usage. That will save the Bucs $7 million in Martin’s base salary, which in turn gives Tampa Bay $15.9 million in salary cap room.
I’ll be on the lookout to sign a veteran kicker after the draft to compete with Roberto Aguayo, too. Now let’s take a look at some of my personal picks for the Bucs in the 2017 NFL Draft. This is not a mock draft of players that I necessarily believe the Bucs will draft. That’s what PewterReport.com’s 2017 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft articles are for, and we will have another one in early March after the NFL Scouting Combine.
Click on the next page below to check out which draft picks I make for Tampa Bay.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org