The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming off a disappointing 5-11 season in 2017, and that has put head coach Dirk Koetter and general manager Jason Licht firmly on the hot seat. The Bucs thought they were primed for a playoff run last year following a 9-7 campaign in 2016, but it turns out that the team has more holes on the roster than they thought a year ago.
PewterReport.com writers Scott Reynolds, Mark Cook and Trevor Sikkema have devised their own Bucs’ 2018 Offseason Battle Plans that feature free agent signings, trades, roster moves and draft picks designed to help get the Bucs back on track and gunning for the playoffs.
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 start the 2018 offseason with approximately $69.7 million in available salary cap space, according to OverTheCap.com. Salary cap information and contract data from both OverTheCap.com and Spotrac.com were used in the Bucs Battle Plan series.
Tampa Bay DE Robert Ayers – saves $6 million
If you look at the numbers, Robert Ayers was the Buccaneers’ best defensive end in 2017. So, why would I be dumping the teams best pass rusher at the area they struggled with the most? Well, because Ayers shouldn’t have been the best pass rusher. Ayers will be 33 years old when the 2018 season starts, and he’s schedule to be one of the top paid players on the team. For the production he showed with some limiting injuries, and his rising age, I’m moving on.
Tampa Bay OG J.R. Sweezy – saves $5.25 million
Sweezy would no longer be a part of the Buccaneers, as well, for many of the same reason Ayers will be gone. Sweezy will be 29 for the 2018 season, which isn’t bad, but his 2017 production was. The Bucs waited an entire year after signing Sweezy to even see him play due extensive back surgery, and he never got back to form in 2018, as was evident by his PFF grade as one of the worst offensive guards in the NFL.
With those roster cuts, that brings the available salary cap number to a total of $82.45 million. That’s the number we’ll take into the free agency period.
Bucs’ Unrestricted Free Agent Re-signings
Tampa Bay DT Clinton McDonald – 2 years, $2 million per year
Even at age 31, Clinton McDonald is still getting it done. He was second on the Bucs in sacks last year with five, despite not even being able to play in all of the games, and despite being behind free agent signing Chris Baker on the depth chart. McDonald was better than Baker all along, and if he were the one starting, he might have even led the team in sacks. He’s a dirty work player and a big effort guy. You need that as a nose tackle.
Tampa Bay FS Keith Tandy – 1 year, 1.5 million per year
Okay, Tandy not getting any playing time last year confused the hell out of me. Without Tandy, this Bucs team wouldn’t have gone 9-7 the year before. it was Tandy’s late-game heroics that won them at least two, probably three games down the stretch in 2017.
But, instead of the team letting Tandy build off that, the signing of T.J. Ward, the emergence of Justin Evans, and Tandy going through a back injury made for a poorly-timed 2017. I’d absolutely bring Tandy back on a smaller deal. I know what he can do, and at that point this team would still need strong safety help. My only concern is if a team would pay more for him, which could happen.
Bucs’ Unrestricted Free Agents Not Re-signed
Bucs CB Brent Grimes – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Tampa Bay CB Brent Grimes
Yes, you read that right. I would not bring back Grimes, but, understand that it’s not because of anything Grimes didn’t do, he was clearly the team’s best cornerback in 2017 (sadly). This is more of a long-term plan kind of move. Grimes will be 35 years old when the 2018 season starts. He still has incredible athletic ability for his age, but how much longer will he play, especially if he’s already heavily weighing retirement now? Knowing that he’ll be signing a series of expensive one-year deals from here on out, for however long that may be, I would make a tough choice and move on to sign a cornerback who I can play on having for more than just a year, and whose older injuries could creep up at any second.
Tampa Bay RB Charles Sims
People love to beat up on Sims, but you have to remember, he was just a third-round pick. He has a decent rookie year, then a fantastic sophomore season where he recorded 4.9 yards-per-carry, was then hurt, and in 2017 has to run in a committee that was four-RBs deep behind a bad offensive line. Not totally defending the guy because here I am not bringing him back, but it just didn’t work out. That’s all.
Tampa Bay G-T Kevin Pamphile
Boy, this one was not suppose to turn out like this. Back in the preseason of the 2017 season, we were all thinking that this was Pamphile’s year to start at an offensive line spot, in a contract year, show out and cash in. He’s going to cash in somewhere, but it won’t be in Tampa Bay. With all the benefit of the doubt in the world, Pamphile couldn’t even grab the starting left guard spot, and instead rotated with Evan Smith the entire season. I wouldn’t bring him back for the money I think he’s going to get offered on the open market.
Tampa Bay C-G Evan Smith
One would think that if Smith push Pamphile for a starting spot that he would then be considered to keep the job. Not exactly. Smith’s game against the Packers was one of the worst from an offensive guard I saw this season, and he showed a lot of inconsistencies throughout the year while rotating at that guard spot, as well as when he came in at center when Ali Marpet went down. At 32 years old, I’m moving on form him as well. That’s four offensive linemen who all got some starting action in 2017 now off the roster.
Tampa Bay SS T.J. Ward
This one was a disappointment that it didn’t work out, but there are always multiple moving parts to make an acquisition work. I was one of the first to say that the Buccaneers should go after Ward when he became available — I even remember where I was when I wrote the article that he had signed. I thought that with Ward on the team, the Bucs defense would get more structured with definitive roles and have a real box safety to let Evans play single high. But, thanks to the late start for him being signed late in training camp, some injuries and the team’s inability to rush the passer, Ward never fit.
Tampa Bay CB Robert McClain
McClain was a good signing for the Buccaneers last year if nothing else but because there were so many injuries on the team that he had more starts than not. McClain was fine as a the nickel cornerback, but he’s going to be 30 years old, and the team has some youth on the roster at cornerback that deserve their shot to see if they’re worth it.
Tampa Bay K Patrick Murray
As surprising as this may be to some fans, just like the Brent grimes move was, I am moving on from Murray. Murray went 19-for-23 on field goals last season, which was fine, but it’s well documented that he just doesn’t have the strongest leg, struggling on long field goals and on kickoffs. There are too many capable kickers to settle for one — even if Murray is the best Tampa Bay has had in a while.
Tampa Bay QB Ryan Fitzpatrick Fitzpatrick did a nice job as the Buccaneers back up in 2017 and bringing him back is a possibility, especially with Winston’s investigation looming, but I’m going to opt to move on and get younger, if I can. The whole “Winston needs a veteran presence with him in the lock room” means less and less the older Winston gets. I could see Fitzpatrick being brought back, but not even for what he made in 2017.
Tampa Bay DT Sealver Siliga
Siliga didn’t get much playing time at all for the Bucs in 2017 and with no-longer-rookie Stevie Tu’ikolovatu hopefully healthy in his second season, there won’t be much need for Siliga.
Tampa Bay DE Will Clarke
Clarke was a late Jay Hayes addition to the defensive end group in 2017 and actually got a good amount of playing time with Noah Spence going down and the rets of the edge group being about as ineffective as you can be. However, Clarke didn’t do much in his showing with 2.5 sacks in 15 games played.
Tampa Bay LS Garrison Sanborn
The Bucs signed 25-year old long snapper Drew Ferris, so they likely won’t keep the 32-year-old Sanborn unless his connection with the kickers is stellar.
Tampa Bay DE Justin Trattou
Trattou was an in-season addition to the roster who the team just needed to fill spots once the injuries started mounting up. he likely won’t be back — he isn’t on my battle plan.
Tampa Bay G Adam Gettis
Gettis is one of those player who will just be in and out of the Bucs roster. I’ll look for undrafted talent rather than sign him.
Bucs’ Restricted Free Agent Tenders/Offers
Tampa Bay TE Cameron Brate – 2nd round tender – 1 year, $3 million
Contrary to what Reynolds did in his battle plan, I would not be signing Brate to a long-term team. Instead, I would be putting a second-round tender on the restricted free agent tight end, which would be signing him to a $3 million dollar deal for one year before he become an unrestricted free agent in 2019. The tight end market does not skyrocket up like it does for other positions, so waiting a season to sign Brate wouldn’t cost them that much. Brate is a big part of this team, for now, but I want to see how Howard develops. If Howard does and it’s clearly starting caliber, I know this team like two tight ends, but there are better way to spend your money in football than with a TE2 making $8 million per year. Sort of a savage move to a consistent player, but I have to do it. If anther team signs Brate and the Bucs get a second-round pick off the tender, so be it. I’ll take Dallas Goedert or Mike Gesicki. Brate isn’t much of a blocker anyways.
Tampa Bay WR Adam Humphries – 2 years, $2 million per year
I thought about tendering Humphries, as well, but even if you tender him to a low-level tender, you’re still basically paying him $2 million that season, so you might as well just sign him yourself.
Bucs’ Restricted Free Agents Not Getting Tender Offers
Tampa Bay CB Jude Adjei-Barimah
Adjei-Barimah was likely going to compete for the starting nickel cornerback spot before getting hurt in training camp. He’s a god nickel player, but that might be where Hargreaves ends up. When you know this team has Javien Elliott as well, who I like, that tells me not to tender Adjei-Barimah.
Tampa Bay OLB Adarius Glanton
Glanton won’t be getting a tender, but could possibly be back as a Buccaneer. He was a high-motor special teams player and fill-in linebacker for them before breaking his leg late in the season. I don’t expect another team to pick him up while he’s still recovering, so no tender needed here, but he could be back.
Tampa Bay DE Ryan Russell
Russell was forced into a starting role in 2017 due to the lack of pass rush production and all the injuries along the defensive line. He recorded two sacks in 2017, but it should have been more considering the playing time. He won’t be tendered and could be picked up elsewhere.
Bucs’ Trade Additions
Seahawks DE Michael Bennett – 4th round pick – $7 million per year
This is where the fun begins. With much of the roster turned over and roughly $74 million in cap space with the aforementioned roster cuts and re-signings, I start to go on the offensive this offseason. My first move in all this would be to trade for Bennett, one of the Seahawks’ top pass rushers. Bennett is being shopped for a few reasons. For one, he’s 33 years old. Second, his contract is really bad for the Seahawks, as it hits the cap for $7 million in 2018 and only goes up for the remaining two years of the deal as he gets older. Plus, there’s even more of a penalty on his out next year.
Side Note: Be thankful your team has Mike Greenberg as their cap manager, Bucs fans. When making this battle plan, I looked over a lot of contract from other team and you wouldn’t believe how bad they are. The Bucs do not have that problem. If a player is bad, it’s structured for the team to bail.
DE Michael Bennett – Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images
The Seahawks also appear to be trading Bennett because they want things to shift in terms of leadership and voices in their locker room, as is evident by them trying to trade Richard Sherman, too. That goes in the “character” category and that means the price is way down — teams get desperate to bail on players they don’t like in that regard. If I’m trading for Bennett, I’m doing so only under the assumption he’s restructuring that deal to where he’s making $7 million per year at a flat rate for the next three years. He’ll likely do that because, if he doesn’t, he’s going to get cut and make less. Bennett was seventh among all 4-3 defensive ends in 2017 in terms of pressure, and in terms of total pressures (635 players), Bennett ranked 16th in the NFL. He’s still producing at a high level, and if I can get him for this price (I can), I’m doing it.
Bucs’ 2018 Free Agent Additions
Bears OG Josh Sitton – 3 years, $8 million per year One of the first free agent accusations I would make this offseason in signing Sitton. The Bears declined Sitton’s $8 million dollar option this offseason, and that price should be enough to get him to Tampa Bay. According to PFF, Sitton was the fifth best offensive guard in football last year. He’ll be 32 years old, but he’s a four-time Pro Bowler, and a guy whose mentality is still to play the game at the highest level. He’s an instant and much needed upgrade.
Broncos CB Aqib Talib – 3 years, $10 million per year
In my offseason plan, Bennett isn’t the only player making their triumphal return to Tampa Bay. In my world, I’m getting Talib back in red and pewter for what will like be the remainder of his career. The Broncos are looking to trade Talib, but at $12 million per year, he won’t have any suitors. Instead, they’ll cut him and I’ll be the first to pounce. Talib is the best cornerback the Bucs have had since their Super Bowl days, and he’d likely be still the best corner in his return. Talib finally gives Tampa Bay a cornerback who can actually play man-to-man.
Patriots CB Malcolm Butler – 4 years, $13 million per year
If you ask me, what happened in the Super Bowl is that Bill Belichick tried to get cute with his strategy of not playing Butler to drive down his price tag and it backfired on him. Butler’s time in New England is now done, regardless of the price. Butler just turned 28 years old, so his price tag will be a bit higher than the 32-year-old Talib. This is what I was talking about when is aid more of a long-term plan with cornerbacks instead of signing Brent Grimes.
Patriots RB Dion Lewis – 4 years, $4 million per year
Butler won’t be the only Patriots player coming to Tampa Bay in my battle plan. I have no idea why the Patriots didn’t play Lewis for a big portion of the season; I just didn’t get it. When he was healthy, there was no doubt that Lewis was the best running back on the team. I think he’s a feature back in today’s NFL — a guy you can start on first down and don’t have to take off the field on third down. Tampa Bay needs a player like that to cut down on such a deep rotation they had last year.
OLB Jeremiah Attaochu – Photo: Getty Images
Chargers OLB Jeremiah Attaochu – 2 years, $2 million per year
Attaochu would be one of the smaller additions to the group, but one that could have a big impact. In his four years with the chargers, Attaochu has recorded 10 sacks, including six in one season, a season where he only started 12 games. But, injuries have only allowed him to play 12 games over the last two years. He was a former second-round pick and I think could be a steal with new defensive line coach Brentson Buckner.
Jets DL Kony Ealy – 1 year, $2 million per year
Ealy, the former Super Bowl standout in Carolina, has had a very uneven career since that Super Bowl season with the Panthers. He was traded to the Patriots, then cut, the signed by the Jets. He didn’t have much production in New York, which makes me think he won’t be too coveted. If I can get him for $2 million on a one-year deal to add to this pass rush, I’m doing it.
Bucs’ Long-Term Signings
Bucs WR Mike Evans – 5 years, $17 million per year
Bucs star wide receiver Mike Evans is about one healthy season away from owning every single wide receivers record in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history, and he hasn’t even signed his second contract yet. He’s scheduled to make $13.2 this season, so locking him up to make $17 million per year on a long term deal only make a cap difference of $3.8 million. Under no circumstance do i want Evans to be able to see the deals this next group of free agent wide receivers are going to get in 2019. If that happens, the Bucs will likely be paying $20+ million a year for Evans.
With all of those signings, plus the Evans extension, I’ll go into the 2018 NFL Draft with $24.2 million in cap space. That leaves some room to possibly sign Ali Marpet or Kwon Alexander to new deals later in the summer, as they will be free agents in 2019, and also leaves some plan-ahead cap for when Winston’s contract is up two years from now.
Click on the next page below to check out which draft picks I make for Tampa Bay.
Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: email@example.com
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