The entire culture of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers changed last March when the Bucs lured future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady to come and be the team’s new starter.
Brady not only upgraded the quarterback spot, but his attitude and winning play seemed to affect the entire team.
It paid off.
The Bucs hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in early February, winning their second NFL title after dominating the favored Kansas City Chiefs 31-9.
The team did all the right things in the playoffs, beating Washington, New Orleans and Green Bay before dispatching the Chiefs.
Now though it’s another challenging offseason, and if the Bucs want to get back to the Promised Land for a second straight Lombardi, they have a lot of work to do.
The club and GM Jason Licht have a long list of free agents they will have to make decisions on this offseason, as they have 30 players who are set to hit the open market.
Expect some surprises about who comes and who goes for the Bucs this offseason, but one thing is clear – as long as Tom Brady is under center, the Bucs are going to be in the championship mix once again next February.
Here are the 30 free agents for the Bucs as free agency gets ready to start in a few weeks:
S Andrew Adams
TE Antony Auclair
RB Kenjon Barner
OLB Shaquil Barrett
WR Antonio Brown
ILB Deone Bucannon
CB Ross Cockrell
LB Lavonte David
RB Leonard Fournette
QB Blaine Gabbert
WR Chris Godwin
QB Ryan Griffin
TE Rob Gronkowski
T Joe Haeg
RB T.J. Logan
RB LeSean McCoy
DL Steve McLendon
LB Kevin Minter
DL Rakeem Nunez-Roches
C A.Q. Shipley
CB Ryan Smith
K Ryan Succop
DL Ndamukong Suh
T Josh Wells
ILB Jack Cichy
G Aaron Stinnie
Offseason Outlook: The Bucs have a reported $30.3 million in spending dollars for free agency, and they will use a lot of that to try and bring back players who can help put the Bucs right back into the Super Bowl.
The biggest question mark is what to do about wide receiver Chris Godwin. He had a down campaign in 2020, but at the same time, he has proven that he can be a quality NFL receiver.
Godwin had 840 yards and seven touchdowns on 84 grabs. He’s still a very good wide out, so the team needs to figure out how much it’ll cost to keep him.
The club also has to decide whether it’s worth bringing back Antonio Brown, a wide out who didn’t cause drama after all, which might be the best news yet.
Another player coming back will be tight end Rob Gronkowski. He’s already said he wants to return to Tampa, so expect he and Brady to have another solid 1-2 punch in 2021.
Two defensive players the club will have to make decisions on are edge rusher Shaquil Barrett, who had an NFL leading 19.5 sacks in 2019, and linebacker Lavonte David, who played at a high level in 2020, even at age 31.
However, David is wrapping up a five-year deal that paid him about $10 mil a year, and the Bucs likely can’t afford that much. Would he be willing to take a pay cut to stay? That’s a great question, and one that David will likely have to answer.
Finally there’s DT Ndamukong Suh, who in 2020 posted his highest sack total (6) since 2015. Suh was a major contributor in the Buccaneers’ No. 1 ranked run defense. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Suh come back, as he’s already said he wants to return as well.
Sure there will be defections, but expect another championship run from the Bucs in 2021 and a talented roster led by a guy named Brady.