A Look Ahead for the Bucs Offseason

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Gage Mills

   After winning the Super Bowl a month ago and bringing the Lombardi Trophy back to Tampa for the first time in just under two decades, the Buccaneers have some critical moves to make this offseason —the period of time after the playoffs in which every team assembles their roster, hires staff, and prepares for the next season— if they hope to repeat their success. 

   The most important yet difficult part of the offseason will be re-signing key free agents. Looking at the offensive end, receivers Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown headline the group about to hit the open market, along with tight end Rob Gronkowski and running back Leonard Fournette. Gronkowski and Brown seem to be the most likely to re-sign, as both have forged strong relationships with quarterback Tom Brady and have made no indications of signing elsewhere.

   Bringing back Godwin and Fournette will certainly be a more difficult task to accomplish. Godwin, being one of the top free agents at the wide receiver position, will be looking to sign a larger contract this offseason. However, Godwin remains as the most likely to receive the franchise tag from the Bucs (in which he is required to sign a one year deal Tampa Bay), proving that it is likely that we will see the Penn State alum in a Bucs jersey for at least one more year.    

   Fournette, on the other hand, is a more complicated case. After signing with Tampa Bay last offseason and becoming a critical piece to the Bucs’ Super Bowl run, reports are stating that Fournette is looking to sign a larger contract this offseason, and that if the Bucs, with their limited cap space, are unable to sign him, he is open to singing with another team. If this were to happen, we will most likely see the Bucs approach a pass-catching running back to fill his spot; some notable free agents that fit that qualification are former Patriots running back James White and former Rams and Falcons running back Todd Gurley. 

   Regarding the defense, bringing back the likes of longtime Bucs linebacker Lavonte David, star edge rusher Shaq Barrett, and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh will be the priority this spring and summer. While bringing back these players who so greatly helped form the defensive core that led them to a Super Bowl victory will be a large task, head coach Bruce Arians has stated in an interview with NFL.com that he is “very, very confident,” in general manager Jason Licht and that he is capable of bringing these guys back. 

   If the Bucs are unable to bring some of these guys back for another run at a Super Bowl, they could always fill those positions via the draft in April, where the Bucs hold the last pick of the first round (pick 32 overall). Because of the risks that free agency poses, the biggest positions in need are the defensive line, outside linebacker, offensive line, and running back. 

   The Bucs were solid last year from top to bottom – there weren’t many glaring holes in the roster that needed to be filled. However, they have some hefty competition who are also preparing for a run at the Super Bowl. In the NFC alone (the conference the Bucs are in), teams such as the Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks, and Los Angeles Rams have all made changes in order to bolster their roster. Along with this, the Kansas City Chiefs, the team that the Bucs defeated in Super Bowl LV, cannot be counted out, as former MVP Patrick Mahomes remains as one of the best quarterbacks in the league. If Tampa Bay wants to be the first NFL franchise to be back-to-back champions since the Patriots in 2004 (where, surprise, Tom Brady was the starting quarterback), then they have some important moves to make in the coming months.