It’s been nearly two weeks since the Buccaneers victory over the Chiefs in Super Bowl LV and now that the game the boat parade is over, it is now time to look ahead to what will be a new and exciting offseason for Tampa. With $27.78 million in cap space available and several key free agents, it is likely this team will look a bit different in 2021 as they look to defend their Super Bowl title. So, which free agents will return, and which ones will be wearing different jerseys next season?
At just 26 years old and playing one of the marquee positions in the game today, two-time Super Bowl champion, Shaq Barrett has likely played his last snap as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Of course, the Buccaneers would love to have Barrett back. The problem for the Bucs is that many other teams are going to want him too. In his two seasons with the Buccaneers, Barrett racked up 27.5 sacks in the regular season and added four more during this Super Bowl run. That puts him in line for a huge payday and given the Bucs cap situation AND list of free agents, it seems unlikely the two parties will find common ground.
There is no doubt that the Bucs would want to have Chris Godwin back in the mix. At just 24 and with 58 games under his belt, Godwin has amassed 3,540 yards and 24 touchdowns. Unfortunately for the Bucs, Godwin plays a premiere position that is in high demand across the league. The Bucs could use the Franchise Tag but it wouldn’t be that realistic considering his cap number would come in around $16 million. At some point, a team will pay Godwin and give him the contract he deserves… it just won’t be the Bucs.
Antonio Brown’s tumultuous 18-month hiatus from football culminated in a strong half-season and impactful playoff run with the Bucs that ended with a Super Bowl championship. Despite many doubters, Brown was a professional in his time with the Bucs and made an impact on the field, including a touchdown grab in the Super Bowl. He will likely garner interest on the open market, however, he likely knows that the best choice for him is to stay with Tom Brady. Now, Brown’s return isn’t necessarily contingent on Chris Godwin not returning. Especially if Brown takes a below-market deal to stay with the team. You can never have enough depth at the wide receiver position in today’s game and having Brown as just that gives the Bucs quite an advantage.
After a brief, one-year retirement, Rob Gronkowski was acquired by the Bucs in a trade with the Patriots who still held his rights. The trade reunited Gronk with Tom Brady and ultimately worked out well for the Bucs as he was integral down the stretch run including a pair of touchdowns in the Super Bowl against the Chiefs. Now, a free agent for the first time in his career, Gronk will likely indulge in the process of free agency for a time but his future, much like Antonio Brown, is tied to Brady’s and it doesn’t seem likely that he would play anywhere that doesn’t have Brady under center.
— Full Press Buccaneers (@FPC_Buccaneers) February 18, 2021
This won’t be easy. The longest-tenured Buc finally got a taste of the playoffs and savored every moment of it. Long considered one of the best linebackers in the NFL by Bucs fans, other fan bases finally saw it for themselves as the Bucs took centerstage. However, with more success and recognition comes a higher bill for his services as the Bucs front office will find out if they don’t know already. Lavonte David deserves to be the highest-paid linebacker in the league whether it is with the Bucs or another team. Whether or not he takes a little less is his prerogative. It is on the Bucs to make it work as he should be the team’s number one priority this offseason. They will likely have to get creative, perhaps a Brady contract extension/restructure could free up enough money. At the end of the day, Jason Licht and the front office will find a way to keep David in the mix.
Ndamukong Suh is coming off a strong two-year stint with the Bucs as he helped form one of the best run-stopping units in the league the past two seasons. Both parties will likely want to re-up but ultimately, the money will be an obstacle as the Bucs look to put their chips elsewhere.
There was a time where Leonard Fournette faced a decision about his future with the Buccaneers. Ultimately, he stayed and became “Playoff Lenny”, scoring a touchdown in every Bucs playoff game en route to a Super Bowl championship. At just 26-years-old, Fournette could have plenty of good years ahead of him and his strong playoff performance likely earned him a few extra dollars in his next contract… it just won’t be with the Bucs. In addition to his play pricing him out of the Bucs plans, the team may look to go in another direction regardless of his price when it’s all said and done. Especially considering they still have Ronald Jones and 2020 draft pick, Keshawn Vaughn still on the roster.
Ryan Succop brought stability and clutch play to a position that has plagued the Bucs with the exact opposite for years. Succop proved how much more valuable that play is come playoff time and the team should do whatever it takes to bring him back.