The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had a roller-coaster ride of a 2022 NFL Offseason. When Tom Brady announced his retirement shortly after the 2021 season, it seemed like the Bucs were set for another lengthy rebuild. But then Brady unretired, and the Buccaneers were once again one of the top teams in the NFL.
The rest of the offseason was geared towards building their team back up around Brady and company. Players who initially seemed likely to depart in free agency, such as Ryan Jensen and Carlton Davis, ended up sticking around on somewhat cheaper deals to help Tampa try to win another ring before Brady actually ends up retiring.
In the end, it was a pretty successful offseason in Tampa Bay. And while many of the moves they made were solid, there were a couple head-scratchers along the way that left fans confused as to what the front office was attempting to accomplish. Let’s take a look at two of those moves, and analyze how they could end up having a sizeable impact for the Bucs in 2022.
Watch NFL games LIVE with fuboTV (click for free trial)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers worst offseason moves
2. Replacing Jordan Whitehead with Logan Ryan and Keanu Neal
The Buccaneers have a very good defense, but their weakest area is their secondary. Heading into the offseason, there seemed to be a pretty good chance that it would get weaker considering two of its starters in Davis and Jordan Whitehead were hitting free agency. And while Davis was re-signed, Whitehead ended up signing with the New York Jets instead.
Losing Whitehead isn’t the worst thing in the world for Tampa here. He had been inconsistent at best throughout the first four seasons of his career, although his coverage metrics have improved with each season. The Jets only handed him a two-year, $14.5 million deal, so it isn’t like he was entirely out of the Buccaneers price range.
The bigger issue here is Tampa’s replacements for Whitehead. The Bucs moved to sign Logan Ryan and Keanu Neal as a replacement tandem for the young safety, and both moves were a bit confusing. Both guys came in on cheap one year deals, so money isn’t the problem. The issue is they let a young safety with potential leave, while they replaced him with two veterans who aren’t any better than he has been over the past few seasons.
Ryan has prolonged his career by becoming much more versatile in the secondary, but his coverage has always been a bit soft, which is why he’s primarily a safety now. Neal, on the other hand, had one really good season with the Atlanta Falcons in 2017, but has otherwise been injured or playing poorly. Neither guy is a long-term replacement for Whitehead either, making this a move where the Bucs got worse in the secondary for 2022 and the future as a result of letting Whitehead leave.
1. Letting O.J. Howard leave in free agency
It may seem somewhat foolish to complain about the Buccaneers letting O.J. Howard given all his struggles early in his career. He’s been a massive disappointment throughout the first five seasons of his career, and never really developed any sort of rapport with Brady. It didn’t help how he got buried behind Rob Gronkowski and Cameron Brate on the tight end depth chart, but he hasn’t lived up to his first round draft pedigree either.
And even with that, it’s clear Howard has some untapped potential. With all the question marks surrounding their offense, it would have made sense for them to try to take another shot on Howard. Tampa’s offense really faded down the stretch last season, and there were probably going to be more targets to go around for a guy like Howard in 2022. Yet he ended up signing a one-year, $3.5 million deal with the Buffalo Bills instead.
Similar to Whitehead, losing Howard isn’t the worst thing in the world. But with Gronkowski’s retirement, the Bucs now have Brate and recent free agent signing Kyle Rudolph as their top two tight ends. Brady loves his tight ends, so that rather bland tight end duo doesn’t really bode well for him in 2022.
Brate hasn’t been much more effective than Howard for most of his career, and he’s now going to be asked to take on a much larger role than he ever has. Rudolph has regressed pretty drastically over the past few seasons, and it’s clear he’s not the player he once was.
Howard wasn’t great, but Brate and Rudolph aren’t much to write home about either. Howard at least has some upside, whereas both Brate and Rudolph are established veterans now. Considering how cheap the Bills got him for, you can’t help but feel like the Buccaneers made a mistake letting Howard leave this offseason.