The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are sailing high after winning their franchise's second-ever Super Bowl. Led by a 43-year old Tom Brady, the team is in win-now mode and has made several moves to keep their championship window open. Wide receiver Chris Godwin and inside linebacker Lavonte David have been brought back to the fold in an attempt to run it back.
Many teams that reach the Super Bowl, whether they win or not end up having a poor season right after. There are several reasons for this. First, the value of players goes way up, and teams are willing to offer more to acquire these players, thereby gutting the championship team's roster. Next, some veterans decide to call it a day, since hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy is a perfect storybook ending. Lastly, players also might sustain more injuries the following season from the wear-and-tear of having an extended postseason.
So far, none of these things have happened to the Buccaneers to the extent that their Super Bowl hopes have been dashed. A nice development for the team is quarterback Tom Brady signing an extension, which essentially provided additional cap space. Tampa Bay has the benefit of playing in a state with no state income tax.
Here are four bold predictions for the Buccaneers offseason.
Moving on from Leonard Fournette
Fournette was pivotal in the playoffs, starting in all four games and rushing for a total of 300 yards. He also found the end zone three times during the postseason. Similar to Ronald Jones II, Fournette is a sledgehammer who brings a physical brand of play to the Tampa Bay offense.
However, unless he can be re-signed to a team-friendly deal the Buccaneers have to let him go. Fournette's value in the league has never been this high and this is his best chance to cash in on a long-term deal.
Fournette is just 26-years old, and no other position in football ages faster than running back. Jones will continue to play the majority of the snaps and Tampa Bay can draft Fournette's replacement in the later rounds or pick up a free agent willing to take a discount to play for a contender.
Resigning Shaquil Barrett
The two-time Super Bowl champion is arguably the most important free agent the team needs to secure. He's a productive pass rusher, who constantly generates pressure against opposing quarterbacks. In the 2019 season, he led the league in sacks with 19.5. Although he is best known for his work in passing downs, he is very solid against the run. Additionally, he can also drop in coverage, which helps confuse the offense. Elite pass rushers are hard to come by and the Buccaneers defense simply won't be the same without Barrett.
It will be difficult to resign Barrett, as he will most likely command a hefty contract. The team will have to make some roster cuts or restructure some deals to accommodate this type of salary.
One thing going for Tampa Bay is that Barrett seems like he wants to suit up for them again.
Drafting a Defensive Lineman
The front office has been hitting it out of the park when it comes to drafting in the first round. Tristan Wirfs turned out to be the best offensive lineman in his class. Devin White is a dynamic linebacker, who is good in every situation. Vita Vea is an athletic, nose tackle, who makes the best run defense in the league even better while contributing in the pass rush. The test would be how well the drafting will go when they have the last pick in the first two rounds.
Ndamukong Suh was a key cog in a defensive line that got better as the season progressed. He is constantly able to take up double teams, which in turn gives his teammates opportunities to make plays. Depending on how the rest of the offseason shapes up, the first pick might be used on Suh's replacement.
While it would be great if Suh stayed with the team, he may opt to find a bigger payday before retiring.
Buccaneers Stays Intact…Relatively
Any team will undoubtedly face changes in its roster construction year to year. However, early signs show that the Bucs will have most of their best players with the team and set to be the first team to go back-t0-back since the New England Patriots in 2004 and 2005. Ironically, Brady was the quarterback during those years.
Other important free agents such as Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown are best suited to stay in Tampa Bay and should not have that significant of cap hits.