It’s almost that time, Bucs fans!
In about two weeks, the NFL off-season kicks off with the start of free agency and the frenzy that comes along with it. Then we’ll have the Draft, then OTA’s and before we know it, training camp will be here. So before all of that madness begins, I wanted to give one last breakdown of each position on the Buccaneers roster and talk a little bit about what could be the direction for each moving forward. After hearing from Bruce Arians and Jason Licht said in their press conferences at the NFL Combine, I think I have a little better understanding of what the Bucs might do over the next couple of months. So without wasting any more time, let’s do this.
Under contract: Ryan Griffin
Free agents: Jameis Winston, Blaine Gabbert
This is the big mystery this off-season, isn’t it? Will they re-sign Jameis Winston or not? Will they tag him? Will they let him test free agency? It’s a decision that can affect the rest of the team’s decisions in free agency and the draft. Since Griff is the only QB under contract right now, I will assume that he will be the Bucs back up going into the 2020 season. So who will be the starter? There is a ton of speculation about Tom Brady coming to Tampa. Some are saying that the Bucs are waiting to see what the Patriots do with him before they make their decision about Winston. If Brady shows any interest at all in coming to Tampa, I think the Bucs would pull the trigger and let Jameis walk. We should find out soon.
Under contract: Ronald Jones Jr, Dare Ogunbowale, TJ Logan
Free agents: Peyton Barber
My hope for the Bucs running back position is that they allow RoJo to be the workhorse in this offense and stop the rotation every other series crap. He’s ready. He needs the carries to get into a rhythm. Barber is likely gone unless he agrees to re-sign for chump change, so I do expect the team to draft another running back in the early to mid-rounds of the draft. It will likely be a legit dual-threat back that can be on the field for passing downs or maybe as a third-down back.
Under contract: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Justin Watson, Scotty Miller, Spencer Schnell, Jaydon Mickens, Cyril Grayson
Free agents: Breshad Perriman, Bryant Mitchell
This group will be interesting to keep an eye on this off-season with Perriman being a free agent. His fate might depend on how much cap money they spend on defense and how little he’s willing to play for next season. I think he helped his case over the last four games last season with the way he played as the #1 when Evans and Godwin were injured.
Under contract: OJ Howard, Cameron Brate, Jordan Leggett, Cody McElroy
Free agents: Antony Auclair, Tanner Hudson
There have been rumors and assumptions that Howard might be trade bait come draft day, but I think Jason Licht put those to rest during his press conference on Tuesday at the NFL Combine. He said that after reviewing the film from last season, the coaching staff was pleased with how Howard progressed throughout the season and they’re excited for what he’ll do in his second year in the offense. That could just be Licht trying to drive up OJ’s trade value, but I don’t think so. Look for this group to remain the same as last season as it’s one of the stronger position groups on this team.
Under contract: Donovan Smith, Anthony Fabiano, Brad Seaton
Free agents: Demar Dotson, Jerald Hawkins, Josh Wells
In my opinion, this will be the biggest position of need heading into the draft. If Dotson is re-signed, it will be as a reserve, not the starter. The Bucs will likely fill that role with their first or second-round pick in April since they won’t be able to afford any good ones in free agency.
Under contract: Ali Marpet, Alex Cappa, Aaron Stinney, Zach Bailey
Free agents: Mike Liedtke, Earl Watford
This is another group to watch this off-season. With Watford and Liedtke becoming free agents, this is suddenly a thin position for this team. They could draft one, but I think it’s more likely that they re-sign one or both of them for o-line depth since they’re both versatile players.
Under contract: Ryan Jensen
NFL teams don’t typically keep backup centers on the active roster. The backup is usually one of the guards. In the Bucs case, Marpet, Cappa and Watford all practiced that position last season. I expect something similar for 2020, but don’t rule out them drafting one in later rounds or signing one as an undrafted free agent.
Under contract: Vita Vea, William Gholston, Jeremiah Ledbetter, Pat O’Connor, Kahzin Daniels
Free agents: Ndamukong Suh, Beau Allen, Rakeem Nunez-Roches
Now we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty. With the whole dog abandoning thing hanging over “Nacho’s” head, I’m not sure that he gets re-signed. However, Bruce Arians has said that keeping this front seven together is the Bucs number one priority this off-season. It should be. Some people don’t think that the team will figure out a way to afford to bring all of these guys back, but I do. Suh and Allen both want to stay and I think they’ll both be Bucs next season.
Under contract: Anthony Nelson, Quinton Bell,
Free agents: Jason Pierre-Paul, Shaq Barrett, Sam Acho, Carl Nassib
This group is going to cost about $30 million, but I think they have to keep them together. It’s a given that they’re re-signing Shaq. And I think they’ll figure out some creative cap space way to re-sign JPP as well. The question here will be how little “Crazy Carl” is willing to take to stay in Tampa? I think it will work itself out somehow and he’ll remain a Buc. If the Bucs want to keep Acho around, then they should be able to re-sign him for next to nothing.
Under contract: Lavonte David, Devin White, Jack Cichy, Noah Dawkins
Free agents: Kevin Minter
This is a no-brainer to me. Minter has to be re-signed after the way he filled in for White to begin the season. Hopefully, Cichy can put his injury history behind him and put in a full season. If so, this will be a very strong group for the Bucs defense.
Under contracts: Justin Evans, Jordan Whitehead, Mike Edwards, D’Cota Dixon, Herb Miller
Free agents: Darian Stewart
The Bucs safety position is still somewhat up in the air. Evans is still a question mark coming off of his injuries. Dixon is still unproven. Edwards had an inconsistent rookie year. I think the Bucs will end up signing former Baltimore Raven, Tony Jefferson in free agency instead of bringing Stewart back. I also think they’ll draft another safety this year as well.
Under contract: Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting, MJ Stewart, Mazzi Wilkins, John Franklin, Deiondre’ Hall
Free agents: Ryan Smith, Orion Stewart
The young starters really came on strong in the second half of the season, but unfortunately, there’s no experienced depth behind them. They might bring in a veteran free agent if they can find one cheap enough and/or re-sign Ryan Smith, but they’ll probably be looking in the draft for a CB once again.
Under contract: Matt Gay, Zach Trainer, Bradley Pinion
This group did a pretty good job last season, so I don’t anticipate any changes being made here other than possibly bringing in some camp competition.
This Buccaneers team is close, my friends. If they can keep this defense together and make some solid choices in the draft, they should be poised to make a real run at the playoffs and maybe even give themselves a chance to be the first team in NFL history to host a Super Bowl.
Until then, as always, GO BUCS!!!