A new day rises on the NFL Champions
Let’s start with the positive news and work from there. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are World Champions! Claiming their first Super Bowl victory since 2003, and achieving this again in dominating fashion. At times this team teased with showing incredible potential for completely obliterating opposing teams. After the bye week, this team was different all the inconsistencies seemingly gone and transformed into the most complete team in Buccaneers history.
Now we come to reality.
Of the team that became the first to host (and win) their home Super Bowl, 30 players from that roster are set to become Unrestricted Free Agents. Check the link HERE for the full list.
With just over $28 million to spend, and some players rumoured to be looking to restructure their contracts to free up extra cap space, the Front Office have a busy offseason ahead of them. While every team has a collection of players with deals expiring, Tampa Bay has a headache on the horizon. AQ Shipley is set to be the only player without a question mark, as he is fully expected to retire due to injury.
Of the 30 free agents, 21 of them consistently played a part of the Super Bowl winning season, of those 21 players, 8 are starters. It’s those 9 players that we’re going to look at today, plus 2 of the 3 QBs.
Shaq Barrett – a breakout season lead to a “prove it” franchise tag. While it’s known that Barrett wanted the long term deal last year, the franchise tag was good for everyone. Shaq contributed 8 sacks and was still a constant source of pressure for the Bucs so has certainly justified a long term deal. Estimated market value puts Barrett at $19.5 million; however the chance to remain with the best team in the league could certainly lower that amount. Verdict – re-signed.
Lavonte David – Easily the most undervalued player in the NFL and certainly part of the best interior linebacker core in football, David poses the biggest question mark. No longer flying under the radar, teams are going to want to drive the Brinks truck up to David’s house. Nine years into his NFL career, it is time for Lavonte to sign that marquee contract and confirm his status as the premier inside linebacker in the NFL. Something that the Buccaneers might not be able to afford with re-signing everyone else. Verdict – New team.
Rob Gronkowski – “Gronk” has already made it clear that he wants to return and the only issue is for how much. After coming out of retirement to win another ring and snag two scores in the Super Bowl, it’s unlikely that Gronkowski rides off back into the sunset, and certainly is unlikely to play for another team. Verdict – re-signed.
Ndamukong Suh – Suh might consider retirement but certainly isn’t in a hurry to decide. 44 tackles and 6 sacks show that he’s not slowing down, and remaining in Tampa is his best shot at adding to his recent ring, Suh is likely to take a “year at a time” approach to his contracts. Verdict – re-signed
Leonard Fournette – The other side of what was a dynamic backfield in Tampa, Fournette added 6 rushing touchdowns to the cause and was the perfect foil for Jones II breakout year. The veteran back is a luxury with the growth of Keyshawn Vaughn, so likely won’t be a priority when considering other players that have to be negotiated with. Leonard Fournette will stay for the right deal, but it has to be the right deal for both parties and a big offer elsewhere could see Fournette on the move. Verdict – New team.
Antonio Brown – The biggest deciding factor here will be if Brown wants to be on a team where he is THE guy, or if he’s happy to be part of a crowd of highly talented players. His one year deal allowed him to showcase his talent and show the rest of the league that he can be a mature, non-distraction and teams will have noticed. The lure of staying in Tampa will be high, as will the chance at a 2nd ring. At 33 years old, Brown could likely take a smaller deal to finish his career on a positive note. Verdict – re-signed.
Rakeem Nunez-Roches – “Nacho” played well in the absence of Vita Vea, but the differences between the two players is obvious. Rakeem is a great depth player to have, although teams needing interior help on the D line could make him an offer that he can’t turn down. A great player to have for rotation, but a player that can be replaced in FA or the draft. Verdict – New team.
Ryan Succop – The man that ended the kicking curse in The Bay Area and didn’t cause panic attacks in fans every time the team lined up for 3. This should be obvious, winning teams don’t let consistent kickers leave. Verdict – re-signed
Chris Godwin – C’mon, if I put all three marquee players at the top, you don’t read all this article. Maybe give this a share before reading on? I could think of so many analogies to describe this situation but I’ll go with straight shooting. Chris Godwin is the prize of free agency and for good reason. One of the best receivers in the game today and capable of catching more than slants, Godwin is not only a superstar on the field but a humble, team-first guy. The Buccaneers front office is faced with a choice of letting him walk in free agency, or paying a QB and two WR over $55 million combined. Verdict – re-signed.
Blaine Gabbert – A former first round pick, who played well when needed to step in. That’s pretty much what you ask for in a backup QB, and it’s likely that Gabbert is happy with his role. Keeping Gabbert around makes too much sense for all parties and unless a team offers him the starting role, or a better option presents itself in the draft, he will be back. Verdict – re-signed.
Ryan Griffin – Clipboard holder extraordinaire, Griffin finally has a Super Bowl ring. This might surprise some but, Ryan Griffin enters free agency as one of the longest tenured Bucs on the roster. Although, I think it is time to move on. Griffin is certainly not taking over from Brady as the starter and wasn’t able to win the backup role. If a team offers Ryan a shot a competing for a roster spot, that would make sense for the guy, unless he returns (yet again) to be on the practice squad. Obviously, the coaches see something in Griffin, he’s survived multiple personnel changes after all, but that’s never typically translated into breaking into the roster. Maybe he is the ultimate scout QB, capable of replicating the style of any QB in the league? Verdict – ? (The guy is a mystery).
As always, teams can look very different from one year to the next, free agency is part of that process. If this team does lose some key players, all eyes will be on how the front office replace those players in the quest for back to back championships.