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Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Super Bowl Champions! What’s Next?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Super Bowl Champions! What’s Next?
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrate a Super Bowl 55 win at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL

TAMPA, FLORIDA – It has been 2 weeks since Tom Brady led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a victory on Super Bowl Sunday against the Chiefs. This championship illustrates Tampa’s 2nd Super Bowl victory in the franchise’s history and the first in 18 years. 

The Buccaneers became the first team in NFL history to not only play in their home stadium for the Super Bowl, but to win it. Tom Brady captured his 7th ring, three more than the 2nd quarterback on that list (Joe Montana).

The NFL’s Off-Season is upon us and for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, difficult decisions are ahead of them. The Bucs have a total of 30 free agents, 25 of which are UFA’s (Unrestricted Free Agents). Of the 25 UFA’s, 7 of them played crucial roles to the playoff and championship success of the team.

Per head coach Bruce Arians, he believes the team can sign their important free agents. “I’m very, very confident – I have all the trust in the world in Jason [Licht] and what he would do. These guys, they have a bond. There will be dollars involved. But I think that this group is so, so close that somethings dollars wont matter. But we’re going to do everything we can to get the dollars rights too because they earned it.”

Theoretically, just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should, after all Tampa Bay has their future they need to prepare for as well.

OFFENSE – To Sign or Not To Sign

Chris Godwin Age 24 – WR

Despite missing 2 games, 2019 was Godwin’s best season to date. He hauled in 86 catches of 121 targets, amassed 1,333 receiving yards and 9 TD’s. In 2020 one could say Godwin had a down year with 21 less catches and 493 less receiving yards paired with 7 TD’s. 

His dip in numbers can very well be attributed to injuries and a new quarterback entering the fold along with 2 important additions to the offense in WR Antonio Brown and TE Rob Gronkowski, more on them later.

The fourth-year wide receiver missed 4 games this season due to a hamstring injury. However, he remained an invaluable part of Tampa’s offense when he returned to action. This year marked the final year of Godwin’s contract and he remains one of the NFL’s best young wide receivers. 

Godwin is part of the reason why Brady decided to leave New England and venture to Tampa Bay. Chris Godwin is interested in signing a long-term deal with the Buccaneers which is good news for the team.

The Verdict: To Sign

Antonio Brown Age 32 – WR

Antonio Brown signed his contract with the Buccaneers late October, 2020. He signed a one-year contract with a base salary of $750,000 with incentives increasing it to a total of $2.5 million. 

Brown debuted for Tampa in the week 9 blowout against the Saints, a far cry from what the team looked like against the Chiefs in the Super Bowl.

Even when Antonio Brown wasn’t producing at the same rate he was with the Steelers, just having him on the field opened up the offense. His presence also further disrupted opposing defensive coordinators game plans. Brown finished the season with 45 receptions, 483 receiving yards, 4 TD’s. 

Brown’s love for playing with and being around Tom Brady has been well documented. Brown seems to be his best self in recent years with the Buccaneers and most importantly Brown wants to play for Tampa. 

Assuming the Buccaneers can work out his contract in a favorable fashion, he would continue to bolster the offensive firepower for the team.

The Verdict: To Sign

Leonard Fournette Age 26 – RB

Before this season with Tampa, Fournette’s career was met with a great level of uncertainty. The former 4th overall pick had been released from Jacksonville after showing flashes of why he was picked so high, but ultimately, couldn’t stay healthy.

Fournette agreed to join the Buccaneers on a one-year contract worth $2 million. He also played an invaluable role in Tampa Bay securing its first Super Bowl in 18 years. He went on to finish the game with 20 total touches for 135 yards and a TD.

It seems Fournette was able to revitalize his career with Tampa Bay this season and considering he hasn’t been paid much after his rookie deal, now would seem like the time for him to cash in. Running backs have an average career span of 4 years in the NFL and Leonard has already dealt with his fair share of injuries. 

While he may very well want to stay with Tampa Bay, and while they may want to resign him, the Bucs still have Ronald Jones on their roster, and Fournette may want more than the team is willing to offer.

The Verdict: Not To Sign

Rob Gronkowski Age 31 – TE

In March of 2020, Rob Gronkowski inked a deal to join the WWE where he would officially debut on March 20th, 2020. Just 11 months later he was hoisting up the Lombardi Trophy with long-time Patriots Teammate and friend Tom Brady. 

The Buccaneers tight end retired from the NFL in March of 2019. After a year spent away from the game of football, Gronkowski looked re-energized, particularly on Super Bowl Sunday. 

He finished with 6 catches and 2 TD’s which set the tone for the rest of the game. There were flashes of vintage Gronkowski and I think it’s safe to say, Tampa hopes to get at least one more year from the expressive tight end.  

On the season, he finished with 45 receptions, 623 yards and 7 TD’s, making Tom Brady a very happy man. 

The Verdict: To Sign

DEFENSE – To Sign or Not To Sign

Shaquil (Sack) Barrett Age 28 – LB 

The nickname speaks for itself. Shaquil Barrett was a menace to opposing quarterbacks this season. True to his name in his two seasons with the Buccaneers he has accumulated 27.5 sacks. In comparison to his 5 seasons in Denver where he totaled 14 sacks, Barrett flipped a switch in Tampa. 

In his first season with the Bucs, Barrett had 19.5 sacks. This season his numbers were cut by more than half. 

However, his impact continued to be prevalent especially in the Superbowl where he notched a sack on Patrick Mahomes.

Barrett is one of the driving forces of Tampa’s pass rush and a top priority this off-season. Barrett will certainly get offers from other teams and it would behoove Tampa to act quickly and get Barrett resigned.

The Verdict: To Sign

Lavonte David Age 31 – LB 

Lavonte David is the heart and soul of the Bucs defense, not to mention the leader of the 2nd level of the defense. He played a vital role in containing Travis Kelce in the Super Bowl and he lived up to the expectations. “I’m very, very confident – I have all the trust in the world in Jason [Licht] and what he would do. These guys, they have a bond. There will be dollars involved. But I think that this group is so, so close that somethings dollars wont matter. But we’re going to do everything we can to get the dollars rights too because they earned it.”

In situations throughout the game, David was nothing short of masterful. He finished the season with his normal tackle-machine like numbers, 117 total tackles, 3 forced fumbles, 1.5 sacks and 1 interception.

David is still an elite player and will get hefty offers from other teams. Offers that in other circumstances, meaning in the event his team didn’t win the Super Bowl he might not receive. Furthermore, at 31 years of age, David is no longer a young player at his position.

As currently constructed Tampa Bay has the best linebacker duo. A large part of that is due 23 year-old Devin White who is regarded as one of the best linebackers in the game. 

Even if the Buccaneers can figure a way to manipulate the cap space to keep David, should they?

The Verdict: Not To Sign

Ndamukong Suh Age 34 – DT

By the numbers Suh didn’t have a high impact season, with the exception of 6 sacks from his defensive tackle position. His impact however was felt especially in the run game. Along with fellow defensive tackle Vita Vea, they clogged the middle more often than not.

Combined with Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul on the opposite end positions, Suh was apart of one of the most formidable defensive lines in football.

Against the Chiefs in the Super Bowl, Suh bullied his offensive line matchups throughout the game. He was able to get constant pressure on Mahomes while also notching 1.5 sacks. 

With that said, Suh is no longer in his prime, and is on the down slide of his career. At 34 years old, while still impactful, Suh isn’t the dominant player he once was. After winning a Super Bowl it’s likely he’ll command a higher price tag similarly to Lavonte David.

The Verdict: Not To Sign

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