Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Last Year: 7-9)
2020 NFL Season Preview:
QB Tom Brady, TE Rob Gronkowski, OT/G Joe Haeg.
Early Draft Picks:
OT Tristan Wirfs, S Antoine Winfield, RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn. Buccaneers Rookie Forecast
QB Jameis Winston, RB Peyton Barber, WR Breshad Perriman, OT Demar Dotson, DE Carl Nassib, S Andrew Adams.
2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offense:
It's still difficult to believe, but Tom Brady is a Buccaneer. There was much speculation about where Brady would go this offseason. San Francisco, Las Vegas and Indianapolis were discussed as other possibilities, but it seemed most likely that Brady would return to New England. However, the shocking announcement was eventually made that Brady would be signing with Tampa Bay.
Brady turns 43 in August, but his presence in Tampa Bay automatically makes the team a Super Bowl contender. The Buccaneers had a great supporting cast last year, but Jameis Winston murdered them with his constant blunders. He threw 30 interceptions, and yet it felt as though there could've been 40-plus if it wasn't for some drops by defenders. Winston's picks constantly put the Buccaneers in huge deficits, which prevented them from controlling most games.
Brady obviously won't do that. He didn't perform up to his standards last year, but his anemic supporting cast can be blamed for that. Both Antonio Brown and Josh Gordon had to stop playing for personal reasons, while Julian Edelman wasn't healthy. None of the other receivers, including first-round pick N'Keal Harry, could separate from defenders. Brady won't have that issue in Tampa, as he'll be paired with one of the premier duo of receivers in the NFL, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Brady will also have a trio of talented tight ends at his disposal. O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate were already a solid tandem, and the position will be much better with Rob Gronkowski joining the squad.
The Buccaneers lacked a viable pass-catching running back for Brady to treat like James White, so it's no surprise that the front office used a second-day pick on Ke'Shawn Vaughn. The Vanderbilt product is a skilled receiver out of the backfield, so he'll at least split the touches with incumbent back Ronald Jones, who has yet to live up to his second-round billing.
Aside from finding a running back with receiving talent, addressing right tackle was Tampa Bay's greatest priority after signing Brady. There was a huge hole in the wake of Demar Dotson's departure, so the Buccaneers moved up one spot in the 2020 NFL Draft to select the athletic Tristan Wirfs. The Iowa product will bookend blind-side protector Donovan Smith, who struggled in the past but finally improved last year to become a reliable blocker.
Brady will have a stellar offensive line blocking for him because the interior unit is even better. Ryan Jensen is one of the top centers in the NFL, while Ali Marpet is a terrific guard. Alex Cappa, the other guard, is a notch below Marpet, but he's certainly not a liability.
2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense:
Many may not have noticed this, but the Buccaneers' defense made some amazing strides during the second half of the year. They surrendered 31.5 points per game in Weeks 1-9 and then just 24.6 after that. Two major changes were made around that time to help the Buccaneers improve greatly on this side of the ball.
The first catalyst was Jason Pierre-Paul's return from a neck injury. Pierre-Paul was out for the first seven weeks, but then came back to dominate the second half of the year. He registered 8.5 sacks despite playing just 10 games. He and Shaq Barrett, who had a monstrous 2019 campaign with a ridiculous 19.5 sacks, will continue to terrorize opposing backfields.
Pierre-Paul and Barrett will once again be a part of one of the premier defensive lines in the NFL. Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea round out the group, and both are excellent, particularly in run support. The Buccaneers had an elite rush defense all year because of them.
The second reason why the Buccaneers made a big defensive improvement in the second half of the year was the play of Jamel Dean. The third-round rookie saw significant action for the first time against the Seahawks, and he was torched into that contest. However, Dean's play improved every week after that, and by the end of the season, he was clamping down on the receivers he was tasked to cover. He and Carlton Davis became a terrific cornerback duo, and because they're both so young, they can only improve in the near future.
With Dean and Davis being a promising duo, safety became the major concern in the secondary. Justin Evans is coming off a torn Achilles, but the Buccaneers didn't have another viable player at the position. That'll change in the wake of the Antoine Winfield Jr. selection in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Speaking of young defensive players, the Buccaneers will be looking for Devin White to play much better in 2020. The No. 5 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, White struggled as a rookie, but he has plenty of potential. He and Lavonte David have the potential to form a great tandem at linebacker.
2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Schedule and Intangibles:
Prior to the 2009 season, the Buccaneers were 68-36 as hosts. However, they've maintained one of the worst home-field advantages in the NFL since. They're 31-55 at the New Sombrero dating back to 2009.
Tampa made what one general manager called "the worst draft pick ever" when they traded up into the second round for kicker Roberto Aguyao several years ago. Unsurprisingly, the Buccaneers were looking for a new kicker last offseason. They've settled on someone named Matt Gay, who was a pedestrian 27-of-35 last year with five missed extra points. On the plus side, he was 5-of-8 from 50-plus.
Of course, the Jaguars' decision to take Bryan Anger in the third round - a few selections prior to Russell Wilson - may have been worse. Coincidentally, Anger was Tampa Bay's punter recently. That's now Bradley Pinion, who was 29th in net average in 2019.
The Buccaneers were poor on special teams overall. Their opponents outgained them on punts and kickoffs.
This is the first time Tom Brady will be playing a third-place schedule in his career. Aside from the Saints (twice) and Chiefs, the Buccaneers mostly have easy opponents.
2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rookies:
Go here for the Buccaneers Rookie Forecast
, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie
will become a solid starter.
2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Analysis:
The Buccaneers are one of the best teams in the NFL, so they're certainly in play for winning the Super Bowl. They already had a vastly improved offensive line and defense in the second half of the 2019 campaign, and yet they managed to add the best quarterback in NFL history to their roster. It shouldn't surprise anyone if Tampa Bay finishes with the best record in the NFL this year.
14-2 (1st in NFC South)
2019 Projection: 7-9. 2019 Actual Result: 7-9.
2018 Projection: 2-14. 2018 Actual Result: 5-11.
2017 Projection: 10-6. 2017 Actual Result: 5-11.
2016 Projection: 7-9. 2016 Actual Result: 9-7.
NFL Draft Team Grade: A Grade
Goals Entering the 2020 NFL Draft: The Buccaneers have gone "all in" on winning this year by acquiring Tom Brady. Thus, they need to make sure he has the appropriate talent around him to win a Super Bowl. This includes a new right tackle to replace Demar Dotson and a new running back to pair with Ronald Jones. The Buccaneers could use some pieces on their defense as well, but they should focus on the offense in this draft.
2020 NFL Draft Accomplishments: It's unbelievable that the Buccaneers were able to obtain Tristan Wirfs at No. 13 overall. Wirfs was one argument away from being the fourth pick in the draft, and yet he somehow slipped all the way down to Tampa in the early teens. That's crazy, but the Buccaneers won't be complaining. They obtained a huge upgrade at right tackle to help protect Tom Brady.
The good fortune didn't end there. The Buccaneers landed another steal at No. 45 when Antoine Winfield Jr. fell to them. Winfield is an excellent safety prospect who could have been chosen in the first round without any complaints. It would be odd to see him slip to the middle of second frame, but all of the safeties fell. Nevertheless, Tampa managed to find another big upgrade.
Tampa Bay waited until the third round to find its running back. Ke'Shawn Vaughn was a solid pick, as was fifth-rounder Tyler Johnson, who will provide some needed depth at receiver in the wake of Breshad Perriman's departure.
The Buccaneers had a tremendous draft overall. They were already enjoying an unreal offseason in which they landed two future Hall of Famers, and now they have a great draft class to complement Brady and Rob Gronkowski.
NFL Draft Individual Grades:
13. Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa - A+ Grade
Wow. I can't believe the Buccaneers stole Tristan Wirfs. The Giants were very close to taking him - Dave Gettleman had him ranked higher than Andrew Thomas, but the coaches disagreed - so getting Wirfs at No. 13 is almost grand larceny. This is the perfect pick for the Buccaneers, who needed a big upgrade at right tackle to protect their 43-year-old quarterback.
45. Antoine Winfield, S, Minnesota - A Grade
A couple of years ago, the Buccaneers were widely criticized for passing on Derwin James in favor of Vita Vea. It turns out that Vea became a tremendous run defender for the Buccaneers, but James has been better for the Chargers, at least when healthy. However, the Buccaneers may have made amends for that mistake. Antoine Winfield is a tremendous play-maker who will pair with an improving cornerback group. He could've been chosen in the first round, so I love this value.
76. Ke'Shawn Vaughn, RB, Vanderbilt - B Grade
The Buccaneers finally get their running back. Ke'Shawn Vaughn runs with some nice power, and he makes sense as a third-round pick, but I'm not sure about the fit. Tom Brady wants running backs who catch passes out of the backfield very well. Vaughn can do that, but it's definitely not his forte.
161. Tyler Johnson, WR, Minnesota - B+ Grade
Tyler Johnson seems like the sort of receiver Tom Brady likes playing with. Johnson is a solid route runner who should be able to eventually take over as the third receiver, replacing Breshad Perriman.
194. Khalil Davis, DT, Nebraska - B Grade
Khalil Davis was an excellent tester at the combine, so he put himself on the map. He has potential for sure, so I like this upside pick in the sixth round.
241. Chapelle Russell, LB, Temple - C- Grade
Normally, I'd say that a player coming off double ACL surgeries is someone who slipped in the draft, but Chapelle Russell isn't even a good player. I don't get this pick, but it's the middle of the seventh round.
245. Raymond Calais, RB, Louisiana-Lafayette - C+ Grade
Raymond Calais made a name for himself at the combine by running one of the fastest 40s, but he's a small running back (5-8, 188) who isn't very skilled. I wouldn't have drafted him, but he was at least in consideration.
The Buccaneers looked great at times last year, but they also had some horrible moments. This epitomizes Jameis Winston's career. We'll see what the Buccaneers decide to do with Winston this offseason.
Buccaneers sign OT/G Joe Haeg
Buccaneers sign QB Tom Brady
- Quarterback: The Buccaneers will probably bring back Jameis Winston next year. Regardless, they'll need to find a young quarterback who can challenge him. Signed Tom Brady
- Safety: Once the Buccaneers figure out their quarterback situation, they'll need to fully fix their secondary. They're still paying the price for passing on Derwin James.
- Running Back: Bruce Arians doesn't seem to trust Ronald Jones, so the Buccaneers could use an early draft pick on a runner.
- Cornerback: Tampa's secondary improved at the end of the year, and that's because Jamel Dean and Carlton Davis were outstanding down the stretch. One more cornerback is needed.
- Two Edge Rushers: Shaq Barrett and Carl Nassib are set to hit the market in March, so they'll need to be retained. Franchised Shaq Barrett
- Defensive Tackle: Ditto for Ndamukong Suh. Re-signed Ndamukong Suh
- Right Tackle: Long-time Buccaneer Demar Dotson is set to hit free agency.
- Kicker: Matt Gay missed way too many field goals last year.
- Punter: Bradley Pinion was one of the league's worst punters in 2019.
Follow me @walterfootball for updates.
2020 NFL Free Agent Signings:
Tom Brady, QB, Patriots. Age: 43.
Signed with Buccaneers (2 years, $60 million)
The greatest quarterback in NFL history, Tom Brady is a free agent for the first time in his career. He didn't have a great 2019 campaign, but he was playing with terrible receivers. Brady can bounce back with a superior supporting cast.
- Joe Haeg, OT, Colts. Age: 27. -- Signed with Buccaneers (1 year, $2.3 million)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Free Agents:
Salary Cap: TBA.
Shaq Barrett, DE/OLB, Buccaneers. Age: 27.
Franchised by Buccaneers
Shaq Barrett was unbelievable last year, logging 19.5 sacks. Barrett wasn't bad in run support either. He'll receive a huge deal this offseason unless he's franchised.
Ndamukong Suh, DT, Buccaneers. Age: 33.
Re-signed with Buccaneers (1 year, $8 million)
Ndamukong Suh is no longer a dominant interior pass-rushing presence, but he's terrific at stopping the run. He was one of the reasons why Tampa was elite against ground attacks in 2019.
Jameis Winston, QB, Buccaneers. Age: 26.
Signed with Saints (1 year, $1.1 million)
Jameis Winston is very difficult to grade. He's extremely gifted as a passer, and he has moments of brilliance, but he also absolutely kills his team sometimes with horrible mental blunders. He's the first quarterback to ever throw 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in the same season.
Carl Nassib, DE, Buccaneers. Age: 27.
Signed with Raiders
Carl Nassib is just a mediocre pass rusher, but he's been excellent in run support. Nassib turns 27 in April, so he could improve his pass-rushing ability.
Breshad Perriman, WR, Buccaneers. Age: 26.
Signed with Jets (1 year, $8 million)
Breshad Perriman had been a major bust throughout his career, but he caught fire late in 2019, finally emerging as a the dynamic threat the Ravens thought they were getting when they chose him in the opening round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Demar Dotson, OT, Buccaneers. Age: 34.
Demar Dotson has been a steady right tackle for the Buccaneers for the entire previous decade, but he turns 35 in October.
Peyton Barber, RB, Buccaneers. Age: 26.
Signed with Redskins (2 years, $3 million)
Peyton Barber is a pedestrian, plodding back, but he's been given plenty of carries and starts over the past couple of years.
- Andrew Adams, S, Buccaneers. Age: 27.
- Rakeem Nunez-Roches, DT, Buccaneers. Age: 27. -- Re-signed with Buccaneers
- Earl Watford, G, Buccaneers. Age: 30.
- Blaine Gabbert, QB, Buccaneers. Age: 30. -- Re-signed with Buccaneers
- Kevin Minter, ILB, Buccaneers. Age: 29. -- Re-signed with Buccaneers (1 year)
- Sam Acho, DE/OLB, Buccaneers. Age: 31.
- Ryan Smith, CB, Buccaneers. Age: 26. -- Re-signed with Buccaneers
- Jerald Hawkins, OT, Buccaneers. Age: 26.
- Anthony Auclair, TE, Buccaneers. Age: 27. -- Re-signed with Buccaneers
- Jaydon Mickens (RFA), WR, Buccaneers. Age: 26.
- Michael Liedtke, G, Buccaneers. Age: 28.
NFL Free Agent Tracker:
QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors
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