2021 NFL Offseason: Tampa Bay Bucs

Tampa Bay Bucs (Last Year: 11-5)

2021 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
RB Giovani Bernard.
Early Draft Picks:
DE Joe Tryon, QB Kyle Trask, OT/G Robert Hainsey, WR Jaelon Darden. Buccaneers Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
C A.Q. Shipley.

2021 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offense:
Tom Brady didn’t exactly get off to a great start in his tenure with the Buccaneers. He was blown out by the Saints in the opener and then proceeded to throw some ugly passes in a close victory against the Panthers. Several weeks later, Brady suffered a loss at the hands of the Nick Foles-led Bears, who ultimately failed to qualify for the playoffs. The Saints then crushed the Buccaneers once again.

Things changed after that. In that second loss to New Orleans, the two incumbent Buccaneer receivers weren’t quite healthy, while Antonio Brown was being incorporated into the offense. The Buccaneers eventually were able to gel, catching fire late in the year. They dominated three of their four opponents in the playoffs, including the Chiefs, giving Brady his unprecedented seventh ring.

The Buccaneers were expected to lose some talent this offseason, but that simply didn’t happen. In fact, Tampa Bay didn’t lose a single player of note. Their only departure was a backup center. Everyone else has returned, and that includes all of the receivers. Chris Godwin and Brown were impending free agents, but the Buccaneers managed to retain both of them. Godwin, Brown and Mike Evans will once again form the best receiving trio in the NFL, and that doesn’t even include all of the talented tight ends on the roster. Brady made good use of Rob Gronkowski and Cameron Brate this past season, and now O.J. Howard will also be in the mix.

Of all the free agents, Leonard Fournette seemed least likely to re-sign. The Buccaneers had Ronald Jones and second-year Ke’Shawn Vaughn, so they didn’t have to retain Fournette, but they managed to do so. Despite this, they signed Giovani Bernard because they were tired of their running backs dropping passes. Bernard will be an excellent third-down back to provide a James White-type boost to the offense.

Meanwhile, Brady’s terrific pass protection is one of the main reasons why the Buccaneers were able to prevail in Super Bowl LV. Rookie right tackle Tristan Wirfs was a big part of that. Despite his inexperience, Wirfs emerged as one of the top right tackles in the NFL. Donovan Smith, conversely, was not as good on the blind side, but he wasn’t a liability either.

The interior of the Buccaneers’ offensive line is just as good, with guard Ali Marpet being the blue-chip player of the bunch. Alex Cappa is also a sound blocker, while center Ryan Jensen did well enough to be a passable starter.

2021 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense:
The Buccaneers had some key defensive free agents as well. This includes Shaq Barrett, who seemed bound to leave because he would command a huge contract. He received that enormous deal, yet it was Tampa Bay that gave it to him. Barrett obtained $72 million over four years.

Retaining Barrett was extremely important, as the Buccaneers will once again boast a stellar edge rush. Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul will once again combine to be a tremendous duo in this regard, and there will even be depth insurance this year because the Buccaneers spent their first-round pick on Joe Tyron. The Washington product is a raw player, but has immense upside. He’ll likely be a starter in 2022 and beyond once Pierre-Paul’s time is up in Tampa Bay.

The Buccaneers also have a new boost on the defensive line. Vita Vea is not a newcomer to the roster, but he missed more than half the season, so his presence will make Tampa Bay’s front even more formidable. The Buccaneers will once again have Ndamukong Suh and Steve McLendon joining Vea. Suh is not the same player he once was, but he’s still a solid performer. McLendon, meanwhile, is a key run-stuffer.

Lavonte David is another free agent-to-be who could have left the Buccaneers, yet will be returning. David has been one of the most underrated players in the NFL throughout his career, but Tampa Bay certainly recognized his importance. With David coming back, the Buccaneers will once again sport a great linebacking corps. Devin White was tremendous at times in 2020, which includes an outstanding performance in the Super Bowl.

As for the secondary, the Buccaneers have a young group that should continue to improve. The top three cornerbacks, Calton Davis, Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting, are all younger than 25. The trio performed well last year, so it’s probable that they’ll be even better in 2021.

Both safeties are younger than 25 as well. Jordan Whitehead and Antoine Winfield Jr. are a prolific duo. Winfield, in particular, is a special player. Despite being a second-round rookie last year, Winfield performed on a Pro Bowl level, so imagine how he’ll fare with some experience.

2021 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 37-58 at the New Sombrero dating back to 2009. They were 6-3 in 2020, however, which includes their Super Bowl win over the Chiefs.

Head coach Bruce Arians said that he wants a kicker who can “make the easy ones.” Ryan Succop qualified, converting 28-of-31 attempts. He was 1-of-2 from 50-plus.

Punter Bradley Pinion finished in the middle of the pack in net yardage, ranking 17th.

The Buccaneers were poor on special teams overall. Their opponents scored a touchdown, while Tampa Bay failed to reach the end zone.

It’s not often that the defending Super Bowl champion doesn’t have to navigate through a first-place schedule. The Buccaneers qualify. They also get to beat up on the NFC East.

2021 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.

2021 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2021 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Analysis: The Buccaneers didn’t quite post the 14-2 record that was predicted in this space last year, but they ultimately won 15 games because of their playoff run. They’ll have everyone returning this year, which means they could achieve a sterling record in the regular season. They are easily one of the favorites to win Super Bowl LVI.

Projection: 15-2 (1st in NFC South)

2020 Projection: 14-2. 2020 Actual Result: 11-5.
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: B+ Grade

Goals Entering the 2021 NFL Draft: The Buccaneers had numerous key free agents entering March, and yet they re-signed all of them. They now have no major needs, but they could draft players to replace some of the veterans who will be gone in a year or two. This includes a quarterback, as Tom Brady is the only player at his position on the roster.

2021 NFL Draft Accomplishments: One of the veterans I alluded to in the previous paragraph was Jason Pierre-Paul, who doesn’t have much longer remaining in the NFL. Thus, it made sense that the Buccaneers used their first-round selection on a successor. Joe Tryon is a bit raw, but he’s very explosive and could be ready to start beginning in 2022.

Antonio Brown and Lavonte David are other veterans who are on borrowed time. Potential replacements were obtained for them when the Buccaneers drafted Jaelon Darden and K.J. Britt with their first couple of picks on the third day. They also acquired needed offensive line depth with Robert Hainsey before that. The only pick I didn’t like was the second-rounder used on Kyle Trask. While I understand wanting to find a future starting quarterback, I think it would have been better to wait until the third frame for a signal-caller because the Buccaneers could have used that pick on someone to help them win this year.

That’s not a huge deal, however. The Buccaneers made out very well in the 2021 NFL Draft, which should help put them in position to repeat as Super Bowl champions.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

32. Joe Tryon, DE, Washington – A Grade
I’m loving these high-upside pass rushers at the end of the first round. Joe Tryon has immense upside, but he’s raw and inexperienced. The good thing with this pick is that Tryon won’t necessarily be needed right away because Tampa Bay has Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul ahead of him. However, Pierre-Paul is in the twilight of his career, and Tryon could be a dominant player in 2022 and beyond.

64. Kyle Trask, QB, Florida – C- Grade
Meh. I get it. The Buccaneers had no successor for Tom Brady. And Kyle Trask makes sense at the end of the second round, though I had him going in the third frame in my final update. The thing is, Tampa is all in for winning now, so I think the Buccaneers could have waited until the third round for a quarterback and spent this pick on a player to help this year.

95. Robert Hainsey, OT/G, Notre Dame – B Grade
I like this pick more for the Buccaneers than the previous one. Everyone is returning for Tampa Bay, so the question is, how could things unravel for them? The easiest answer, besides an injury to Tom Brady, is multiple offensive linemen missing action. Adding blocking depth and a future starter up front is a smart decision at this juncture.

129. Jaelon Darden, WR, North Texas – A- Grade
There was a stretch last year when the Buccaneers lost some games because they didn’t have any healthy receivers. They’re making sure that doesn’t happen again. Jaelon Darden is a legitimate sleeper. He’ll be able to see more of the field in 2022 when the Buccaneers inevitably move on from Antonio Brown.

176. K.J. Britt, LB, Auburn – B Grade
K.J. Britt is a two-down linebacker because he’s going to struggle in coverage, but we’re nearing the end of the fifth round, so it’s OK to take a player like that with this pick. Britt will help in run support.

251. Chris Wilcox, CB, BYU – B+ Grade
I didn’t have Chris Wilcox mocked, but his upside is intriguing. He’s a big cornerback (6-2, 198) with great athleticism (he ran 4.39 in the 40.) The Buccaneers are swinging for the fences with Wilcox’s potential.

259. Grant Stuard, LB, Houston – A Grade
Mr. Irrelevant definitely looks relevant to me. I had Grant Stuard in the fourth or fifth rounds of most of my mock draft updates, so I’m surprised he lasted until the final pick. The Buccaneers did well to help their linebacker depth and special teams.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
Some doubted Tom Brady heading into 2020 because he would be playing without Bill Belichick coaching him for the first time in his career. Yet, Brady advanced the Buccaneers deep into the playoffs, while Belichick’s post-Brady Patriots failed to make the postseason.

Offseason Moves:
  • Buccaneers sign RB Giovani Bernard

    Team Needs:
    1. Cornerback: Tampa Bay’s greatest weakness was its pass defense. That must be addressed if it wants to have a better chance of winning the Super Bowl.

    2. Defensive Tackle: Ndamukong Suh turned 34 this offseason, but he’s entering free agency anyway. A new starter is needed next to Vita Vea. Re-signed Ndamukong Suh

    3. Defensive End: Shaq Barrett is set to hit free agency, while Jason Pierre-Paul recently turned 32. Another defensive end is needed. Re-signed Shaq Barrett

    4. Wide Receiver: Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown are both impending free agents, so one needs to be re-signed. Franchised Chris Godwin

    5. Linebacker: Lavonte Davd is another free agent who must be retained. Re-signed Lavonte David

    6. Quarterback: The Buccaneers need to find a quarterback to groom behind Tom Brady, who turns 44 in August.

    7. Kicker: Ryan Succop is just a mediocre kicker, and his contract is set to expire anyway. Re-signed Ryan Succop

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2021 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals. Age: 29.
      Signed with Buccaneers (1 year)

      Giovani Bernard is a talented pass-catching running back, but the Bengals wanted to cut him in order to save $4.2 million. He turns 30 in November, but he can still play well for a year or two.

    Tampa Bay Bucs Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Chris Godwin, WR, Buccaneers. Age: 25.
      Franchised by Buccaneers

      Chris Godwin is an exceptional receiver who is only 25, so he’ll be due for a huge contract. Godwin endured injuries in 2020, which is why he had just 840 yards and seven touchdowns. He tallied 1,333 yards and nine scores the year before.

    2. Lavonte David, LB, Buccaneers. Age: 31.
      Re-signed with Buccaneers

      Lavonte David has been one of the most underrated players in the NFL throughout his career. He would be a five-star player if he were a few years younger. He could still play at an All-Pro level going forward, but there is some danger of regression at 31.

    3. Shaq Barrett, DE, Buccaneers. Age: 28.
      Re-signed with Buccaneers (4 years, $72 million)

      Shaq Barrett had a ridiculous 19.5 sacks in 2019. There was some regression to the mean in 2020, but he still logged eight sacks. He’s due for a big contract.

    4. Antonio Brown, WR, Buccaneers. Age: 33.
      Antonio Brown is difficult to rank. He’s still one of the most talented receivers in the NFL, though at the age of 33, he could regress. Even worse, Brown is always in serious danger of having a mental breakdown and being suspended.

    5. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Buccaneers. Age: 34.
      Re-signed with Buccaneers (1 year, $10 million)

      Once one of the top defensive tackles in the NFL, Ndamukong Suh has understandably taken a step backward in production now that he’s in his mid-30s.

    6. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Buccaneers. Age: 32.
      Re-signed with Buccaneers (1 year, $10 million)

      Rob Gronkowski is no longer the unstoppable beast he once was, but he’s still an effective receiver and a terrific blocker.

    7. Leonard Fournette, RB, Buccaneers. Age: 26.
      Re-signed with Buccaneers (1 year, $4 million)

      Leonard Fournette disappointed with the Buccaneers, but he’s a talented, three-down running back who should rebound in 2021.

    8. Ryan Succop, K, Buccaneers. Age: 34.
      Re-signed with Buccaneers (3 years, $12 million)

      Ryan Succop missed five extra points in 2020, but he was 28-of-31 on field goals. He was 1-of-2 from 50-plus.

    9. Steve McLendon, DT, Buccaneers. Age: 35. — Re-signed with Buccaneers
    10. Rakeem Nunez-Roches, DT, Buccaneers. Age: 28. — Re-signed with Buccaneers (2 years)
    11. Ross Cockrell, CB, Buccaneers. Age: 30. — Re-signed with Buccaneers
    12. A.Q. Shipley, C, Buccaneers. Age: 35.
    13. Ryan Griffin, QB, Buccaneers. Age: 31. — Re-signed with Buccaneers
    14. Kevin Minter, LB, Buccaneers. Age: 30. — Re-signed with Buccaneers (1 year)
    15. Joe Haeg, OT, Buccaneers. Age: 28. — Signed with Steelers
    16. Josh Wells, OT, Buccaneers. Age: 30. — Re-signed with Buccaneers
    17. LeSean McCoy, RB, Buccaneers. Age: 33.
    18. Kenjon Barner, KR, Buccaneers. Age: 32.
    19. Blaine Gabbert, QB, Buccaneers. Age: 31. — Re-signed with Buccaneers
    20. Jaydon Mickens, CB, Buccaneers. Age: 27.
    21. Ryan Smith, CB, Buccaneers. Age: 27.
    22. Andrew Adams, S, Buccaneers. Age: 28. — Signed with Eagles
    23. Anthony Auclair, TE, Buccaneers. Age: 28. — Signed with Texans

    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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