Tampa Bay Buccaneers set to take a leap in 2020
In this series we will be looking at teams who had meaningful off seasons and have improved the their roster enough to have a chance of performing significantly better in the 2020 season than they did in 2019. We will take a look at who they have cut, traded or let leave as well as who they added in free agency and the 2020 NFL Draft. First up we will take a look at arguably the biggest movers of the offseason, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In these uncertain times, franchises have been unable to fully utilise their resources as they normally would, both in free agency and pre-draft. After 3 immense days in the commissioner’s man cave, the general managers and head coaches have pretty much completed their rosters for the immediate future. This closed season period has offered up some major shocks and surprises. Some top NFL stars are yet to find a new home, Franchise tags have been put in place on players that teams can’t live without and we have seen some blockbuster trades along the way.
Let’s kick off in the only logical place for a team that has jumped straight into win-now mode over this past offseason. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made the biggest signing of the free agency period by acquiring the services of six-time Super Bowl champion, Tom Brady. In 2019, Jameis Winston was the starting quarterback for the Bucs and threw the rock for over 5000 yards, the most in the league. He was also 2nd in touchdowns with 33, but they came at a price, an NFL-worst 30 interceptions.
The Buccaneers offensive line has been much maligned, but they actually took steps forward in pass protection in 2019. However, Jameis Winston was still sacked 47 times last season, and often it seemed to be because he was holding the ball too long. That should not be a problem with Brady, who is well known for quick distribution of the ball.
Brady is now the man under center for the Buccaneers having signed for the next two years. At the age of 42 has Brady still got what it takes to make plays at the highest level? Of course he has.
Return of the Gronk
Rob Gronkowski’s last game in the NFL was Super Bowl LIII for the New England Patriots, a 13-3 victory over the LA Rams. One of the greatest tight ends of all time, the man mountain that is the Gronk, returns to the league and immediately engineered his way down to Tampa with his friend. The three-times super bowl winner is reunited with his friend, teammate and quarterback as they look to pick up where they left off. While tight end won’t have been a priority for Bruce Arians and Jason Licht as they have two capable players at the position already in OJ Howard and Cameron Brate, Gronkowski is still a definite upgrade in the new look TB offense.
Walked the plank
In general, Tampa Bay have done a stellar job in holding on to the majority of their defense. Beau Allen and Carl Nassib are two player they allowed to leave for pastures new, but both were role players as opposed to major contributors. Relatively minor parts of the offense in running back Peyton Barber and wide receiver Breshad Perriman, who had his most productive season last year, have also moved on. Winston has signed with the Saints and offensive tackle Demar Dotson, is the only other 2019 starter to leave, remaining a free agent thus far. With the work they’ve put in acquiring other talents these few losses seem minor in the grand scheme of things.
Steadying the ship
Outside linebacker Shaquill Barrett was placed under the team’s franchise tag with hopes of agreeing a long-term deal in the near future. Ndamukong Suh and Jason Pierre-Paul were both re-signed as vital starters, as well as retaining numerous depth pieces. Round 2 draft pick, Antoine Winfield Jr. will form a formidable force at safety with 3rd year Jordan Whitehead.
13th overall pick Tristan Wirfs is a significant improvement in talent at the offensive tackle position, showing incredible athleticism. He will likely start at right tackle and alongside veteran addition Joe Haeg they now have more depth on their offensive line to protect their new franchise QB. They also added two new toys for Brady at wideout and running back respectively. Tyler Johnson and KeShawn Vaughn bring second string value, depth in case of injury and potential for the future.
Expecting Tom Brady to take Tampa Bay from 7-9 to their second Vince Lombardi Trophy is a stretch, but they have made major strides. They now have one of the greatest QBs of all time and added pieces in order to protect him. They then went and got Brady’s most reliable weapon from his time in New England, while retaining the talent on offense they had last year.
Defensively, they let bit-part pieces walk, while retaining their best players and drafted an elite, potential future Pro Bowl player at safety. With the playoffs extended to 14 teams, the Buccaneers should have a great chance of heading to the postseason for the first time since 2007.
A FATHER OF FOUR, SPORT FANATIC LEWIS HAS BEEN FOLLOWING THE NFL FOR THREE YEARS AND COLLEGE FOOTBALL FOR THE LAST TWELVE MONTHS. HE HAS REPRESENTED ENGLAND AT DARTS AND IS A FORMER PDC U21 WORLD CUP SEMI-FINALIST. FOLLOW HIM ON TWITTER @LVENES1.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports & Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports