The Buccaneers will need to have an excellent draft class to offset various offseason departures.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers currently have just over 13 million dollars of cap space for the 2021 season by most conservative estimates. The Bucs won’t be able to keep all of their key free agents, and so little cap space could see many more departures than expected.
Tampa Bay can move some money around and restructure contracts, but those decisions only go so far. The Bucs would need almost 50 million dollars to keep their roster together if players were willing to take massive cuts in their salaries. Getting 13 million to 50 would be one of the best moves in NFL history if it were possible.
Shaquil Barrett is the most important free agent by a mile, and his contract alone will cost more than 13 million dollars by himself. For the sake of this mock draft, we assume that Tampa Bay will lose out on several players that seem like they should be impossible to lose. Even with trades, cuts, and other moves, the following free agents or some combination could have played their last snaps in Tampa:
Lavonte David, Chris Godwin, Ndamukong Suh, Antonio Brown, Leonard Fournette
Letting these players walk seems like a massive mistake. Still, David and Godwin have earned more than 10 million per season themselves, Suh is more expensive than Gholston and is the oldest, Antonio Brown may stay for Brady but his market has also expanded, and Fournette should stay but he has also earned some money.
Even if the Bucs wanted to keep these players, assuming that they would all play on deals well below market value feels naive, even if this could be their best chance at winning another ring.
Money is hard to ignore, but this mock draft will try to stem some of the bleeding that could realistically happen in the coming months.
A replacement for Chris Godwin
Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
If he is available at the 32nd pick and Chris Godwin or Antonio Brown depart, the Buccaneers may have no choice but to spend their first-round pick on the most proven replacement available.
Toney has experience in the slot and as a returner and could be a starter in year one on the Buccaneer offense. Losing Godwin and Brown would hurt, but an offense that features Mike Evans, Scott Miller, and Toney is far from the worst that Brady has won a Super Bowl with.
Tampa Bay would save themselves nearly 20 million dollars on using Toney and Miller over Godwin and Brown, and the Buccaneers could use that relief desperately right now.
Toney could quickly fit in with Brady, and his ability to get to the ball and make plays after the catch would make him a perfect option to carry the torch after Godwin.