Bruce Arians stated that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have “five or six” free agents they are prioritizing. Let’s try and guess who.
Suffice to say, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have their work cut out for them when it comes to keeping their team together in hopes of repeating as Super Bowl champions. There are eight big-name players set to hit the open market that played significant roles in the Buccaneers conquering the football world. Running back Leonard Fournette, receivers Antonio Brown and Chris Godwin, and tight end Rob Gronkowski are the offensive players set to be free agents, with kicker Ryan Succop the lone special teams representative. On defense, pass rusher Shaquil Barrett joins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and linebacker Lavonte David on the Buccaneers’ list of expired contracts.
One can easily make a case for any of these players needing to come back, but head coach Bruce Arians told WDAE Radio:
"“For us right now, it’s just keeping this team together. And that’s probably going to eat up most of the salary cap if we can just keep or five or six guys that we want to keep on this football team, and keep the closeness and the accountability factor that we have in the locker room.”"
To put it kindly, this is a bit of a far cry from Arians and General Manager Jason Licht talking about re-signing everyone while on a boat in a sea of Bud Light. With this newfound clarity coming from the Buccaneers’ brass, let’s see if we can figure out who the five or six players from the aforementioned eight names the team will be prioritizing this offseason.
The part about keeping the closeness and accountability is key here. One can come to the conclusion that they want to keep guys that have been Buccaneers for a little while. David and Barrett certainly fit this description. Not only that, defense wins championships, and boy did these two ever play a huge part in the Buccaneers winning a championship. These two are almost no-brainers.
The rest of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to-do list isn’t as cut and dry.
You’re probably thinking, Godwin also works when it comes to closeness and accountability. However, Godwin would eat up a lot of salary to keep on the roster. Besides, when Tom Brady is your quarterback, the one’s catching the passes are more easily replaced. The same can be said for running backs, Brady or not. Paying a running back top dollar is a huge risk, considering the lifespan of them is so up in the air. This being the case, we can probably rule out Playoff Lenny unfortunately.
Elsewhere on the offense, neither Gronkowski nor Brown completely fits the mold of “closeness and accountability”. However, they are both close to Brady. They also, shouldn’t cost too much to keep considering their respective situations. If Gronkowski doesn’t re-sign, he’ll most likely end up retiring. In the case of Brown, given all of his history and alleged baggage, he may not exactly have a long list of bidders. The Buccaneers will certainly be prioritizing bringing these two back, even if they’re numbers five and six on the list.
Succop was a key part of the Buccaneers but is also a kicker. This isn’t saying he doesn’t deserve to get paid, but given his position, the team may not be sweating it. Suh is the interesting one. At 34 years old, the thought of retirement may also be creeping in. He may test the market, but may not like what he finds given his age and history of chasing the cash. From there, he’ll have to decide if what the Buccaneers can pay is worth him still playing. Suh is certainly a priority, but the team probably isn’t too stressed about it yet either, especially considering Suh said he wants to remain a Buccaneer. They’ll most likely let the situation play out.
Taking all this into consideration, the “five or six” players the Buccaneers are prioritizing this offseason are most likely Barrett, David, Gronkowski, and Brown with Suh and Succop on more of a “wait and see” basis. Regardless, rumpus time is over, and it’s time to get down to business so the Buccaneers can get back to the business of getting down.