Tampa Bay Buccaneers free agents that need to walk in 2022

Ronald Jones II, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Ronald Jones II, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The long wait of the NFL offseason has finally begun. Every team will be looking to improve in the offseason, by retaining talent, gaining talent, and eliminating holes on their rosters. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are no different, except perhaps that they have more decisions to make.

Facing a free agency period in which 26 members of the current roster could hit the open market, hard decisions will have to be made. Unfortunately, the Buccaneers can’t afford to keep everyone on the roster. Here is a list of the pending free agents that the Buccaneers can most easily afford to move on from.

Note: this is the second of two articles about Tampa Bay’s options in the free agency period. The first, discussing the in-house free agents that the Bucs should keep, can be found here.

Players That Can Be Released

1. Jason Pierre Paul

The acquisition of JPP has been a huge benefit to the Buccaneers. The erstwhile Giant has been a leader on and off the field since arriving in Tampa Bay, and his production backed up his reputation. He was the only member of the Buccaneers to make the 2021 Pro Bowl, and he finished that season top-10 in the NFL in sacks, assists, and forced fumbles.

However, this past season was a severe drop off (his sack total was the lowest it’s been since 2015, when he missed half the season) leading many to believe that JPPs era of great football was finally behind him. Making matters worse, Pierre-Paul recently underwent shoulder surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff – a hard injury for a 33 year old linebacker to move past smoothly.

The Buccaneers certainly seem as if they are preparing for life without him, as they drafted outside linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoyinka in the first round last year. With a backup plan in place, and a declining star likely to ask for more than he’s worth, the Buccaneers would be smart to let JPP explore the market.

2. Richard Sherman

Richard Sherman was a early season roster move for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that received much more attention than it probably warranted. Although the corner affectionately referred to as Sherm provided a young Bucs defense with a savvy veteran presence, his body of work on the field for Tampa Bay was lackluster at best.

Despite recording an interception in a game against the Bills, Sherman was mostly a stopgap player, trying to hold the fort down until the starters could get back to full strength. Unfortunately for both the Bucs and for him, Sherman couldn’t keep himself at full strength. All told, despite signing way back in September, Richard Sherman only played in 5 games, and allowed 11 receptions on 15 targets for a PFF grade of just 53.3.

Sherman seems like he would be a valuable member of the Buccaneers’ coaching staff, if that is the direction he wants to move. But given his impact in this last year, he should not be re-signed to the active roster for the 2022 season.

3. Kevin Minter

Kevin Minter is kind of the black sheep of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ linebacker corps. All the attention goes to Lavonte David and Devin White, leaving Minter as the third wheel. But although Minter hasn’t gotten much of a chance to show his stuff, there’s a reason the Buccaneers keep drafting young linebackers to play instead of him.

Minter has been on the team since 2018, and has been an entrenched backup the entire way, starting only 8 games in his time with Tampa Bay. Even when he plays, he doesn’t meet the lofty expectations required of linebackers in Todd Bowles’ system.

Minter earned a PFF grade of just 53.7 this past season, only barely clinging to a top-100 ranking in solo tackles and assists (amongst qualifying players). The eye test confirms his grade, as he seemed to be beat in coverage frequently, and failed to muster the sideline-to-sideline speed that is needed in the aggressive system that Tampa Bay runs.

In short, Minter may not demand a large salary, and the Buccaneers shouldn’t be particularly wary about bringing him back, but it should be far from a priority. Perhaps the best decision would be to instead let Minter walk, and look to the draft for Lavonte David’s eventual successor.

4. Ronald Jones

Ronald Jones was drafted with the hope that he could become “the guy” in Tampa Bay. Unfortunately, that hasn’t panned out. He has been thoroughly outplayed by Leonard Fournette in the latter’s time with the team, and concerningly has shown little effort to improve for the Bucs.

Jones has been plagued by indecisiveness with the ball in his hands, a propensity to drop passes, and the occasional streak of bad fumbles. In an offense that may begin to rely on its run game more than ever, without a clear QB1 in the building, the Bucs need a better option than Jones provides.

A clear sign of the Buccaneers’ continuing frustrations with Jones has been their continued attempts to bring in free agent RBs to take the workload away from him. LeSean McCoy, Giovani Bernard, and LeVeon Bell were all additions to the team in the last two years that were clearly there to take snaps that would otherwise has fallen to RoJo.

Regardless of the success or failure of those players with the team, the fact that the Buccaneers felt they were necessary is indictment enough of Jones’ play to warrant his spot on this list. And speaking of the failures of those players…

5. Giovani Bernard

Bernard, as mentioned above, was brought in to provide a talented scat back for Tom Brady, a quarterback that has consistently leaned on such players throughout his storied career. The Buccaneers surely anticipated that Bernard would take over passing down duties from Ronald Jones, whose drop issues were becoming a consistent problem.

However, Bernard was not the solution Tampa Bay was hoping, though not because his play was particularly poor. Leonard Fournette, who had spent the 2020-2021 season also dropping passes left and right, elevated his play in a big way this past year. Fournette went from a two-down back to a true every-down option in the Bucs system. As a result, Giovani Bernard’s role was carved out from under him.

As the Buccaneers look towards the future, and all of the hard decisions that have to be made, it is hard to imagine a spot for an expensive third-string option.

Honorable Mentions

1. Andrew Adams

Andrew Adams is a very talented player. The problem is, of course, that his talent will demand a larger contract than the Buccaneers should be comfortable with for a backup. Of course this changes if Jordan Whitehead departs, but if the Bucs can keep the starting lineup together, the cap space will likely be too tight to afford overpaying for a backup safety.

2. Steve McLendon

McLendon was brought in last year to provide needed depth at the defensive interior when Vita Vea was injured. However, the need for depth there has past, with Vita Vea back on the field and other interior linemen like Rakeem Nunez-Roches stepping up. The need for McLendon’s services has been taken care of.

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