Buccaneers MUST prioritize this position group in free agency
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers need to protect their offensive line above all else in free agency. It’s the best course of action to ensure the Buccaneers maintain their success.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers put all their chips on the table to capitalize on the Tom Brady window and attempt to “go for two” as Super Bowl champions, if not more. That being the case, Jason Licht and the rest of the front office had to use the approach of “kicking the can down the road“ when it comes to the salary cap. Now, the chickens have come home to roost and it’s not looking like the Buccaneers will be able to retain everyone again. The team currently has $19.4 million in cap space, which puts them squarely in the middle of the league.
However, they also have a huge amount of veterans set to be free agents, most notably Chris Godwin, Ryan Jensen, Carlton Davis, Alex Cappa, Leonard Fournette, and Jordan Whitehead just to name a few. There are also essentially all of the veterans along the defensive line. So yeah, the Bucs have their work cut out for them.
Football teams have different approaches on offense when it comes to run vs. pass, but no matter what the scheme is games are won and lost in the trenches, and that was quite evident during Super Bowl LVI.
Joe Burrow became the first quarterback in NFL history to lead his team to a Super Bowl appearance while also being the most sacked quarterback in the league. His greatness was able to overcome it, but sooner or later it was going to come back to bite the Bengals. Burrow was unable to escape Aaron Donald when the game was on the line, and on the final play had J’Marr Chase wide open down the sidelines which would have given them the lead. Instead, the Bengals are settling for second place.
The point of this is, it doesn’t matter how great your quarterback is if he can’t stay upright. Try this stat on for size, Tom Brady was sacked 22 times the entire regular season while Burrow was sacked 19 during the Bengals’ four playoff games. However, when the Buccaneers found themselves without Tristan Wirfs, and the entire unit having an off day regardless of who was playing right tackle, it essentially ended Brady’s career.
Another historical nugget not pertaining to 2021 is how in the 1980s when the passing game first started exploding on the trajectory we’re at now, Washington was able to win three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks. How? Well, their strong offensive line was just about as consistent as it could be as far as personnel went, for the most part. In the offseason, offensive line moves are never going to move the needle to fans, but they will move the football in the regular season to the delight of fans.
This being the case, using the limited amount of cap space the Bucs have to work with (for now) retaining Alex Cappa and Ryan Jensen HAVE to be the two players with the highest priority when it comes to re-signings. They can’t afford to blow money on interchangeable skill positions like running back for example. The Buccaneers obviously have to figure out their quarterback situation as well, but it may not matter much if they can’t protect him and give him a chance. The Bucs have arguably the best offensive line in the entire NFL, and that is something that must be taken advantage of as fully as humanely possible. Jensen is coming off of a Pro Bowl season, and Cappa was on his way there before injury in 2020, yet still managed to maintain his solid play in 2021.
Of course, there are moves to be made that can free up significant cap space as well, but with a new quarterback potentially coming to Tampa Bay and with all the pieces the Tampa Bay Buccaneers want to retain, the offensive line above all else must stay as in-tact as possible. It will put significantly less pressure on the new starting quarterback to perform. Given that he will be taking over for the GOAT, that is a very good thing.