To say this past season was a disappointment for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is to undersell just how terrible things went.
Sure, the team won the NFC South for a second consecutive season and hosted a playoff game. But a soft breeze crumbles that facade to show that the Bucs finished the season with a losing record, won a division that was universally acknowledged as the worst in all of football and got blown out in its one-and-done playoff appearance.
The offense was putrid, the defense could only do so much bending under pressure before it broke, and the team was a total shell of what it was the last two years. Winning the division and making the playoffs felt more like a participation trophy than anything else, which is made even more depressing by the fact that Tom Brady was leading the charge with a team that largely looked the same as it has.
Losing key members of the offensive line didn’t help and certainly put the Bucs in a tough spot. But the 2022 season was easily the most disappointing one in franchise history given the context.
Now the Bucs must find a way to move forward. Brady retired, Byron Leftwich was fired, and there is uncertainty about who will be here next season. Tampa Bay is roughly $55 million over the salary cap entering the offseason, and based on how last season went there are a handful of guys that need a fresh start somewhere else.
Not all of the decisions will be easy, but they’re going to have to be made.
Cameron Brate epitomizes how tough and deep some of the cuts might be. Injuries significantly bogged him down last year, including a terrifying neck injury that derailed his season midway through. He finished the season with less than 200 yards receiving, which is both way under his usual level of production but also a bad indicator of what he’s meant to the Bucs during his near-decade career with the team.
If this is the end for Brate, he’ll finish with as a Top 5 touchdown scorer in Buccaneers history and will be remembered as one of the warriors who helped get fans through some lean years. Crate not being back next year shouldn’t be an indictment of what he’s meant nor should it sour any of the memories he’s made in Tampa.
That being said, the future is now and Brate doesn’t appear to be a part of it for a few different reasons.
The emergence of Cade Otton is certainly a nail in Brate’s coffin. If the Bucs moved on, it would give Otton an even bigger role in the offense next year and allow him to continue his development as a TE1 for whoever rolls in as the franchise quarterback of the future.
Brate, as much as we love him, won’t be that guy.
Tampa Bay would also save about $2 million by moving on from Brate, which isn’t much but could go a long way when considering how creative the front office will need to be to get the team back under the cap.