The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have an uphill climb ahead of them in 2023, but the push could be aided by a breakout season from a free agent addition.
It has been an interesting offseason for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, one that has seen plenty of roster churning as the team prepares to enter a new era.
Tom Brady retiring triggered wholesale change to how this offseason was going to be approached by the front office. Not only was the team no longer as attractive a destination as it had been with Brady, but the bill for the last three seasons had come due.
While the Bucs elected to take their medicine and not kick the salary cap fan any further down the road, that didn’t prevent the team from making some moves. Jason Licht managed to bring back Jamel Dean and Lavonte David, despite a $55 million salary cap knot that needed untangling, and made free agent additions like Baker Mayfield, Greg Gaines, and Chase Edmonds.
It’s foolish to pretend like the Buccaneers are contenders they way they have been the last three seasons, but it’s equally foolish to assume they won’t be competitive. There is no intent to tank in Tampa Bay, and the team might end up having more high performing players than they’re being given credit for at the moment.
One of those free agent additions is already being tagged as a potential breakout candidate for the Buccaneers this upcoming season.
PFF picks Buccaneers breakout candidate for 2023 season
Given the general state of uncertainty around Tampa Bay after the Tom Brady era, there are more than a few players who are ripe for potential breakouts. For as rough as things might be, the Bucs present an opportunity for players who might have flown under the radar to fully make a name for themselves.
One of those guys is Ryan Neal.
PFF named Neal a breakout candidate for the Bucs this upcoming season, which seems in line with the price of his stock rising every time he gets mentioned.
"Neal started the 2022 season as a backup for the Seahawks but became a starter due to Jamal Adams’s injury and poor performances from Josh Jones. He was PFF’s highest-graded safety (91.1) between Week 7 and 15, and he finished as the seventh highest-graded safety in the league over the whole campaign.Projected to start from Week 1 in the Bucs’ defense, Neal has a chance to be among the league’s top safeties by the end of the season."
Neal has quickly become a player to keep an eye on ever since he joined the Buccaneers in free agency. So many breakout boxes are checked with Neal, from the quiet way he was signed, to the important position on defense he plays, to how he bubbled below the surface while in Seattle.
Coming from that defensive unit in Seattle is one of the most intriguing things about his stock, as it will be interesting to see how he takes what he learned and mashes it together with Todd Bowles teachings.
Neal starting alongside Antoine Winfield Jr is only going to help him as well, and he could end up being not only one of the best signings of the offseason but one of the Bucs best players this season.