Things haven't exactly gone off without a hitch this season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but it's safe to say the team has been a surprise.
Pegged to tank before the season even began, the Bucs got off to a 3-1 start and sit just a half-game back of first place in the NFC South. There's a lot of glossed over exposition to put that statment together, but it doesn't make it any less true.
That being said, the Bucs are pulling themselves out of a four-game losing streak -- something that sunk their hot start and has created some doubt over how serious the team is. A stubborn reliance on a run game that simply isn't there has stunted an offense that is averaging less than 20 points per game.
It's not great.
For as bad as the Bucs were supposed to be -- and for as embarassing as they've looked at times -- it's undeniable that talent exists on the roster. Top talent, if you're going off a recent ranking by ESPN that looked at the best free agents for this upcoming offseason.
Buccaneers have multiple Top 25 free agents, according to ESPN
ESPN posted an early ranking of the Top 25 free agents next offseason, and the Bucs landed four players on the list.
- No. 11: Antoine Winfield Jr., S
- No. 14: Mike Evans, WR
- No. 20: Devin White, LB
- No. 25: Baker Mayfield, QB
Not too bad for a team that the same outlet predicted would tank this season.
Perhaps most notable is the inclusion of Baker Mayfield in the Top 25. His signing in Tampa Bay was widely trolled, with every doofus recycling the same tired joke. Mayfield has responded by having a season of reinvention, one that has clearly grabbed the attention of experts in ways no one could see coming this offseason.
Well, nobody except Jason Licht and the Bucs front office.
One of the biggest questions that must be answered over the rest of the season is if Baker is worth making the guy in Tampa Bay. He's already playing his way into a Top 25 ranking, a team like the Vikings could make sense as a landing spot that steals him away.
There's still a lot of season left, and the ranking is admittedly early, but it's validation for the Bucs front office that not many could have predicted back in March.