Stars keep aligning for a former Buccaneers starter to return in free agency

It's starting to feel like there might be a reunion in the Buccaneers' future.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Las Vegas Raiders
Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Las Vegas Raiders / Ethan Miller/GettyImages

When NFL Free Agency opens next week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have more money to spend on improving their roster than they did this time last year. The Bucs will have over $20 million in cap space, which accounts for the team re-signing Baker Mayfield which still hasn't happened.

If the Bucs fail to get a new deal done with Baker, they'll have even more cap space but a nice chunk of it needs to be earmarked for bringing him back. The good news is that even if the team has to strain a little to slide the right number across the table to him, Tampa Bay is projected to be sitting in a really sweet spot when it comes to filling out the roster with impact free agents.

The team doesn't even have to look that far or hard to find the right guys, either.

Stars keep aligning for former Buccaneers starter to return in free agency

Outside of Baker, the other outstanding task the Buccaneers have is to take care of Antoine Winfield Jr., who was franchise-tagged on Tuesday. He won't be hitting the open market but it seems just about every one of his colleagues at the position will be.

It was already set to be a robust safety market this offseason, but the list keeps growing with notable names.

Both Justin Simmons and Jordan Poyer have since been added to that list, as well as. It's a monster class for the position and it has two potential ripple effects on the Bucs.

For starters, Winfield's deal might be slightly impacted. He'll still reset the market with a historic contract, but the fact that so many top-tier guys will be getting much less might bring parts of his deal down.

The bigger impact will be the potential for Tampa Bay to dip into the safety market and fortify one of the thinnest areas on the roster. The Bucs relied heavily on undrafted rookies to help fill out some depth last year, and the result was the emergence of Christian Izien as a rising star. The downside was Ryan Neal busting out, and this offseason the team is in the same position of needing to find guys to fill out the room.

Jordan Whitehead and Mike Edwards are two guys the Bucs should absolutely welcome back with open arms.

Whitehead left Tampa Bay after the 2021 season to join Robert Saleh and his brooding New York Jets defense. Edwards was a casaulty of last year's shoe-string budget and went off to Kansas City to help the Chiefs win a Super Bowl.

Both are now free agents and a return to the Bucs could starting to line up nicely.

Whitehead started the season with a three interception game against the Bills and proved he's grown his game since leaving. He'd return capable of melding what he learned from Saleh with how Bowles' defense has evolved and slide back in as a starter next to Winfield.

Edwards was a rotational player in Kansas City but made a few big plays and seemed to be consistently helping one of the best defenses in the league during the second half (and the playoffs). He'd be the only two-time Super Bowl winner in the room and like Whitehead would bring a new perspective thanks to playing in Steve Spagnuolo's system.

Above all else, they'd be incredibly talented pieces to add to a spot on the roster that is incredibly thin. Not only would they each compliment Winfield but the long-term growth of Izien could be elevated thanks to them working with him.

The safety market is bloated, and not everyone is going to get what they want. There's a pre-existing relationship between Whitehead, Edwards, and the Bucs that could be sweetened by the team offering to pay them more than others might on the market.

A lot can happen, and the Bucs still have other priorities to take care of, but it makes too much sense to not reunite with one -- if not both -- of these guys.

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