Tampa Bay Buccaneers re-sign key depth piece on defensive line

The Bucs continue bring back their own guys, which is a testament to the bigger picture.

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Philadelphia Eagles v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Philadelphia Eagles v Tampa Bay Buccaneers / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages

The annual NFL free agency frenzy kicked off on Monday with the legal tampering period beginning and a slew of agreements following shortly after that.

Much like recent offseasons, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sat out the gold rush an dinstead focused on bringing their own guys back first before looking for outside help. That was the main theme heading into the offseason, as the Bucs needed to find ways to re-sign Antoine Winfield Jr., Baker Mayfield, and Mike Evans -- tasks the front office accomplished.

The work extended beyond just those guys, which was evident on Monday when Jason Licht spent more time bringing other pending free agents back. Tampa Bay inked kicker Chase McLaughlin to a new three-year deal and retained Greg Gaines as part of its interior defensive line depth.

Buccaneers re-signing Greg Gaines points to an even bigger success

There are layers to the Buccaneers bringing guys like Greg Gaines back that go beyond just what he does from an X's and O's standpoint.

Gaines will again serve as defensive line depth and comes back on a very reasonable $3.5 million deal. It's the same exact contract he received last year when the Bucs signed him away from the Los Angeles Rams and feels like an easy drop in the bucket as Licht continues to reinforce the roster.

The fact that Gaines is coming back is notable too, as he's among a handful of Buccaneers players to have done so this offseason. Baker, Evans, and Winfield were all ranked as Top 30 free agents this offseason and each could have received massive offers elsewhere.

Winfield was franchise tagged, which might have saved him from a rough year for free agent safeties, but he's so good that he'd have elevated above how bad the market is. Both Baker and Evans were top in their position class; Kirk Cousins ranked just above Mayfield and received a $180 million contract from the Atlanta Falcons.

Had Evans tested free agency, chances are he would have netted close to $30 million per season.

Instead all three are back in Tampa Bay. Winfield still needs a long-term deal but all signs point toward it being a hefty albeit comfortable one for the Bucs. Mayfield came back on a $100 million deal and Evans is back at around $26 million AAV.

The key thing to takeaway is that they're all back. Tampa Bay is a place players want to stay, which extends to guys like Lavonte David and Jamel Dean as well -- both guys who chose to return last season and pass up pay days eslewhere.

David and Dean coming back is perhaps more notable because of how uncertain the team's future was, but that didn't deter them. It's a testament to what Jason Licht and Todd Bowles have built that guys are choosing to forgo potential deals elsewhere to come back and play for the Bucs.

It wasn't that long ago that the Bucs were an almost forgotten franchise, so it's safe to say we've come a long way.

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