Saquon Barkley-to-Buccaneers rumors are already starting to heat up

We're not even through with this playoff run and this stuff is starting.
New York Giants v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
New York Giants v Tampa Bay Buccaneers / Mike Ehrmann/GettyImages

This time last year the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were licking their wounds after an embarrassing season. Tom Brady was preparing to retire for the final time, the Bucs were coming off a losing season and a blowout Wild Card loss, and a massive dead cap situation loomed on the horizon.

It's safe to say things were bleak, but fast forward a year, and the Paul Rudd Hey, Look At Us vibes couldn't be stronger. Tampa Bay faced down $80 million in dead cap by managing to potentially find its quarterback of the future while going on to win the NFC South for the third straight season.

Almost no one thought the Bucs would win more than a few games this year, but they're still alive as Divisional Round weekend arrives. As it turned out, the New York Giants were what experts thought the Bucs would be and now Tampa Bay is being looked at as a team that might steal a key piece away from them.

Our friends over at Bucs Gameday looked at the probability of Saquon Barkley landing in Tampa Bay, and it has once again sparked a debate about whether or not he's worth pursuing in free agency.

Should Buccaneers pursue Saquon Barkley in free agency?

This isn't a new rumor -- nor is it really a concrete thing that's being reported. Spare the eye-rolling, because whether or not it's being rumored by an insider or tossed up to oddsmakers doesn't change the fact that it will likely be a talking point this offseason.

Jason Licht choosing for the Bucs to take their medicine this past offseason means that the books are clear and the team can potentially make meaningful moves in free agency this March. Barkley-to-Tampa has been something getting tossed around since last summer when the Pro Bowler was holding out amid a near-mutiny among running backs across the league.

At the time, Mike Evans was mentioned as a potential piece to trade for Barkely but that was both asinine then (and even more so now) and a tremendous overpay for what the Bucs might be able to get Barkely for now.

Barkley makes sense as an addition from the standpoint of how he'd improve the run game. Rachaad White is not being replaced, rather the season he's put together establishing himself as a dual-threat weapon makes the idea of adding a bruising back like Barkley even more attractive. Both would be potential threats in the pass game, which could put defenses constantly on edge no matter who was out there -- let alone both at the same time.

As was the case last year, though, money is the issue. Tampa Bay has cap space but it's also not going to recklessly spend. If anything, finding a diamond in the rough like Licht did with Baker Mayfield might only motivate the front office, even more, to try and keep replicating that approach.

Every conversation about Barkley-to-Tampa needs to include one important non-starter: Tampa Bay is not going to prioritize outside free agents at the expense of in-house talent. Three key Bucs players are due for paydays that will eat up a lot of money, as Antoine Winfield Jr., Baker Mayfield, and Mike Evans are upcoming free agents Tampa Bay shouldn't allow anywhere near the open market.

After those guys, the Bucs need to go to work improving the offensive line. Despite how great White has been, most of his feats have come despite the lack of a solid line which is how he's been discovered as such a dual-threat player.

Barkley can come to Tampa Bay, but he's not fixing any offensive line issues that will likely plague him all the same.

The point is, while Barkley won't require any trade assets to bring in there's still flawed logic in making the case for him belonging in Tampa Bay. He'd no doubt be a huge addition, but he shouldn't be seen as anything more than a nice luxury rather than any sort of priority.

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