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[Off-season] Tampa Bay Buccaneers: torn between continuity and upheaval

The 2023 season has just ended, and on March 14, the 2023 campaign will open its doors. DNA of Sports therefore takes this opportunity to offer you an overview of the different franchises during the offseason. Which players to keep and cut? Which free agents to extend? Which recruits to observe? Here are some ideas, franchise by franchise. In the spotlight today, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. You will find the files for each team on this page.

In 2023, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the NFC South for the third consecutive time. A record for the franchise, even if the results remain mixed. For two seasons, the Floridians have been flirting with the 50% victory mark (8-9 in 2022, 9-8 in 2023). The weakness of the division allows them to still be in the race for the playoffs, but this offseason will be crucial. Last year, Tom Brady left, leaving a big void at the quarterback position.

However, the Bucs hadn't really shaken up their roster and many of the Super Bowl-winning players with the former Patriot remained. Now, the question arises again this season. With many free agents major in the workforce, leaders must decide: will continuity take precedence again? Or is it time to start a new cycle?

The captains

1. Vita Vea (DT)
2. Tristan Wirfs
3. Chris Godwin (WR)

Before thinking about which players to keep or not, the Buccaneers can already plan with a few captains in their squad. And who better represents a pillar than Vita Vea? The defensive linemen are a formidable anchor on the front line of this defense. In addition to being a solid player capable of holding the advantage line almost single-handedly, he is also a player who makes his teammates better. Often targeted by two-person holds, Vita Vea frees up space for her partners by her sole presence. With him, the rookie, Calijah Kancey, and the experienced, Logan Hall, have performed well this season.

In attack, free players leave a lot of questions. There are still some certainties in this squad. Tristan Wirfs is, for example, Vita Vea's offensive bent. A player who brings stability to a group. If the offensive line has not always been very efficient this season, Tristan Wirfs has little to reproach himself for. Moving from the right to the left of this squad, Wirfs validated a third consecutive selection to the Pro Bowl. According to the Pro Football Focus website, the lineman was the 4th best tackle in the passing game (84.3) and 6th in the ground game (81.1) this season in the NFL.

Finally, while we do not yet know the future of Mike Evans, the receiving group will at least be able to count on the presence of Chris Godwin. He who has just exceeded 1,000 yards for a third consecutive season (and the 4th time in 5 years).

The undesirables

Russell Gage (WR)
– Anthony Nelson (LB)

On the cusp of the opening of this 2024 version of the transfer market, the Buccaneers are in a good position. With nearly $37 million available in the payroll, Tampa Bay is in the Top 10 of the most comfortable franchises. Before the official opening of the free agency, this amount could even be even higher because there is still a little room for maneuver for managers. The first player to pay the price could be Russell Gage.

The receiver, quite good as a third option in 2022, missed the entire 2023 season. And even if he is still young (28 years old), the Buccaneers could be tempted to get rid of him. It must be said that cutting it would allow Floridians to free up more than 11 million dollars. Behind, the choices are less obvious. At the linebacker position, the regression of Anthony Nelson could cost him his place in the squad. The big rib could also be called Shaquil Barrett. The pass rusher is expensive and still hasn't returned to its best level. Its cut still seems improbable.

The summer man

Sir Vocea Dennis (Linebacker)

This name may not mean anything to you at the moment. What could be more normal for a rookie linebacker who has only played a hundred snaps this season. Except that 2024 could be the year of its explosion. Firstly because the context is favorable to it. Two of the team's three senior linebackers are free agents. And even if Devin White played more than 900 snaps this season, not sure if he will be kept.

For Lavonte David, the situation is different. The defender has spent his entire career with the franchise and could sign a new one-year contract. However, the player drafted in 2012 has just turned 34 and is getting dangerously close to the end.

There are therefore places to be taken alongside KJ Britt, another linebacker on this team. SirVocea Dennis could therefore benefit from it. The former University of Pittsburgh player had already proven his toughness against the race at the lower level. This season, he also showed that he could be an asset in the aerial field. If he follows this progression curve, Dennis could become a potential starter. Good news for the Buccaneers who would not have to take out the checkbook to find a successful player in this position and could concentrate on other targets during this free agency and this draft.

The main free agents

1. Mike Evans (WR)
2. Antoine Winfield Jr. (S)
3. Baker Mayfield (QB)
4. Lavonte David (LB)
5. Aaron Stinnie (LG)

The others: Ryan Neal (S), Devin White (LB), Matt Feiler (LG), William Gholston (DL), Chase Edmonds (RB)…

This is certainly the most important part of this offseason in Florida. The one that will answer the initial question, set the direction for the franchise for the future. Tampa Bay has room in its payroll this year. Good news for managers, because they will certainly have to take out the checkbook.

First of all to hope to retain two stars of this league: Mike Evans and Antoine Winfield Jr. It's simple, they are respectively the best offensive and defensive asset of this team. Above all, they are among the most successful players at their position in the NFL. They are therefore likely to have a lot of suitors during this offseason. Todd Bowles and the leaders will have to find the right words to keep the keystones of this workforce, otherwise, they will always have the franchise tag.

Re-signing them would in any case be a big step forward this offseason, but it should be expensive. Not sure then that the financial margin will be as great for the rest of the free players.

However, there are still a few major players remaining. Starting with the quarterback. After a good season in Florida, Baker Mayfield is now a free agent. It remains to know his salary expectations but also to know the Bucs' strategy at the pitching position. They will also have to make decisions on defense with the two starting linebackers, Lavonte David and Devin White, at the end of their contract. Finally, the lines are currently in Gruyère mode with a few holes to fill. In short, Tampa Bay has money, but will have no shortage of opportunities to spend it.

The Top 5 needs

1. Quarterback
2. Edge Rusher
3. Offensive line
4. Safety
5. Running back

As with many teams, the question of the quarterback will once again be central in Florida.

What about Baker Mayfield? Signed for one year, the pitcher delivered a very good season, taking the Bucs to the playoffs. Performance sufficiently satisfactory to require a long-term contract. Will Tampa Bay line up? Answers in a few weeks. Beyond the former Brown, the leaders of Tampa Bay will have other options to explore to choose their pitcher with the draft, veterans to revive (Jacoby Brissett, Ryan Tannehill, Russell Wilson, etc.) or even bets to try among young people (Zach Wilson, Mac Jones, etc.). The only certainty right now is that they need a starting pitcher.

The other big project is on the lines, with a big need initially for the pass-rusher positions. Despite 48 sacks recorded in 2023, the Floridians would be well advised to add talent in this area. A solution that could come via the draft (see below). On the offensive line, the Bucs will be in reaction. Center Ryan Jensen just announced his retirement, while half of the left side of that line is a free agent. Finally, even if Antoine Winfield Jr. is retained, the back of the field will need to be strengthened. Just like the running back group where Rachaad White can't do everything on his own.

Target

Connor Williams (C/L)

In the spring, keeping its main players free risks costing Floridians a lot of money. This is why, even with an advantageous financial situation at the moment, not sure that they will be able to make a big impact on the market. However, they cannot just bring back their players and must improve specific areas. Among these, the offensive line is a priority. The next quarterback (Baker Mayfield?) will need to be better protected.

Overall, only Tristan Wirfs is untouchable on this line. For the rest, the Buccaneers must at all costs seek to improve this squad, particularly on the inside. The retirement of Ryan Jensen has not helped in this area. Especially since the crop of players available this year is not a dream in this sector either. Which could drive up the prices of the best elements. So we'll have to give it a try. And for that, they don't need to look very far, since they could find what they're looking for directly in Florida.

Connor Williams is indeed a player who could interest the Buccaneers. Currently a free agent after two seasons in Miami, the offensive lineman has impressed in Mike McDaniel's scheme. If he will have to adapt to Todd Bowles when coming to Tampa, Connor Williams could bring his versatility. Formerly a guard in Dallas, he showed his center skills with the Dolphins. Two positions in which the Buccaneers lack people. Unfortunately, Williams is coming off a serious knee injury suffered in Week 14 that sidelined her for the rest of the season. So it would be a gamble for Tampa Bay, but it could also lower his price.

New blood

Chop Robinson (Edge, Penn State)

More expensive on the free agent market, pass rushers can be found in the draft. This is why the Buccaneers could first decide to strengthen their offensive line with the free agency, while waiting for the rookies to solidify their defensive line. Certainly, the pass-rush sector is not an absolute emergency for the Buccaneers who already have Yaya Diaby, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka or even Shaquil Barrett capable of putting pressure on the quarterback, but we never have too much talent in the NFL.

In addition, it would be a good idea to anticipate the future with a young person with high potential. This is the case with Chop Robinson. The defender from Penn State may not yet be ready to explode in his first season in the NFL, but has real qualities. In Todd Bowles' defense, the young player could progress and become a pillar of this squad in a few seasons.

Other choices: Jackson Powers-Johnson (C), Brian Thomas (WR), Dallas Turner (EDGE)…

Chop Robinson pass rusher Draft 2024

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