What looked like a ho-hum free agency period for the Buccaneers has turned into a good couple of days to begin free agency.
It all started on selection Sunday with Tom Brady announcing on social media that he would be returning for his 23rd season in Tampa.
After Brady’s announcement, the pieces started falling into place. Center Ryan Jensen signed a three-contract at 45 million dollars to stay with the Buccaneers. Jensen signed for below market value and said he had decided before Brady’s announcement.
The wide-receiver position hurt the Bucs at the most critical time of the year last season in January when the games mean so much more.
Antonio Brown was cut in December after he quit on the Bucs in the game against the New York Jets.
Chris Godwin tore his ACL and has since had off-season surgery. That left Mike Evans, Breshad Perriman, Cyril Grayson, Scotty Miller, Tyler Johnson, and Jaelon Darden as the Bucs receivers to try to win another Super Bowl.
Grayson made some nice plays, as did Perriman but had some nagging injuries that limited their production. Miller, Johnson, and Darden failed to show up when given the opportunity, and as a result, their roster spots are in jeopardy.
The Bucs got themselves their third wide receiver by going out and signing Russell Gage from their arch-rival Atlanta Falcons. Gage signed for three years and 30 million dollars. Gage was one of those under-the-radar moves for the Bucs as he had an excellent second half for the Falcons, with 50 catches for 611 yards and three touchdowns.
In signing Gage, the Bucs get themselves a quality receiver that can play opposite Mike Evans until the return of Chris Godwin in October. Gage is an upgrade over anyone on the roster not named Evans or Godwin.
The Bucs also signed Breshad Perriman to a one-year contract. Perriman had 11 catches for 167 yards last season, including the game-winning 58 yards touchdown catch against the New York Jets.
The Bucs were also able to come to terms with Chris Godwin on a three-year contract extension. Despite recently having surgery to repair a torn ACL, Godwin was in high demand. Godwin’s deal is for 60 million dollars, and he is a free agent again in three years.
The Bucs put the franchise tag on Godwin for $19.2 million for the upcoming season. With the contract extension, the Bucs free up around $15 million in cap space, which they used to resign Carlton Davis, and sign Justin Gage.
With the news of Ali Marpet’s retirement, the Bucs went out and made a trade with New England, giving up a fifth-round pick for guard Shaq Mason. Mason spent his first five years in the league blocking for Brady and will now get a second opportunity in Tampa.
The Bucs then went to work on the defensive side of the ball, signing cornerback Carlton Davis to a new three-year contract. Davis signs for three years for 45 million dollars
In his press conference on Wednesday, Davis said that Brady’s unretiring played a factor in his decision. “When I heard the news, it definitely played into some of my thought process going into my decision. Obviously, having Tom come back automatically makes us a contender again, and who wouldn’t want to come back and compete for another ring with the GOAT?”
There were also some losses for the Bucs. Guard Alex Cappa signed a four-year $40 million contract with Cincinnati. Despite a phone call from Brady, Cappa decided the Bengals were the best team for him and will protect Joe Burrow this season instead of Tom Brady.
Safety Jordan Whitehead signed a two-year deal with the New York Jets. Whitehead’s deal is worth just over $28 million over two years. The Bucs will now count on Mike Edwards and Antoine Winfield Jr. to help the secondary take that next step.
The Bucs also re-signed guard Aaron Stinnie to a one-year contract. Stinnie will compete for a starting job in training camp.
Tight OJ Howard signed a one-year 3.5 million dollar deal with the Buffalo Bills. The former number one pick from Alabama never became the player that the Bucs thought he would be. He is not a great blocker and does not have great hands. Howard’s playing time declined with the arrival of Rob Gronkowski in 2020.
He will not get a chance in Buffalo to take his game to the next level.
The Bucs still have some business to take care of on the defensive side of the ball. Defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh and linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul are both free agents. If both retire or sign elsewhere, that leaves some big holes in Buccaneer’s defense.
On offense, where the Bucs have focused most of their free agency efforts, Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones have yet to sign new contracts and remain free agents.
The Bucs are still looking to create additional salary cap room to sign some other free agents. Mike Evans, Vita Vea, and Shaq Barrett have all agreed to restructure their contracts freeing up some extra cap money to help the Bucs remain competitive.