These next couple of weeks will be huge for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and could be the most significant two weeks in the history of the franchise.
What happens over these next two weeks will determine if the Bucs will continue to be Super Bowl Contenders or drop back to the pack and join the likes of the New Orleans Saints and the Baltimore Ravens. Competitive, making the playoffs every year, but never quite good enough to get over the hump and get into the Super Bowl.
The Buccaneers have 30 potential free agents, and 24 of those free agents are unrestricted free agents.
The Bucs are almost 12 million dollars under the cap. The cap amount has been set at 180 million dollars and could go as high as 185 million dollars once the new TV contracts are signed.
There are five free agents on the roster that the Bucs need to re-sign to continue their quest for another Super Bowl next season.
Wide receiver Chris Godwin, linebackers Shaq Barrett and Lavonte David, kicker Ryan Succop, and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh are the five free agents that need to back in Tampa for 2021.
The duo of Chris Godwin and Mike Evans have catapulted the Bucs receiving corp to one of the best in the NFL.
Losing Godwin would hurt this receiving group. However, there is good depth at the receiver position in Tyler Johnson and Scotty Miller. These young receivers are just chomping at the bit to show what they can do in a starting role.
Should the Bucs decide not to sign Godwin to a new contract, they could always use the franchise tag on Godwin and bring him back for another year.
This would allow the Bucs some time to continue negotiations with Godwin on a new contract.
Lavonte David, Shaq Barrett
Lavonte David is the longest-tenured Buccaneer. He has been with the Bucs since 2012. If anyone deserves to get a new contract and finish his career as a Buccaneer, it is Lavonte David.
David has been an anchor in the middle of the Bucs defense since his arrival out of Nebraska in 2012.
David has missed just seven games in his NFL career and has not missed a game since the 2018 season. David has averaged 125 tackles per season and 14 tackles for losses from his middle linebacker spot.
David has 24 sacks, and 55 quarterback hits in his career. The Bucs need to find a way to keep this man in Tampa. The numbers that David has put up are slightly better than Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks.
Barrett is finishing up his second season in Tampa. He has expressed a desire to stay with the Bucs. Barrett transformed the Bucs pass rush into a respected unit during the 2019 season with 19.5 sacks which set a new single-season franchise record.
The best-case scenario is that they both come back. The realistic scenario is that the Bucs will lose one of these linebackers, which would be a shame.
The Bucs need to bring Succop back on more than a one-year deal.
We all struggled through Matt Gay and Roberto Aguayo the last few seasons, watching those kickers miss chip-shot field goals and extra points.
Succop set a new Buccaneer scoring record this season with 136 points. He also had the second-highest FG accuracy percentage in history at 90.3 percent connecting on 28/31 FG attempts.
The Bucs have not a kicker like Succop since Conner Barth and Matt Bryant roamed the Buccaneer sidelines.
Succop was a vital piece of the Bucs Super Bowl-winning season. When Bruce Arians talked about bringing back all these guys and going for another Super Bowl run, you would hope he included Succop in that mix.
All this man does is show up and work. He never whines, complains, or detracts from the team focus with what he does off the field.
Suh has also been instrumental in the Bucs overall improved pass rush and improved defensive play.
He has been a good leader in the locker room and a good mentor for Vita Vea.
Suh was an essential piece of this championship team. Although 34 years old, he is still playing at a very high level, and it would appear he has a few good years of football left in him.
Other free agents of note on this Buccaneer team include Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown, Steve McLendon, and Rakeem Nunez Roaches.
LeSean McCoy will probably not be back. With Ronald Jones as firmly entrenched as the starter, and the odds fifty-fifty whether Leonard Fournette will be back, it’s time for the Bucs to allow Ke’ Shawn Vaughan the opportunity to show what he can do with consistent playing time.
The legal negotiating window ahead of NFL free agency will run from March 15th -17th. The free agency period will officially begin along with the NFL New Year on March 17th.