The final whistle of the Super Bowl marks the end of the 2021 season. That solidifies all draft positions and gets us looking to free agency as the next chance for teams to make significant changes to their rosters. In this series, I’ll break down the needs and goals of every team as it relates to the 2022 offseason. Included will be cap space, cut candidates, positions of need, and plenty of other useful stats and notes as we prepare for free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft. Special thanks to Over the Cap, Pro Football Reference, Pro Football Focus, and Ben Baldwin’s RBSDM.com for all of the useful stats they track and house.
Buccaneers 2021 Recap
The reigning Super Bowl champs managed to keep all 22 starters from their title-holding roster for the sequel. Much like most sequels, the second act couldn't live up to the lofty standard set by the original. The regular season went as well as expected. Tom Brady led the league in passing yards, completions, and touchdowns. Leonard Fournette also looked as good as he did during the 2021 playoffs. He set a career-high in yards per carry, tied his best touchdown total, and excelled as a receiver. Add on a stellar defense and the Bucs were able to finish fourth in point differential. For all of their talent, the Bucs still couldn’t manufacture a fairytale ending for the GOAT. Tampa Bay was slain by their successor in the Super Bowl legacy in the Divisional Round. Brady would go on to retire within two weeks. He would then un-retire within another few weeks.
Key Offensive Stats
- Points per game: 30.1 (2nd)
- Dropback EPA: .2 (3rd)
- Passing yards per game: 308 (1st)
- Rush EPA: .02 (4th)
- Rushing yards per game: 98 (26th)
The Bucs ran it back with the same roster and got even better results. Brady’s 5,316 passing yards were good for the third-most in a single season and a career-high for the 44-year-old passer. This number was juiced by an extra game but Brady also went out by posting his best mark in yards per game as well. This feat was made even more impressive by the fact that he got less than a full season out of his top five pass-catchers. Godwin paced the team with 1,103 receiving yards while missing two games plus the postseason due to a torn ACL. Mike Evans hit the century mark for the eighth consecutive season and scored 14 times.
Key Defensive Stats
- Points per game: 20.8 (5th)
- Dropback EPA: -.04 (5th)
- Passing yards per game: 239 (21st)
- Rush EPA: -.12 (5th)
- Rushing yards per game: 93 (3rd)
The Bucs were able to bend without breaking while also making big plays at a high clip. They ranked 11th in yards per drive and sixth in points per drive. They also allowed teams to score at the sixth-lowest rate on a per-drive basis. This was all while ranking inside the top 10 teams in takeaways and sacks. Shaq Barrett led the team with 10 sacks and earned his second Pro Bowl nod in three seasons with the Bucs. Tampa Bay had four Pro Bowl players on defense after replacements were announced.
Buccaneers 2022 Offseason
Total Draft Value
Notable Free Agents
WR Chris Godwin (franchise tagged), TE Rob Gronkowski, RB Leonard Fournette, RG Alex Cappa, C Ryan Jensen (re-signed), RB Ronald Jones, CB Carlton Davis, DT Ndamukong Suh, S Jordan Whitehead, DE Jason Pierre-Paul, TE O.J. Howard, CB Richard Sherman
Notes: Tampa Bay's total draft value is the sum of the value of every pick they own using the Fitzgerald-Spielberger NFL Draft Trade Value Chart. The values are only estimates until the NFL announces compensatory picks. Cap savings are listed assuming the player is cut before June 1st.
Brady is currently on the books for about $10.4 million but that figure was considered a placeholder, stemming from the one-year extension he signed in March. The two sides are working on new contract for the GOAT amid his return. With the Bucs tight on cap space already, they could use void years to kick the can down the road, allowing them to double down on the current roster at the expense of future teams.
Davis is expected to leave for a bigger contract, though Brady has a way of convincing players to take less in pursuit of a ring. Assuming that isn't the case for Davis, cornerback will be the team's biggest need on defense. Expect the Bucs to add depth across the board because they don't have the cap space needed to make a splash-signing.
Pro Bowl left guard Ali Marpet retired at the end of the 2021 season and the re-signing of Jensen could mean the team is letting Cappa walk. That puts both starting guards from last year out of the picture. The Bucs spent a third-round pick on Notre Dame center Robert Hainsey last year. He will likely step into a starting role in his second season because of the turnover in the trenches.
The Bucs are losing their top two rushers and top three receivers out of the backfield in free agency. Fournette could be re-signed but the age-27 back will be looking for a multi-year deal before he hits 30. That should price him out of a return, forcing Tampa Bay to pair Ke’Shawn Vaughn with a cheap veteran.
Both offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles were passed over for head coaching gigs despite getting numerous interviews this offseason. The team has been a top-five offense and a top-10 defense in consecutive years. After neither coach received a promotion this offseason, Bruce Arians went as far as to say, “When those two guys are not head coaches after the last two seasons, something’s wrong.” With all of the losses the Bucs are sustaining in free agency and through retirements, a playoff berth along could earn both coordinators head coaching jobs next offseason.
With Brady's returns, the Bucs went from a team that had no good path to another successful season to a Super Bowl contender overnight. Though the Bucs aren't working with much in the way of resources this offseason, they don't need to make many changes now that Brady is back in the fold. Their biggest task throughout the offseason will be deciding which free agents are worth keeping and which ones have priced themselves out of a return.
One of the first re-signings will almost certainly be Gronk. If Gronk wants to keep playing, he gets a free pass to keep playing with his long-time partner in crime. After that, Fournette could also be re-signed, but only if he takes a team-friendly deal to chase his second ring. Another year with Brady would also keep his production up, likely securing him a large contract in free agency next year, should he choose to leave after 2022. Next, the Bucs have to address their secondary, even if it comes at the expense of the pass-rush. Getting Brady back was a game-changer but Tampa Bay still needs to spend wisely this offseason if they want to surround him with the best team possible.