Now it begins. Now begins the evaluation process at One Buccaneer Place, the evaluation process for EVERYONE.
Players, coaches, everyone will be under scrutiny.
If this team is to get better in 2013, then everyone needs to get better, head coach Greg Schiano included.
That being said, if Schiano is going to upgrade his staff, he'll never have a better opportunity than now. Seven teams have turned loose their coaching staffs, which means there's a lot of experience on the street today. Quite the opposite of what Schiano faced when he was hired.
The talent pool was shallow, since he was hired late. Now it's a different story.
As for players, free agency starts in March and the moves there will dictate the draft needs. It's too early to predict either, so we won't go there, yet.
Today's task is to take a quick look at who may not be around when the 2013 season starts.
Mike Sullivan: Sullivan is already being interviewed by the Chicago Bears. He gained a lot of notice this year thanks to the Buc offense. It scored 389 points, garnered 5,820 yards. Quarterback Josh Freeman passed for more than 4,000 and rookie Doug Martin racked up 1,926 total yards.
It would be a big loss if Sullivan were to move on, but it would be a great move for him personally if someone gave him the chance to be a head coach. It's an honor to be interviewed. He may not be ready just yet. There's a decent chance he'll be back here for this season.
P.J. Fleck: He's already gone, off to head coach Western Michigan. It will be hard to replace his energy. His receivers loved him.
Jimmy Raye: This "offensive assistant" is getting a little long in the tooth.
Bill Sheridan: He may have become the "de facto" defensive coordinator last year. The talent pool washed him up here on the shores of Tampa Bay.
Ron Cooper: The defensive backs coach might be the first one to go.
Ron Turner: How much progress did Josh Freeman make under his supervision?
Those are the most obvious question marks when it comes to Schiano's staff.
Now for a few of the more recognizable players.
Ronde Barber: Most visible question mark on the team. Schiano would like to have him back. Who wouldn't? Barber will most likely give the team his decision before the March free-agency period.
Eric Wright: Do you really want to fork over $7.5 million to this clown? He's not reliable from a character standpoint and about as durable as your grandmother's fine china.
Quincy Black: This is a sad situation. Black appeared to be improving nicely when he suffered a serious neck injury. Black has been seeing specialists to get some answers about his condition, which may be a nerve damage issue. His career has a murky future at best.
Dallas Clark: He was never really used to any great extent. Don't all extra tight ends end up in New England? Clark may move on to greener pastures.
Myron Lewis: Time to say adios to the true definition of a draft bust.
Sammie Stroughter: They'll look for a bigger, tougher slot receiver.
Tiquan Underwood: He's serviceable as a stop-gap fill-in, but dropped too many passes.
Jeremy Trueblood: He was beaten out and will be moving on.
Roscoe Parrish: In limited service, he produced limited results.
Cody Grimm: He was lucky to be here, and will be lucky to land somewhere else.
Gary Gibson: They'll look for defensive line help in the draft and perhaps free agency.
Dan Orlavsky: They'll draft someone to threaten Josh Freeman if Freeman continues with his inconsistency at the quarterback position.
Arrelious Benn: Isn't it time to stop talking about his potential and find someone who will actually perform?
D.J. Ware: He had 11 carries for 51 yards. Is he really part of the game plan?
LeGarrette Blount: Saved the most interesting for last. Blount is an restricted free agent with a very small salary. Ideally, there's some team out there that over-values this guy and gives up a nice draft choice for him.
Blount had 41 carries for 151 yards. Obviously there's something about him that Schiano doesn't care for.
That's it in a nutshell.
Among the most notable team free agents is Michael Bennett. Bennett's agent is going to ask for the moon and there's a chance he could price him right out of Tampa.
Roy Miller is a free agent and will most likely be re-signed.
The Bucs have cleared plenty of cap room and can be major players in free agency.
They hold the lucky 13th position in the draft. Don't be surprised if they trade down in attempt to land more picks.
This will be an interesting offseason. Probably more interesting than the just-completed 7-9 season. It wasn't all that bad. This year, 2013 needs to be a lot better.