Buccaneers' Biggest Keys to Having Successful NFL Offseason

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistFebruary 24, 2021

Buccaneers' Biggest Keys to Having Successful NFL Offseason

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    Kevin Sabitus/Associated Press

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers built a terrific roster to earn the Super Bowl LV crown on home soil. 

    Now, the challenge that awaits the front office is trying to keep most of the 53-man roster together for another run at the Lombardi Trophy.

    Offensively, the Bucs have to decide whether to slap the franchise tag on wide receiver and if they want to retain free-agent running back Leonard Fournette.

    Chris Godwin and Fournette played key roles in the championship run, but an argument could be made in favor of younger stars stepping into their roles to save some money.

    While bringing back those two players should be concerns, the top worry for the organization should be losing Shaquil Barrett. 

    Barrett will be one of the most coveted free agents this offseason, and if the Bucs keep him, they could again have one of the top defenses in the NFL

Keep Chris Godwin Through Franchise Tag

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    Kevin Sabitus/Associated Press

    The Bucs could turn to youth at wide receiver with Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson backing up Mike Evans, but it would be in their best interest to keep Godwin for at least one more season.

    Miller and Johnson displayed some potential throughout the title run in the 2020 season, but there may be questions surrounding the potential of either player to be a No. 2 wideout in the NFL. 

    Tampa Bay can bide its time in developing either player, or another young wideout it may draft, by combining Evans and Godwin again. The latter had 166 fewer receiving yards than the former, while the top wideout outscored his teammate by six in the regular season. 

    After Godwin, the drop-off in production was steep, with Miller being the only wideout over 500 receiving yards at 501.

    Godwin told The Pat McAfee Show that he wants to get paid, but he also wants to belong in Tampa Bay (h/t Nick Shook of NFL.com):

    "I think I'm in the same boat as a lot of players. Like, you want to get some long-term security, you want the team to commit to you, as well. I think an extension would be ideal, but at the end of the day, if the franchise [tag] is what happens, then that's what I gotta do and then we'll revisit later. I want to be in Tampa, but at the end of the day I want to get paid too."

    Tampa Bay is projected to have just over $13 million in salary-cap space, but if it can find a way to afford Godwin's franchise-tag price, it could negotiate a better deal when the cap possibly goes up next season. 

    Handing the franchise tag to the Penn State product would be a short-term fix for a long-term problem in finding a way to sign him to a multi-year deal, but it would at least ensure the Bucs one more year of Godwin and Evans catching balls from Tom Brady

Find a Way to Re-Sign Shaquil Barrett

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    Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

    In an ideal world, the Bucs would uncover a way to keep Godwin and Barrett to make another run at the title with Brady at the helm.

    Barrett has 27.5 sacks over the last two seasons, and the Bucs will have a giant hole on their defensive line if he leaves. Any team in the NFL would love to have the 28-year-old's high level of sack production on its defensive line, which is why it will be difficult for Tampa Bay to hold on to him.

    The salary-cap limitations that the Bucs currently face would also hamper any potential deal with Barrett, so they may have to choose between him or Godwin. 

    Of course, the Bucs could always make some salary-cap room by shedding a few contracts, but there aren't many candidates to be cut. 

    O.J. Howard could be viewed as expendable, especially if Rob Gronkowski decides to come back, but saving $6 million on that deal may not be enough to keep Barrett. 

    No one will blame the Colorado State product if he wants to chase the largest pay day possible, but the Bucs have to hope there is a scenario in which he returns. 

    Although it seems unlikely, Barrett could take a shorter deal in central Florida, chase another title and then cash in when the salary cap rises in the next few years, but longevity or large sack totals are rarely guaranteed for many players year over year. 

Continue to Draft Well

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Tampa Bay has an impeccable draft record over the last two years. 

    The Bucs brought in Devin White, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Tristan Wirfs and Antoine Winfield Jr. in the first and second rounds in 2019 and 2020. All of those players went on to become key contributors to the Super Bowl run. 

    White was a menace in the middle of defense, Wirfs shored up the protection for Brady, and Murphy-Bunting and Winfield made key postseason interceptions. 

    If the Bucs lose Godwin, Fournette, Barrett and others, general manager Jason Licht could turn to the NFL draft for their replacements. 

    The first running back of the 2020 draft was not taken until the 32nd overall pick, which is where Tampa Bay starts its selection process in April. 

    If the Bucs want an improvement over Ronald Jones II and 2020 third-round pick Ke'Shawn Vaughn, they could use the No. 32 or a middle-round selection to bring in a young back.

    The same can be said about wide receiver or defensive end, if Godwin and Barrett move on from the NFC South side. 

    If Licht and Co. hit on another draft class that carries multiple potential Pro Bowl players, the Bucs should fill whatever holes are on their roster.

            

    Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

    Statistics obtained from Pro Football Reference.

    Contract information obtained from Over The Cap.