Buccaneers' Top Players to Avoid in 2021 NFL Free Agency

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMarch 3, 2021

Buccaneers' Top Players to Avoid in 2021 NFL Free Agency

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    Jason Behnken/Associated Press

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers should attempt to keep most of their Super Bowl-winning roster in place.

    However, the Bucs may face some critical decisions in free agency when it comes to Chris Godwin, Shaquil Barrett, Leonard Fournette and Lavonte David.

    The reigning Super Bowl champion can hold on to a few of those players, but some of them may be allowed to walk because of salary cap constraints. 

    With that in mind, the Bucs need to have some replacements lined up at key positions to ensure Tom Brady has enough support to chase his eighth ring. 

    If Godwin is retained through the franchise tag, the Bucs could look to the running back market to replace Fournette on offense. Defensively, they should look at a few edge options just in case a deal is not reached with Barrett. 

Marlon Mack

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    If Fournette departs in search of a larger deal, the Bucs would have Ronald Jones II and Ke'Shawn Vaughn on the roster at running back.

    Jones should be ready to slide into the feature back role after producing a career-best 978 yards and seven touchdowns in 2020 in 14 appearances. 

    Vaughn was limited to a small role within the offense after Fournette inked a deal. He could be trusted as an inexpensive second option, but the Bucs could look for more experience next to Brady.

    Marlon Mack will be one of the cheaper veteran options on the running back market. He should be fully recovered from the torn Achilles he suffered at the start of the 2020 season. 

    The torn Achilles may be the main reason why the Bucs stay away from the 25-year-old running back, who had a 1,091-yard campaign in 2019 with the Indianapolis Colts. 

    Although there is a low-risk, high-reward strategy involved in signing Mack, the Bucs should avoid him because of the serious injury and Jones' development in 2020. 

    If Jones can be trusted as a feature back, the Bucs could use Vaughn to spell him and potentially develop a younger player behind them to fill out the depth chart, instead of using some salary cap space on one of the top free agents. 

Melvin Ingram

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    Doug Murray/Associated Press

    Melvin Ingram falls into a similar category as Mack as potentially damaged goods on the free-agent market. 

    The 32-year-old edge-rusher missed 12 games in the last two seasons and is nearing the back end of his career. 

    In a best-case situation, Ingram would be a cheaper alternative to replacing Barrett and could fill in on a one-or-two-year contract. 

    However, Ingram is far from the player who earned 10.5 sacks in 2015 and 2017 for the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers. 

    If the Bucs have to replace Barrett, they need an edge-rusher to produce a high volume of sacks. Ingram did not take down an opposing quarterback in seven games in 2020. 

    Tampa Bay could take a risk on Ingram's health and hope he returns to the pass-rushing form he had in his prime with the Chargers, but that may be too much of a chance to take for a team that may be forced to replace Barrett's 27.5 sacks from the last two seasons. 

Takkarist McKinley

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    Danny Karnik/Associated Press

    A case could be made for the Bucs to go after Takkarist McKinley because of their familiarity with the pass-rusher from his time with the Atlanta Falcons. 

    At his best, McKinley contributed at a decent rate in the Falcons front seven. He had 13 sacks in his first two seasons. 

    However, the four-year player was released early in the 2020 season and did not catch on with another team in need of a pass-rusher. 

    There should be a team that takes a chance on McKinley because he has some of the best edge talent on the free-agent market. 

    However, he may be deemed too much of a character risk after his tumultuous 2020, and that could turn the Bucs and others away from signing him. 

    Tampa Bay may consider McKinley if it fails to hold on to Barrett and David, but it could look in other safer directions to fill those potential voids. 


    Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

    Statistics obtained from Pro Football Reference.