National Football League

Savvy offseason moves have Tampa Bay Buccaneers primed to repeat

March 20

Give the New England Patriots credit: They deserve plenty of praise for the eye-popping aggression they’ve shown in the first week of free agency.

But a 7-9 team spending a bunch of money wouldn’t get this amount of attention if it didn’t have Bill Belichick and his weighty legacy as part of the equation. Will the Patriots be better? Sure! Are they the team to beat in the NFL or even the AFC? That’s a questionable proposition at best.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, though, are another story. This is the team that turned Patrick Mahomes into a mere mortal on the way to handling the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl. This is the team that, in order to do so, got dramatically better as the season went on. And, of course, this is the team that has Tom Brady.

The Buccaneers have quietly put together an impressive offseason with a series of moves that, aside from the extension to Brady, has flown a bit below the radar. But while the Patriots have been dominating the headlines, the Bucs have positioned themselves nicely to defend their title.

Let’s take a look at the moves Tampa Bay has made to keep itself on top.

First of all, there was the Brady extension, a deal that trimmed $19 million of cap space, giving the Bucs a better chance of keeping their championship roster together.

Then the Bucs went and placed the franchise tag on Chris Godwin, a dangerous receiver and former Pro Bowler who caught 65 passes for 840 yards in just 12 games last season.

They also signed do-it-all linebacker Lavonte David, a veteran who has been a Buc since the team drafted him in 2012, to a two-year deal worth $25 million. The Bucs were creative with that signing, arranging it so it will count only $3.5 million against the salary cap in 2021.

All of the salary-cap machinations allowed Tampa to go out and make other key moves, perhaps the most important being the re-signing of star linebacker Shaq Barrett to a four-year, $72 million deal, $36 million of which is guaranteed.

The Bucs also re-signed defensive tackle Rakeem Nunez-Roches, linebacker Kevin Minter, offensive guard Aaron Stinnie and kicker Ryan Succop. To top it all off, they brought back Brady’s longtime running mate, Rob Gronkowski, on a one-year, $10 million deal.

If you’re a Bucs fan, all you can do is laugh.

All of this led Colin Cowherd to praise the Bucs on "The Herd," keeping Tampa Bay firmly planted in his "first place" category.

"Tom Brady, now in his second year, they bring the band back together," Cowherd said. "Jason Licht the GM has a history of filling spots. I think they’ll move off Ndamukong Suh, fill that in the draft. They’ll be fine."

It also led others to sing the Bucs’ praises, including Vinnie Iyer of The Sporting News, who wrote: "Now the veteran Bucs will have more winning experience together, and their younger players will continue to improve. Guess who the Super Bowl 56 clear favorites are with the GOAT again?"

The Patriots have had a nice offseason. But even if they manage to get past the Chiefs and the other monsters in the AFC, the Buccaneers could very well be waiting for them.

And you know that if that comes to pass, Brady won’t have any interest in going easy on his former team.


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