The 2020 Super Bowl winners are setting themselves up for another run at the chip. With the 2021 offseason well underway, teams are making major moves to improve their chances in the coming season. Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht has other plans in mind after the team’s impressive win in the Super Bowl. Those who picked up NFL tips heading into the game were surely prepared for how strong the Bucs were.
Licht and Bruce Arians already have a Super Bowl-winning roster with a dragon’s hoard of offensive weapons and a stingy defense. As opposed to making a splash in free agency, the team just took care of their guys. In a league where continuity matters, the list of important players staying with Tampa is impressive.
2020 Super Bowl Winners Staying Put
The list of players that want to play in Tampa is immeasurable, I’m sure. Even with all the cap space in the world, it would be impossible for everyone to play where they want. It is impressive how Licht maneuvered with the dropped cap and kept as many important pieces on the team.
The earliest move made to keep the squad together was the franchise tag. Surprising many, the team used their tag on wideout Chris Godwin. Godwin is a cornerstone receiver for Arians’ offense. He adds a great speed element across the field from Mike Evans, a physically massive target for Tom Brady.
Two other veteran offensive presences in the 2020 Super Bowl are sticking with Tampa. Tom Brady’s BFF Rob Gronkowski and newly re-signed ‘Playoff Lenny,’ Leonard Fournette took bargain contracts for another go at a ring. Both players were instrumental pieces in the championship run, especially in the big game itself.
While the offensive pieces staying will ensure Brady has his weapons from last year, the more impressive side of the ball was the defense. And after the early portion of the free agency period, Buccaneers fans are rejoicing.
The two key points of the defense last season were both retained. Linebackers Lavonte David and Shaquil Barrett were both awarded with multi-year extensions. The duo established themselves as premier linebackers last season, combining for 9.5 sacks, 174 tackles, and six turnovers. Their high level of production was assisted by pressure from Tampa’s defensive line, which also remained relatively intact.
Although star Vita Vea missed a chunk of the season due to injury, a trio of interior defenders rotated in and performed well. At this point, it appears that only two of those three will be back with the Buccaneers for 2021.
After 11 seasons in the league, Ndamukong Suh won his first ring in the 2020 Super Bowl. The 34-year old had another strong season in his illustrious career, racking up another six sacks in a full season of play. Suh, as well as Rakeem Nunez-Roches, are signed for at least the 2021 season.
Even the special teams’ players who helped Tampa win the 2020 Super Bowl are coming back. Veteran kicker Ryan Succop wasn’t necessarily automatic, but he was solid enough to help the team win games. And for Arians and Licht, that’s all that matters.
With the cap situation across the league, not everyone could come back to Tampa.
2020 Super Bowl Winners Leaving the Bay
The list of players staying with the Buccaneers is much longer than those leaving, but the players leaving are important as well. As of this writing, the team is right up against the cap before cuts and the draft. While some of these free agents could still end up with Tampa, it appears unlikely that they will.
Let’s start with the pair of free agents that have already signed elsewhere. Joe Haeg may not have started every game or played that many snaps, but anyone who plays offensive tackle is important. His snaps allowed starters like rookie Tristan Wirfs and Donovan Smith to take plays off during a game to recover.
The other confirmed departure is safety Andrew Adams. He got even less playing time than Haeg in 2020 but had been with the Bucs for three years. Even though they didn’t make waves on the field, players like Adams and Haeg are what make Super Bowl-winning teams. The importance of depth in the NFL cannot be understated.
The biggest unofficial departure thus far is Antonio Brown. The enigmatic wide receiver joined the team midway through the season. He quickly acclimated to the team and was important in the 2020 Super Bowl victory, catching a late second-quarter touchdown to put the Buccaneers 15 points ahead.
Brown’s production and connection with Brady will likely be missed to an extent. There is little telling what will happen with his off-field situation, and the Buccaneers can replace his production with young talent this spring. The team has their own full slate of draft selections, and with a deep wide receiver class, I would be surprised to see Brown back with the Bucs.
Jason Licht took his time building this Buccaneers team and in this offseason, has done an even better job keeping them together after winning the 2020 Super Bowl.
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