The preparations for the 2021 NFL season are progressing quickly. Soon, it will be time for training camp and the clubs’ three preseason games. A part of this process will be narrowing the rosters down to 55 men heading into the regular season, hence initiating some important cuts and sending other players to practice squads. With their status as reigning Super Bowl champions and Super Bowl favorite, these Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster projections become that much harder to do, considering the team has the highest expectations of any team in the NFL.
Last year, Tampa Bay"s big gambles paid off improbably. The franchise won its second Super Bowl championship and the first since the 2002 season. That was in large part thanks to new quarterback Tom Brady, who guaranteed himself a legendary status by virtue of his seventh win on the biggest stage in professional football. Even more so, it was because of a great deal of support the former New England Patriot had around him as well as the balanced roster the Buccaneers turned in before the beginning of the season.
Now, three months later, after much of the work as regards defending that championship has gone down, TB"s staff can finally start planning how its roster will look when it"s high time to begin that defense in early September. Soon, they will have to submit their official 53-man roster. Moreover, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and the union offers teams the possibility to elevate two practice squad players without releasing other assets. Therefore, here are is the potential full roster the Bucs could rely on come September, including two PS players who might be at the front of the queue, making this “extended" roster 55 men.
2021 Buccaneers Roster Projections: Offense
Quarterback (3): Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Trask
There"s no doubt who will be the Bucs" starter in shotgun this upcoming year and beyond. Tom Brady is as efficient and accurate of a passer, and as reliable of a quarterback, as there could currently be in the NFL. Despite entering his age-44 campaign, the six-time Super Bowl winner with the Patriots is coming off a season with a completion percentage north of 65% and a passer rating over the 100.0 threshold. Furthermore, he has put on an accuracy figure above that number in four of his last five seasons.
Also, there is little question when it comes to his backups. Second-round pick Kyle Trask, a promising prospect out of Florida, is likely to receive the official carte blanche to be Brady"s “student". However, he could go through a battle with Gabbert for the No.2 spot in this Buccaneers Roster, although there is little chance the former Jaguars draftee prevails. The only piece of drama is whether or not TB decides to carry three QBs on the regular portion of the roster or elect to send Gabbert to the practice squad.
Running Back (5): Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones II, Giovani Bernard, Ke"Shawn Vaughn, C.J. Prosise
Giovani Bernard is the only addition to Tampa Bay"s running faction from 2020. Over the offseason, the former Bengals running back signed a one-year deal worth $1.25 million. Bernard isn"t a satisfyingly productive runner, averaging 3.7 yards per run in his career and less than 4.0 in each of his last three years. Therefore, he will likely be at least third in the depth chart.
Last year, the group led by Fournette, Jones, Vaughn, and Prosise averaged 4.1 yards per carry during the regular season. This was the sixth-worst in the league. Furthermore, the difference between Fournette (3.8 Y/C on 97 carries) and Jones (5.1 Y/C on 192 carries) was significant. The room for improvement will unveil itself if the Bucs shift more of the workload on the ground toward the former USC running back.
Wide Receiver (7): Mike Evans, Scotty Miller, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Tyler Johnson, Justin Watson, Jaelon Darden
During the 2020 campaign, the offense didn"t succeed because they had any more quarterback reliability than they previously had with Jameis Winston. Sure, the stacked receiving corps was present before the change under center, which makes Winston the obstacle between the Bucs and the offensive output they had in 2020. However, teams get the quarterback post right much more often than they get his weaponry right. In short, many teams had inquired to sign Brady but it"s precisely clear he wouldn"t have had the same impact everywhere. The receiving core is what exploited his passing abilities.
Yet, heading into the 2021 NFL season, this unit might be even better than last year"s, which was amongst the best in the league. Firstly, Antonio Brown is set to be available to the Tampa offense for a full campaign. Last year, the former Pittsburgh Steeler signed with the Buccaneers mid-season and only appeared in eight games. Secondly, another notable boost comes in Jaelon Darden, a fourth-round pick out of North Texas.
Tight End (3): Rob Gronkowski, Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard
The Bucs had an impressively deep pool of options at tight end even before the arrival of Rob Gronkowski. Yet, as the four-time Super Bowl champ joined the team in a trade shortly before last season, this post has given Brady three potentially usable targets in addition to already complete weaponry at WR.
In terms of efficiency, the group was actually less than solid in their 2020 outing. Gronkowski was third in targets with 77 but had a catch percentage south of 59% while averaging 13.8 yards per receptions. Meanwhile, Cameron Brate was more reliable at 82% but had just 34 targets. However, considering their workloads, the big roles both players were involved in would make for them staying without much hesitation.
Howard"s case is a bit more dramatic. The former Alabama prospect was targeted just eleven times across his latest, injury-ridden season. Could he be in for a surprising, yet disappointing cut? Nothing indicates so yet and, therefore, such events cannot be projected. Nevertheless, he will be one of the candidates to be shown the front door out of One Buccaneer Place.
Offensive Line (10): Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet, Ryan Jensen, Alex Cappa, Tristan Wirfs, Robert Hainsey, Josh Wells, Brad Seaton, Aaron Stinnie, Zack Bailey (PS)
Tampa Bay brings back the full set of offensive linemen that truly carried this offensive unit towards glory throughout a dominant 2020 display. The Buccaneers" O-Line allowed just 22 sacks, the fourth-fewest in the whole National Football League. In fact, the only notable departing asset in that department is the tackle Joe Haeg who signed with Pittsburgh. However, Haeg has only started three games across his last two campaigns in Indianapolis and Tampa.
There is no impressive depth to back this talented group up. Highlights from the rest: Robert Hainsey will be a decent backup tackle as a third-round pick out of Notre Dame. Moreover, Josh Wells is expected to snatch a spot. Wells took part in 41 percent of all offensive snaps at his personal peak with Jacksonville in 2017. However, over his two-year tenure as a Buccaneer, he hasn"t had more than 18 percent in a single season. Still, that is substantially better than either Stinnie or Bailey, neither of whom has a single minute of NFL playing time. One of them will perhaps stay as an unreliable depth asset while the other will be kept on the practice squad or released altogether.
2021 Buccaneers Roster Projections: Defense
Defensive Line (6): Ndamukong Suh, Vita Vea, William Gholston, Steve McLendon, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Jeremiah Ledbetter
From top to bottom, these Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster projections will show very few subtractions from last year"s championship-winning squad. Moreover, the defensive front is probably the best unit to epitomize the type of offseason the Bucs have had thus far.
Tampa entered the signing period with many challenges. However, the club, led by general manager Jason Licht, was able to re-sign two key players in the front line of the Bucs" 3-4 defense. Those were Ndamukong Suh and Steve McLendon in addition to guaranteeing Nunez-Roches"s signature for two more years. Locking down the last spot is Ledbetter, who has yet to start a game on the NFL level. However, he did have a sack last year, plus 32% of snap participation in 2017 with the Lions. These accolades make him a better option than his competition for the job in Khalil Davis and Kobe Smith.
Important to remember is the fact that Tampa Bay allowed just 3.6 yards per running attempts last winter. This was the fewest on average in the NFL.
Linebackers (7): Jason Pierre-Paul, Shaquil Barrett, Devin White, Lavonte David, Joe Tryon, Kevin Minter, K.J. Britt
Firstly, Licht will be showcasing an improved version of one of the league"s primary pass-rushing units. Last time around, TB ranked fourth with 48 sacks. The outside linebackers in the 3-4 scheme, Pierre-Paul and Barrett, were main contributors with 9.5 and 8 sacks, respectively. Furthermore, their positions received an additional piece of help after the team drafted Washington pass-rusher Joe Tryon with the final selection of the 2021 NFL Draft"s inaugural day.
Moreover, the middle linebacker duo of White and David is also one that deserves not to be overlooked. The former name was not only the team"s second-best sack producer but also third in solo tackles in the NFL. At the same time, Lavonte David has four straight campaigns with more than 100 total tackles. Most recently, David ranked fifth in solo tackles (94) in 2018, the first season with his current affiliation. The White/David duo goes to show how the Buccaneers are good at stopping the run not only upfront but past the line of scrimmage. Ultimately, this is indicated in their statistical dominance against the run.
Minter and Britt, the latter a 2021 fifth-round pick, are top candidates to fill two more roster berths in the linebacker department. Both possess the qualities to play primarily on the inside of the LB quartet. This is the deepest position group in this Buccaneers roster projections article.
Cornerback (6): Carlton Davis, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Ross Cockrell, Jamel Dean, Herb Miller, Chris Wilcox
The major concern that existed and has pertained within the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster since the beginning of the franchise"s glorious campaign has been a truly underperforming secondary. The unit conceded a passer rating of 94.3 and a completion percentage of 69%, 15th-worst and fourth-worst, respectively, last winter.
Regarding the outside pair of starting corners, it was a tale of two extremes. On the one hand, Davis was very stable in pass coverage with a surrendered rating of 87.6 on team-high 105 targets. On the other hand, however, Murphy-Bunting turned in an abysmal 121.3 over a similar sample – 100 targets.
Cockrell"s figure in that field also exceeded the 100.0 mark, though his sample of just 21 targets discredited it as inconclusive. Even so, he is the team"s top nickel corner. Dean, Miller, and the newcomer Wilcox don"t offer much so any plans to adapt and improve the group"s performance would require a fast new addition. Until then, this unimpressive pool of players is what the group has at hand.
Safety (5): Antoine Winfield Jr., Jordan Whitehead, Mike Edwards, Raven Greene, Javon Hagan (PS)
Winfield, then a rookie, and Whitehead were featured much more frequently in the Tampa Bay secondary than their current backups, to mixed success. While Whitehead had a pleasant season with an 86.5 allowed rating, the same cannot be said about the Golden Gophers product, whose figure ranged around 140.0. Winfield"s 147.2 was the second-worst on the Buccaneers roster amongst members of the passing defense with a double-digit amount of targets.
In the meantime, Edwards had just twelve targets while Greene started just one game during his three-year stint with the Packers. However, the latter managed a satisfying 88.6 over a credible 34 targets in 2020. Having five safeties on the regular 55-man roster is pointless so the place of the remaining Javon Hagan is likely on the practice squad or out of Tampa.
2021 Buccaneers Roster Projections: Special Teams
Kicker: Ryan Succop
Punter: Bradley Pinion
Long Snapper: Zach Triner
Neither of the three has any sort of competition for his respective job, making these the easiest decisions on this Buccaneers roster projections article. As always, Succop, the kicker, deserves a further breakdown – he was solid in terms of field goals, having one of his better campaigns with a success rate of 90%. At the same time, his extra-point made figure of 91% was a tick above his previous full campaign. However, this was still a long way behind the six straight years that didn"t see a single XPA miss by the former Chiefs and Titans kicker.
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