After winning Super Bowl LV, they returned all 22 starters on offense and defense and three of the four starters on special teams. This is the largest number of teams in NFL history since the current free-agency system was implemented in 1993 to create a better competitive balance in the NFL. They lost three free agents – all backups – with safety Andrew Adams, offensive lineman Joe Hag and cornerback Ryan Smith. The only significant free agent not yet under contract is Antonio Brown, who the organization has not yet traded.
There are a number of factors. I think they all know the culture and like it, coach Bruce Arians said Tuesday. They all get paid. Nobody comes back cheap, you know what I mean? It’s a great organization. Clearly we have a team that needs to get back in the race.
But I think the camaraderie of this football team, what they’ve been through with the pandemic and everything else – there’s a bond formed, and it’s hard to break, and I think they all want to play for each other.
Left fielder Donovan Smith signed a contract extension in the off-season, creating room to re-contract key players like Ndamukong Suh (right). Kim Clement – USA Sports Today.
One of Arians’ first points about the culture is that the tone is set by 43-year-old quarterback Tom Brady, who was willing to take on less money to keep talent around him by signing an extension to create $19 million in salary cap space.
The signing of a contract extension by Donovan Smith freed up $10.65 million and contracted defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh for $10 million per year (the details of Suh’s contract with deleted years and baseball cap hit are still being worked out).
Does that just show which place is better than Tampa? Smith said. These guys, we love being here and we want to be here, keep building and keep coming back and chasing. It shows how much they like being here and how altruistic they are and all that.
As for Aryan’s second point: The players want to feel welcome. If the Bucs didn’t let the cost of the free agents go up, and they couldn’t (they had $14 million to spend on the free contract. The Bucs have not spent much money on free agency salaries, but they have made their own competitive proposals within the constraints of the pandemic, lowering the salary cap by 8%. So instead of contending with the highest amount paid at that position based on previous years’ contracts, they gave players the highest amounts in pandemic free agency.
Shaq Barrett is the ninth highest paid player in the league at $17 million per year. But that’s more money and more guaranteed money ($34.5 million) than any other edge rusher who signed a contract in free agency this year. They also agreed last year to settle his claims regarding his position as a franchisee, awarding him another $1.372 million.
Super Bowl team starters return
Jason Licht has been very honest and true to his word the whole time, Barrett said. He’s a world-class GM. … Usually teams win, they let people go because people start asking for a higher salary than teams are willing to pay, but we did it. He’s shifted some things around, made good deals with other guys who [were available], and there’s no reason why we couldn’t do the same thing.
Lavonte David’s contract earns him $12.5 million this year, making him the seventh highest paid linebacker in the NFL. But this is still the highest amount of all those who signed during this Free Agency period. Rob Gronkowski’s $8 million for a one-year contract makes him the second highest paid tight end in this 2021 Free Agency season behind Hunter Henry.
The Bucs, like other teams, got creative and used the years of Director of Football Administration Mike Greenberg to get contracts for the first time. Under his leadership, the club has always opted for a pay-as-you-go contract structure, with the biggest pay cuts at the start of a player’s contract. But this time they admitted it was not possible with a reduced ceiling in 2021, while hoping for a significant increase with the new TV deals in 2022. So they were able to offer Smith a $15.9 million annual salary – after Trent Williams – when they only had $3.6 million. David only has $3.5 million.
I have to say… Mike Greenberg and [director of football research] Jackie Davidson – those are superstars, man, Arians said of the salary the duo arranged. You did a great job with Jason.
Culture and competitive financial compensation aside, the coaches and players think they can be much better in 2021, with a real offseason for young players to develop and Brady being in the same system for another year.
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I definitely think we can be better on the offensive side of the ball, Gronkowski said. You saw it sometimes in the beginning of the season where we didn’t really score, we didn’t really score. I think with so many players coming back, another season, another training camp, a whole season, we can definitely pick up where we left off.
The offense and defense didn’t have the same results until Week 13, when they ended the season on a four-game winning streak and took that momentum to the Super Bowl. They were also without tight end O.J. Howard after the fourth quarter and were without defensive tackle Vita Vea with a broken ankle for the NFC Championship Game.
If you go back and look at the film, we have so much to improve from last year, Arian said. There is steady growth, but we are still far from where we could be if we had had a good offseason, stayed healthy and continued to build a lot of depth.
There are also personal reasons for players to return. Barrett and his wife, Jordanna, are expecting their fourth child – a girl – next month and want to settle down first. The week Barrett signed his contract, they made an offer on the house and celebrated with a visit to Legoland.
Gronkowski briefly wanted to test the free-agent trade, having never been a free agent before (the Bucs traded with New England for his rights after his retirement), but quickly decided to return to the Bucs, where he was able to spend a full season for the first time since 2011, thanks in part to Arians keeping an eye on his workload and giving him preemptive time off – something he hadn’t had before. He also enjoyed spending time with his mother, Diane Walters, whom he visits weekly in Fort Myers.
Buccaneers linebacker Shaq Barrett thinks Bruce Arians should add another Super Bowl tattoo.
I wanted to come back to the Buccaneers organization, Gronkowski said. The construction here is just great. Just the chemistry I built last season is fantastic. I knew I wanted to be there.
There were also sentimental reasons related to the returning players. David, who is the Buck closer after nine seasons – only two of which have a positive record – has never put on another jersey, and the hope on both sides is that he won’t either. He captained the team for seven consecutive seasons and is considered the heart and soul of the Bucs’ locker room.
Inside linebacker Devin White even told him after the Super Bowl parade: Both players think they are the best interior linebacker duo in the league.
Honestly, in general, I didn’t want to go anywhere, David says. The bond we had, the bond we shared that year, was unlike any other. Including the coaching staff, everyone is a truly sworn group. It’s something I haven’t done in a long time and was eager to participate in.
I mean, I have a legacy that I’m trying to continue and I’m trying to stomp it out, you know, and I’m just trying to win more Super Bowls, David said. Manage what I’ve been doing for the last eight years and finally win one and finally get up and leave? I am: No, I want to keep winning. This team, this organization, this city deserves so much more and I want to be a part of that.
frequently asked questions
What is the defensive rating for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
In 2019, they went from ranking 15th in defense to 6th in 2020. That was after defensive coordinator Todd Bowles inherited the unit at no. 27.
Who are the Buccaneers’ best players?
14. Lavonte David, Shaquille Barrett, Chris Godwin and Mike Evans were also on the list, compiled by NFL Network.
Why did the Bucs trade up?
And when the Bucks were ranked No. 14, general manager Jason Licht said he had made several calls in the days before the draft. … He traded a spot to Tampa Bay for the last tackle of the four, Iowa’s Tristan Wirths.
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