Hold Up – Don’t Write The Bucs Eulogy Just Yet


On Tuesday, the announcement lastly got here. Bucs quarterback Tom Brady is formally retiring – per his personal social media accounts. There will likely be time to replicate on the immense influence Brady has had in simply two years as a Buccaneer. What a participant and what a pacesetter. However the Bucs speedy future now hangs within the stability. Will this group return to the cellar of the NFL? Or will the Bucs proceed to construct a contender following Brady’s retirement?

Make no mistake, the Bucs want one other nice quarterback to be a Tremendous Bowl contender once more. That’s not distinctive to Tampa Bay, as most groups want nice quarterback play to contend for a world championship. But it surely’s very true of Bruce Arians’ offensive system. The Bucs offense depends closely on quarterbacks to be fast processors and make excessive degree-of-difficulty throws. Brady’s eliteness in each areas will likely be troublesome to duplicate this offseason.

Having stated that, it’s essential for folks to know that the Bucs have been on target earlier than Tom Brady arrived in Tampa Bay. They usually have been heading there at prime pace.

Basic supervisor Jason Licht deserves credit score for reeling in Brady, and for constructing the roster that attracted the star quarterback within the first place. Few common managers over the previous 20 years have been pretty much as good at drafting premier expertise, supplementing the roster in free company and managing the cap for brief and long run success. Licht has additionally surrounded himself with top-tier folks within the entrance workplace, together with John Spytek, Mike Greenberg, Mike Biehl, Rob McCartney, Jackie Davidson and others.

Bucs DBs Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Jordan Whitehead and Antoine Winfield, Jr. – Picture by: Cliff Welch/PR

Over the previous few drafts, the Bucs have stuffed the roster with proficient, high quality gamers. In 2020, Tampa Bay nabbed two Professional Bowl gamers in proper sort out Tristan Wirfs and security Antoine Winfield, Jr. The yr earlier than, Licht flooded the protection with enhancements, bringing in linebacker Devin White, cornerbacks Sean Murphy-Bunting and CB Jamel Dean and security Mike Edwards.

Whereas the jury continues to be out on White and Murphy-Bunting to a level, the previous’s peaks have proven the participant he may be. In the meantime, Dean and Edwards each took one other leap this previous season. Dean ought to begin subsequent season reverse Carlton Davis, whereas Edwards may align alongside Winfield.

In 2018, Licht discovered 4 high quality starters in his first six picks. Nostril sort out Vita Vea, cornerbacks Carlton Davis III, guard Alex Cappa and security Jordan Whitehead have all been enormous for the Bucs. Vea simply signed a large contract after his first Professional Bowl season, and Davis is a legit High 10 cornerback. Whitehead might be a participant the Bucs at the moment are in a position to retain as a result of Brady retiring. We’ll see.

The 2017 draft may have been Licht’s most interesting hour, however the class has been decimated by accidents. Security Justin Evans and linebacker Kendall Beckwith have been each misplaced to career-ending accidents after promising begins. Tight finish O.J. Howard has regarded like an evolving stud at completely different factors in his profession, however accidents have zapped his expertise. Nonetheless, receiver Chris Godwin within the third spherical has grow to be one of many franchise’s all-time greatest steals.

Over the previous 5 drafts, no person has completed it higher than Licht. He and his employees have an distinctive eye for expertise, and so they work with the teaching employees to get gamers who match the system. That’s an enormous benefit the Bucs have over many NFL organizations, whose scouting departments and training staffs function virtually autonomously. Licht additionally understands what positions to worth within the NFL – each strains, the secondary and difference-making weapons within the passing sport. He’s additionally been vocal about studying from early profession errors. That progress has been exemplified in his choices over the previous 5 years.

Tampa Bay has additionally supplied a mannequin to many groups on the best way to use free company. Free agent signings like defensive sort out Ndamukong Suh, exterior linebacker Shaq Barrett and middle Ryan Jensen reworked the Bucs roster, as did buying and selling for out of doors linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul. Not solely did operating again Leonard Fournette work out in Tampa Bay, he additionally grew to become a significantly better participant. After which the Bucs waited out the market, re-signed him for affordable and acquired even higher play out of him in 2021. That’s terrific entrance workplace work.

Bucs DTs Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea

Bucs DTs Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea – Picture by: USA Right now

Merely put, the Bucs are run by among the best entrance workplaces within the NFL. Their teaching employees isn’t flawless, however what employees is? Take a look at Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay screwing up name after name within the NFC Championship sport.

The Bucs system works, and Byron Leftwich and Todd Bowles are higher coordinators than most NFL groups have. Gamers respect and love taking part in for them. And now it seems to be like extra probably than ever that each will likely be again subsequent season.

There isn’t any query the Bucs will take a step again by way of their ceiling in 2022. Except they discover a technique to seize Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson – and I don’t assume both situation is probably going – Tampa Bay will most likely be a tier under the highest of the NFC this yr.

However the NFC South is extraordinarily weak, and the Bucs roster continues to be superb. Brady’s retirement will give them some extra cap house to work with this offseason, and they’re already in a great spot in comparison with many different contending groups. Godwin, Davis, Will Gholston and maybe a few different key free brokers will probably be retained. Tampa Bay’s roster will likely be good subsequent yr, and so they have all their draft capital to make a transfer up for a quarterback when the best participant comes alongside.

If Kyle Trask isn’t that man, discovering that subsequent quarterback turns into all the pieces for the Bucs entrance workplace. It might be this offseason, or it may be subsequent. Each the draft and free company are choices. It may not present in 2022, however the Bucs can reload rapidly and grow to be a contender once more. There are questions on virtually each prime roster and/or teaching employees within the NFC proper now. And considerable questions within the NFC South.

Don’t write the Bucs eulogy but.

The defending Tremendous Bowl champs have been on their technique to the highest earlier than Brady. It gained’t take lengthy for them to get again on that trajectory shifting ahead.

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