The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won their second Super Bowl in franchise history this past season, but as is the case with most championship teams, the timing of team building worked perfectly for them to have the players in place to do it.
That’s not to say the Buccaneers have any regrets about adding some short-term players to put them over the top, but guys like wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Leonard Fournette were playing on one-year deals. Tight end Rob Gronkowski’s deal that he signed in New England is expiring. Linebacker Lavonte David, pass rusher Shaq Barrett, and wide receiver Chris Godwin are all pending free agents as well. That puts the Buccaneers’ hope for a repeat title run in question (for now).
Thankfully for the Buccaneers, their long-term timetable for winning has kept their salary cap in good standing. Though they spent a little more than they usually do this past season, it wasn’t at the expense of future signings they want/need to make. The Buccaneers are currently projected to have about $38 million in cap space when the 2021 new league year hits, and that number will only go up if the NFL can get some extra money to the teams to increase the cap ceiling following an adjusted COVID season. With that money, I expect them to bring back David and Barrett, but when you throw in Godwin as well, that would put the Buccaneers close to that $38 million number.
But if the Buccaneers don’t end up getting deals done with David or Barrett, that could leave a big need and a big chunk of change to fill it. Given their cap citation and potential roster needs, here are three defensive free agents the Buccaneers could go after.
Jadeveon Clowney, EDGE, Tennessee Titans
Projected AAV: $8.5 million
If the Buccaneers don’t bring back Barrett, they’ll need some sort of replacement for him if they want to make it back to the Super Bowl. Even if they do bring back Barrett, this could be a fun add depending on Clowney’s price tag.
Clowney was seeking big money last year and didn’t find it. He remained unsigned until September when he signed a one-year, $12 million deal with the Titans. He went on to play in just eight games with no sacks. His price will now be much lower, but he’s still a guy you have to pay attention to at all times. He could be a very interesting add to this Todd Bowles defense.
Solomon Thomas, IDL, San Francisco 49ers
Projected AAV: $5.5 million
Thomas is another interesting player to think about. Ndamukong Suh is also an unrestricted free agent, and given who the Buccaneers have to sign, he might be the odd man out if he wants anything close to the $8 million he got this past season. If Suh won’t go for the cheaper contract, bringing in a tweener player like Thomas could have its upside. Thomas likely won’t cost that much, and given how strong the Buccaneers’ defensive line and linebacker group already is, Bowles could have the flexibility to allow Thomas to play inside—a style I thought best suited him coming out of Stanford. The 280-pound frame is what makes it tough to make Thomas a full-time inside player, but it could work with the Buccaneers on a rotational depth chart.
K.J. Wright, LB, Seattle Seahawks
Projected AAV: $5.5 million
If David says, “I won my ring, now it’s time to cash out to the highest bidder,” the Buccaneers could say goodbye to him. However, I very much doubt that will happen.
But in a world where David is on another team, the Buccaneers could look to replace him with a linebacker who has plenty of playoff experience and likely a few good years left in the tank. As Devin White gets better, Wright would be a solid running mate.