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Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2024 NFL offseason primer: Run it back after surprise NFC South title?

February 24th, 2024

Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ 2023 season: 9-8, won NFC South, lost in divisional round

Overview: Tampa Bay‘s gamble on Baker Mayfield worked out, as the journeyman quarterback threw for 4,044 yards and 28 touchdowns with just 10 interceptions and led the Bucs to an NFC South title and the divisional round.

Now, the Bucs have some work to do to keep this group together. Mayfield is a free agent, as is star receiver Mike Evans and All-Pro safety Antoine Winfield Jr., not to mention other aging but impactful contributors to their recent success. The ceiling with Mayfield under center may not be through the roof, but it’s hard to see better options at this point for the Bucs than running it back, capitalizing on what still appears to be a weak NFC South and seeing where that shakes out.

They’ll be doing so without offensive coordinator Dave Canales, who was hired as the new head coach of the division rival Carolina Panthers. But otherwise, things might look pretty similar in 2024 in Tampa, which isn’t a bad thing.

(Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)

(Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)

Key free agents

QB Baker Mayfield
WR Mike Evans
S Antoine Winfield Jr.
LB Lavonte David
LB Devin White
G Aaron Stinnie
DT Greg Gaines
G Matt Feiler

Who’s in/out: Mayfield and Evans appear to be in the Bucs’ plans going forward. Head coach Todd Bowles said Mayfield “most definitely has” earned the right to return in 2024, while general manager Jason Licht said Evans spending his whole career in Tampa Bay “would mean everything for the franchise, ownership, all of us.” Evans had 1,255 yards and 13 touchdowns receiving last season, extending his own record of consecutive 1,000-yard seasons to start a career, and even with a hometown discount, the Bucs would have to pay up to retain him. Winfield, meanwhile, is reportedly a likely candidate for the franchise tag should Tampa Bay opt to use it. He’s blossomed into one of the NFL’s premier defensive backs, and the Bucs figure to prioritize getting a longer deal done to keep him.

Will Baker Mayfield and Mike Evans be back together in Tampa Bay this upcoming season? (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)Will Baker Mayfield and Mike Evans be back together in Tampa Bay this upcoming season? (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)

Will Baker Mayfield and Mike Evans be back together in Tampa Bay this upcoming season? (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)

Key free-agent needs

Interior offensive line
Edge rusher

Why the holes? If Mayfield doesn’t return, then quarterback becomes the No. 1 need. Even if he does, a solid backup makes sense. Center Ryan Jensen just retired, so the Bucs need help along the interior of their O-line. And finding a pass rusher to pair with 2023 first-round pick Calijah Kancey, who was named Rookie of the Month in November and had a standout debut campaign, would boost the front seven.

Do they have the money?

Tampa Bay is $54.1 million under the salary cap, according to Spotrac, making it possible to retain most of their key free agents.

Potential notable cuts

WR Russell Gage
LB Anthony Nelson

Why they might be gone: Gage missed last season with a torn patellar tendon and is due $13.35 million against the cap in 2024, money that could go to re-signing Evans. Nelson, meanwhile, is scheduled to make $5.4 million next fall and is less impactful than other defenders the Bucs might want to bring back.

Draft picks

1st round: No. 26
2nd round: No. 57
3rd round: No. 89
4th round
6th round
7th round

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Good draft fit

Jared Verse, EDGE, Florida State

Why him? Verse’s game is all about power, and he could be a “high-end secondary pass rusher,” according to Yahoo Sports draft expert Nate Tice. That would fit a need for the Bucs, who are picking 26th overall, thanks to their success this past season. Washington’s Troy Fautanu makes sense for the Bucs too, though he’s more of a guard/tackle prospect than a center.

What can move the fantasy football needle this offseason?

The hope is that the Buccaneers can bring back most of what worked last year; Mayfield and Evans are both free agents. And the team is going to miss OC Dave Canales, though we should also mention Tampa Bay ranked a modest 20th in points scored and 23rd in yards last year. The offense needs to get Chris Godwin more invested around the goal line (he scored just twice last year), and a third wide receiver of note would make this team much more difficult to defend. It’s likely Tampa Bay takes a swing at a field-stretching receiver in the draft. — Scott Pianowski

This content was originally sourced and posted at Yahoo! Sports – News, Scores, Standings, Rumors, Fantasy Games »
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