More Work, Fewer Holes

February 19th, 2021

Bill Currie Ford is a Tampa tradition since 1959. They’re awesome Bucs fans and so charitable in the community. Shop now at BillCurrieFord.com. New year, new deals! And remember their nationwide lifetime warranty on new and used vehicles. Ira loves his 2020 Ford Escape, cherry red.

BY IRA KAUFMAN

A year later, so much has changed for the better at One Buc Place.

At this time in 2020, just before the pandemic outbreak that altered our lives so dramatically, the Bucs were a nondescript 7-9 club preparing for free agency.

The postseason drought had reached 12 years and even the most passionate Buc fans had hit a breaking point. Meaningful December games seemed like a preposterous proposition.

The team had already decided Jameis Winston wasn’t the answer under center. Those final two games did Winston in. The Bucs also knew they were moving on from veteran Demar Dotson. Tampa Bay was in desperate need of a quarterback, a right tackle and a play-making safety to line up next to thumper Jordan Whitehead.

Those were three big holes for the personnel department to fill and the Buc brain trust was also determined to keep core defenders Shaq Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh from reaching the free-agent market.

Gronk and JPP

Flash ahead to 2021 and the Bucs are in far better shape.

Advantage Tampa Bay

Tom Brady isn’t going anywhere — except on another Super Bowl quest. There’s a decent chance the Saints, Falcons and Panthers will all feature new quarterbacks this fall, so Brady represents continuity at the game’s most critical position. That’s an advantage as Tampa Bay tries to end a 4-year reign by New Orleans atop the NFC South.

Pierre-Paul is under contract for 2021 and Antoine Winfield just turned in a very impressive rookie season at safety. His strip of Jared Cook at the Superdome was Tampa Bay’s most impactful play in the postseason and Winfield has a savvy position coach in Nick Rapone.

Dotson was the most-tenured Buc and a true professional, but his replacement turned out to be scary good. I filled in the name “Tristan Wirfs” on my All-Pro ballot and the first-round pick out of Iowa received support from nine other voters who judged him the league’s premier right tackle.

Quarterback, right tackle and safety. Check, check, check.

Those were priority needs identified and promptly filled by an organization that was weary of all the losing. Heading into the 2021 offseason, there is work to do … but far fewer holes to fill.

And let’s remember that Vita Vea (fractured ankle) missed 11 games last season and O.J. Howard (ruptured Achilles) was sidelined in Week 4.

The Full Brady Effect

There is ample reason to believe the Bucs will become the first team to repeat as Super Bowl champion since the 2004 Patriots. Yeah, that Brady guy was involved in that championship pursuit as well.

“I think next year is going to be a lot better than this year,” Brady says. “I feel like I’ll be in a much better place mentally. I’m going to train a lot better and physically, next year I’ll be in a better place.”

All of that optimism must be tempered somewhat by the potential departure of key free agents like Lavonte David, Chris Godwin and Barrett. Rob Gronkowski, Ryan Succop, Leonard Fournette and Antonio Brown are also not under contract, so it’s obvious Jason Licht and Bruce Arians face difficult decisions.

Godwin, in particular, is an intriguing case. He missed four games last season and played hurt in some others, significantly reducing his production. Godwin went from averaging 95 receiving yards per game, second in the NFL in 2019, to 70 yards per game.

His yards after the catch dropped markedly and he wasn’t a major factor in the postseason.

Still, Godwin has proven he can make the tough catches in traffic and Brady can’t say enough about Godwin’s sure hands. That would make it hard for the Bucs to let him walk away, but Godwin is only 24 and he understandably sees this as an opportunity to cash in as perhaps the best free-agent wideout available.

He made $2.1 million in base salary last season and Godwin’s price tag could jump to $18 million per year. If the Bucs keep Brady happy by retaining Brown, to go along with Mike Evans, Scotty Miller and promising rookie Tyler Johnson, Godwin could end up the odd man out.

If that happens, the Bucs might sign a veteran receiver for far less coin. What free agent wouldn’t want to come here and catch passes from Brady?

That’s correct, Tampa Bay is now the NFL’s No. 1 destination site.

It’s the Brady Effect, and we’re a month away from witnessing its glorious ramifications.

Ira!  … Ira’s good friend Sean Sullivan, the Bill Currie Ford general manager, is ready to help you personally. Just call, email or stop in, one mile north of Raymond James Stadium.

19 Responses to “More Work, Fewer Holes”

  1. First Down Tampa Bay Says:

    The NFL’s premier GM, the NFL’s premier offense, the NFL’s premier QB, the NFL’s premier defense, and the NFL’s premier weather. What’s not to love about Tampa Bay?

  2. Bruce Blahak Says:

    NFL’s premier analyst right here too! The Sage! Spot on analysis, always…

  3. Bruce Blahak Says:

    i’m hoping a little loyalty shows up, from both sides of bargaining, in this free agency….the money factor destroying teams is poison…this roster rocks! or it did for 2020 at least.

  4. lambeau Says:

    James Palmer just quoted Brady as saying Godwin has the best hands he’s ever played with–I have a feeling that endorsement will translate into a contract, or at least a franchise tag.

  5. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    I urged the signing of Godwin last year to a long term deal giving him a nice raise in 2020…..but….no, no, no…..Joe says…..why do that? He’s under contract….no worries…..
    I will admit, winning the Super Bowl with our list of pickups….makes losing Godwin worth it…that’s the price we pay.

    But I don’t want to hear any whining about Godwin’s departure……that decision was made last year.

    We could keep Godwin and let Shaq go…..but that would not be the better move.

  6. Pelsbuc61 Says:

    Tag him. Sign Barrett. Then deal with Succop, Gronk, Suh and LD.

  7. ben Says:

    the bucs have had a long bad time finding a kicker !!.. I think Succop should be on the agenda as a top player to keep.

  8. gofortheface30 Says:

    Im kinda with TBBF, but my more extreme position is that I believe the offense will be just fine if not better with or without Godwin. Some people may disagree and thats fine. Heck maybe I’m wrong, but AB stepping up to number 2 – getting Scotty some more reps as well as TJ will keep offense humming right along, and with the addition of a James white, or sayyyyyy an Edelman, an improved Rojo – it would almost be FOOLISH to give Godwin 100 mil. Resigning Shaq should be first priority. Then Lavonte, Suh, Succop. If can’t resign Shaq then I still say a contingency will be to pull a JPP type move and trade for Von Miller. I think we’re getting a little worked up over nothing because the Bucs are in the catbird seat. If we lose a few guys then we have everyone and their mother wanting to come here, and regardless of what happens this offseason I see a 14-2 squad next yr taking back the south and homefield advantage

  9. Fred mcneil Says:

    A franchise tag for Godwin would be like 17 or 18 million.
    Shaq … I can see that as pass rushers are harder to replace.
    Godwin is a better football player, but not quite as impossible to replace.
    LVD and Suh are damn near irreplaceable as well.
    Hate to say it but Godwin and Brate should go. Playoff Lenny and OJ too. Gronk needs a pay cut.
    I love all those guys, but reality is an ugly beast Tanner and Auclare will shine given the chance.
    Keep that defense intact and Tommy Boy can try to toss another Lombardi in the drink.

  10. Oh well Says:

    Guess Ira is back from his pouting episode because “his Chiefs” lost to OUR Bucs!

  11. Winny Testaverde Says:

    Bucs are so much better in fact Ira nearly twisted an ankle hopping on The Buc Bandwagon/Pirate Ship. 🙂 Sorry about your Chiefs Ira…but not that sorry. 🙂

  12. King C Says:

    I said it over and over again. Signing AB was equivalent to saying this is CG’s last year here. When you look at Scotty Too Hotty and Tyler Johnson, I can understand why. Let’s be honest, many WR-weak teams need CG more than we do. And even though he’s costly CG is a flat better option than free agents like Corey Davis

  13. Cdog76 Says:

    Terrible analysis Ira. No way the Bucs keep Brown over Godwin. I would make Godwin the number one priority of free agency. Followed by Lavonte David, Shaq Barrett (Franchise Tag), Suh (1-year deal), Gronk( 1 year deal).

  14. geno711 Says:

    Great analysis Ira. I think as many of us have said we love Godwin but…

    I like signing Barrett as the number 1 priority.

    Because Suh will only cost about 7 million, I am guessing that he is a likely signing.

    I see a lot of capable receiver options available for the Bucs and Brady next year that won’t cost 17 million per year. I would not lock up $35 million to two receivers. That does not make sense.

  15. Defense Rules Says:

    “Glorious ramifications” Ira? That almost makes it sound like FAs are gonna flock to Tampa Bay and pay for the privilege of playing with Tom Brady because he’s pre-destined to win his 8th Super Bowl ring. If it were even close to being that easy I suspect that Brady would never have left New England.

    Belichick was a master at signing FAs ‘on the cheap’ towards the end of their careers, milking a year’s productivity out of them as they chased a SB ring, then sending them on their way … in favor of signing yet another FA willing to work ‘on the cheap’. Looking back though, a bunch of that seemed to happen on the offensive side of the ball.

    Pats won the Super Bowl in 2003 AND 2004, but not again until 2014. Lots of FA turnover starting in 2005 (hard to keep the band together after back-to-back SB wins?). And a lot of that turbulence was in Brady’s ‘weapons’. Example: in 2005 … Pats signed 7 FA WR/TE/RBs and released/traded 3 WR/TE/RBs; in 2006 Pats signed 9 FA WR/TE/RB and released/traded 8 WR/TE/RBs; in 2007 signed 9 WR/TE/RBs and released 7 WR/TE/RBs. Point being: LOTS of movement in ‘Weapons for Brady’, with LOTS of 1-year deals signed. Despite lots of new weapons however, Brady took the Pats to the playoffs in both 2006 & 2007, losing in the 2006 Conference Championship & losing in the 2007 Super Bowl.

    It’d be easy to say that the 1 constant in all that was Tom Brady, but it was a lot more than that obviously. Pats’ coaching staff read like a Who’s Who of coaches, and many went on to become HCs elsewhere. Relatively little turnover in the OLine, plus a consistent Top-10 defense (often a Top-5 defense).

    I’m of the opinion Ira that Tom Brady can accommodate a little turmoil in our ‘weapons’ as long as we maintain a strong OLine to protect him AND maintain a strong defense to support him. Leads me to believe that our defense will be the priority when it comes to FA signings, and that the ‘Big Uglies’ will get priority on BOTH sides of the ball. This is gonna be interesting.

  16. Señor Harry in Costa Rica Says:

    @gofortheface, I somewhat agree with you. The thing no one ever factors in about Godwin is his blocking ability. CG was constantly in motion on run plays as an additional blocker between the tackles. (He would be awesome on the Ravens – just an observation). Not AB nor Scooter would replace that. Although I wonder if Tyler Johnson might – he showed some signs last season. So yes, Godwin is replaceable. And I think as Brady said, year two in this offense will be fireworks at times, even without CG.

    Shaq is NOT REPLACEABLE. He must be signed, at least tagged again. Some of you put Godwin ahead of Shaq are crazy. Draft an EDGE? Really? The Bucs have been without a pass rusher for how many years and you think we can just draft one with the #32 choice?! We so lucked into Shaq – the Bucs paid him $4MM in ’19. Forget 19.5 sacks, with just what Shag did this year, don’t you think ALL other 31 NFL teams are kicking themselves in missing out on Shaq?!

    Joe likes to say CG and Shaq are 1A and 1B and Succop is #2. I disagree. Shaq is #1 all by himself, then Succop at #2. I might even say LVD or Suh might be 3 and 4. When you consider the money teams with throw at Godwin, he is a luxury the Bucs will have to live without and the can be done with offensive adjustments.

  17. m0j0 Says:

    I love Godwin, but Wide Receiver is the deepest position on the team and I can’t see the Bucs spending 18 mil on him.

  18. View from 132 Says:

    Getting OJ Howard back is like an extra high draft pick.

  19. Blue Coffee Says:

    LVD, Suh, Gronk will stay. They are locks.

    Shaq the #1 priority at ALL COST? A tag at over18 M in the pandemic situation for one player with a lower salary cap next year? Well,… we will see. I don’t bet on it big $ however,…

    Others good players at a lower cost will manifest their interest to play for a SB run with our team with Brady at the helm. It’s not perfect, but in this difficult time the administration need to adjust i’m afraid.
    And yes, we can find a good rusher (1 r) and a good RB (2 or 3 r) in the draft and get starters before the end of a rock year. These positions are easier to adjust to the NFL for a talented player. Plenty of exemples. Not elite like Shaq, but good.
    What about JJ Watt? He is not at his peak, granted, but he is far from finished!

    GO BUCS!!

 

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