If you thought 2022 was a tough year for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, you are not going to like what 2023 has in store. Whether anyone will say it or not, the Bucs are entering a rebuilding period. There’s a Tom Brady-sized hole in the roster, and the rest of the team includes a lot of players in the twilight of their careers, to say it politely.
Even with Brady’s retirement, the Bucs are currently $55 million in the red for cap space—he leaves them with $35 million in dead money for the upcoming season. That’s the worst cap situation of any NFL team, and it’s going to take a lot more than a nip and tuck to a few contracts. They could get a little help in the draft, with picks in the first (19th overall), second, and third rounds.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers free agency preview
Players to target
Without Brady, the Bucs have only one quarterback under contract. There’s Kyle Trask, a second-round pick in 2021 who should get a long look this year. They certainly don’t have the picks to get one of the blue-chip prospects in this year’s draft, so they might have to find another Blaine Gabbert-type to be Trask’s backup or a bridge guy until 2024. If they don’t believe in Trask internally, someone like Mike White or Jacoby Brissett would be decent options in the short term. Again, that presumes they can actually make enough cap room to sign them.
In a perfect world, they’d make it a priority to re-sign cornerback Jamel Dean, who’s just 26 and a solid starting corner. But players like that can command a hefty figure on the open market, and Tampa Bay just doesn’t seem to have the money to get in on the bidding, or even use the franchise tag.
A free-agent tackle like Brandon Shell could be a solid addition for the Bucs, who need to replace Donovan Smith. He’s not a flashy signing, but a swing tackle who can run block could help salvage at least something of a rebuilding year for fans.