The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' hopes of repeating as Super Bowl champions were dashed on Sunday as the Los Angeles Rams were able to eliminate them in the divisional round and advance to the NFC Championship Game. Now Tampa Bay is looking into the abyss of what has the potential of being a seismic offseason for the franchise on a number of different levels.
Of course, the main goal over the next few months for head coach Bruce Arians and GM Jason Licht will be to get the club back to where it was a season ago -- hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. Below, we'll highlight a number of things the Bucs should have on their offseason to-do list that could have them back in contention for the 2022 season.
1. Address the QB situation
With all the rumors surrounding Tom Brady possibly retiring this offseason, the quarterback position should be priority No. 1 for the Buccaneers over the next few months. A decision by Brady coming down sooner rather than later will help the team sculpt itself better for 2022. If he decides to stay, the team could move money around and look to bring the band back for another year to see if it can get back up the mountain. If Brady retires, however, that sends the organization down a completely different path. It could look to completely rebuild with a young quarterback via the draft or could try to find a veteran to carry the baton from Brady.
Arians noted on Monday that he'd be comfortable if they stuck in-house to replace Brady, but also said: "You never know what's behind Door No. 2. We kind of went down that road two years ago and there was Tom Brady. We'll have to wait and see."
Naturally, this needs to be the first domino to fall for Tampa Bay.
2. Re-sign Godwin or add another receiver
It was pretty apparent after the wide receiver went down with a torn ACL that Chris Godwin was the engine that made this Buccaneers offense move. Despite playing in 14 games, the 25-year-old was still able to lead the team in receiving yards and receptions to go along with five touchdowns. His 55 first-down receptions were also second on the team, trailing Mike Evans -- who played 16 games -- by just one.
Godwin is now set to hit unrestricted free agency this offseason. While the ACL injury may put a small dent in his market, he should still be a highly sought after piece. For the Bucs, if they are looking to bring Brady -- or another veteran quarterback -- back for the 2022 season, having someone like him for the second half of the year and beyond could prove to be a difference-maker.
If Godwin decides to go elsewhere, finding another legit receiver -- of which there are a few on the market this year -- needs to be high on the Bucs list.
3. Manage other free agents
The Buccaneers currently have 25 veterans who are looking at unrestricted free agency. We already touched on Godwin, but there are a number of key offensive players set to hit the open market as well: Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones, Rob Gronkowski, Ryan Jensen, and Alex Cappa. Defensively, Carlton Davis, Jordan Whitehead, William Gholston, Ndamukong Suh, and Jason Pierre-Paul could also be heading out the door as well.
According to Spotrac, Tampa Bay is projected to have around $22.4 million in cap space this offseason, which is essentially right in the middle of the league. Again, a lot depends on the quarterback situation. If Brady's back for 2022, that likely means he'll want Gronkowski in the fold as well. Naturally, the keeping starters along the O-line like Jensen and Cappa could become priorities as well.
For Jason Licht, he'll need to manage all of these free agents and trim the fat where he's able to. It's possible that some of that work will be done for him (Gronk, Suh and Pierre-Paul all possibly retiring). Regardless, his team will need to go through the balancing act of keeping some championship pieces from that 2020 squad around, while also injecting his roster with new blood.
4. Get younger along the defensive line
Continuing off of item No. 3, the defensive line is where the Buccaneers could look to let some free agents walk and addressing the position partially on the open market at a cheaper rate along with the NFL Draft. Suh (35 years old), Gholston (30), Steve McLendon (36), and Pierre-Paul (33) are all looking at free agency this offseason.
That's a pretty old collection of talent that the Buccaneers should think twice about retaining for 2022 and possibly even beyond. Tampa Bay could look to inject younger/cheaper talent via the draft and retool the defensive line to line up on a similar track to Vita Vea (26) and others in the front seven. Joe Tryon-Shoyinka -- the Bucs 2021 first-round pick -- could slot in to fill the shoes of Pierre-Paul, but the defensive tackle spots should be an area of focus for Tampa early in the draft.