The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had an extremely busy offseason thus far. From re-signings, restructures and small depth signings, the team has brought back both all of their starters and key depth.
It doesn’t stop there, either. There is plenty of competition on the back end of the roster and special teams. The pieces that are the 2021 roster puzzle are coming together after free agency and the draft.
Only five spots remain on the 90-man offseason roster. With rookie minicamp in less than a week, there may be a few tryout players that catch the team’s eye and round out the roster. The Buccaneers could also look to post-June 1st cuts when the time rolls around, as well. And of course, more guys can be added once final cuts happen at the end of the offseason.
With all that being said let’s take a look at where the offensive side of the roster currently stands.
Quarterback (4): Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Griffin, Kyle Trask*
The Rundown: Brady and Trask are firmly cemented on the roster. The battle between Gabbert and Griffin, if you can call it that, is the only thing to monitor in camp. Judging by the contract given to Gabbert and Licht’s comments on him as well, it’s fair to say the backup job is his to lose. If the practice squad rules remain the same as last season, Griffin could find himself on practice squad.
Running Back (5): Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones II, Giovani Bernard, Ke’Shawn Vaughn, C.J. Prosise
The Rundown: With Leonard Fournette back in the fold, the running back group returns its top two backs from the 2020 season. Giovani Bernard adds an extra weapon in the passing game and a valuable pass blocker. Vaughn will fight for snaps this year but needs to make the most of them, obviously. Prosise is nothing more than a camp body and potential practice squad candidate. There could be an addition before camp, whether an undrafted free agent or low-cost veteran to keep legs fresh in camp.
Wide Receiver (13): Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Scotty Miller, Tyler Johnson, Jaelon Darden*, Justin Watson, Jaydon Mickens, Travis Jonsen, Cyril Grayson, Josh Pearson, T.J. Simmons*, John Franklin
The Rundown: This is the most loaded group on the roster. Evans still managed 1,000 yards while dealing with injury almost the entire season in 2020. Godwin is on the franchise tag and looks to bounce back after multiple injuries in 2020. AB was brought back and is another weapon and added insurance if Evans or Godwin miss time with injuries. Miller looks to build upon a strong 2020 campaign which saw him lead the team in yardage at the mid-way point of the season. And Johnson should continue to see snaps in his development.
Darden is the team’s fourth-round pick. He brings a much different element than what the rest of the receivers provide. He should also be able to help on special teams. Watson and Mickens main contributions were on special teams last year. They likely face an uphill battle to remain on the Buccaneers roster.
While Jason Licht recently said he is excited to see Jonsen’s development, he may have to watch Jonsen on the practice squad thanks to a deep receiver room. Franklin has been a project that hasn’t been able to stay healthy and Grayson has been on and off the roster for the better half of two seasons. Simmons and Pearson are most likely camp bodies.
Tight End (5): Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate, Tanner Hudson, Codey McElroy
The Rundown: The Buccaneers have a lot of money invested into this group. Gronk is back for another year and saw his play elevate as the season wore on. Culminating in a two “tuddy’ performance in the Super Bowl. Brate was sharp when Howard went down with an injury and had a great final stretch of the season into the playoffs. He also took yet another pay cut to stick around another year.
The biggest question mark is Howard and his health. Set to make $6 million this season he has yet to put together a full 16 game season. He has shown flashes of the ability that made him a first round pick but health has been a major concern. IF he can stay on the field, it adds another dimension to a potent offensive attack. Hudson has been on and off the roster and looks like a likely practice squad candidate again. McElroy will compete with Hudson, but that’s about it.
Tackle (5): Donovan Smith, Tristan Wirfs, Josh Wells, Brad Seaton, Calvin Ashley*(G)
The Rundown: Smith and Wirfs are firmly locked in as starters for this team. Smith really picked up his play after the bye week and was rewarded with a three-year contract extension. While Wirfs was an absolute beast as a rookie. Stepping in at right tackle Wirfs started every game allowing just one sack. Wells was the main back up last year and performed well when called upon but will face competition from Seaton, who opted out of the 2020 season. Ashley, an undrafted free agent could land a job on the practice squad.
Guard (7): Ali Marpet, Alex Cappa, Aaron Stinnie, Robert Hainsey*(G/C), John Molchon, Nick Leverett, Sadarius Hutcherson*(C)
The Rundown: Marpet was on an All-Pro trajectory before a concussion derailed part of his season. When he returned, he didn’t miss a beat and helped anchor an offensive line that became a strength of the team. Cappa at one point led fan voting for the Pro Bowl and has shown tremendous improvement each year. Unfortunately, he fractured his ankle in the playoff game against the Football Team and missed the rest of the playoffs. In a contract year, Cappa should be ready to return when the season starts.
Stinnie played very well in Cappa’s stead. Churning out impressive performances against the Saints, Packers and Chiefs, Stinnie has cemented himself as the team’s top interior back up. The Buccaneers drafted Hainsey in the third round and has versatility to play all three interior positions as well as right tackle. He has plenty of time to develop his game and could replace Cappa or Ryan Jensen after this year.
Molchon and Leverett joined the Buccaneers as an undrafted free agents in 2020 and spent the season on the practice squad. With the addition of Hainsey they will be fighting for potentially the final spot on the roster. Hutcherson, this year’s undrafted free agent addition, got one of the higher guarantees and bonuses and could push both Molchon and Leverett for the final spot on the roster. Especially if he can learn how to snap.
Center (2): Ryan Jensen, Donnell Stanley
The Rundown: Jensen returns as the starting center in a contract year and is coming off his best year in Tampa Bay. He was able to maintain his aggressive mean streak while cutting down on the penalties and has been one of the most consistent performers on the offensive line. Behind Jensen the depth is just not there. They signed Stanley as a free agent in February, but he has no NFL experience as pro. While other players on the roster may have some flexibility to play center, they could still choose to add a veteran or true back up center at some point in the offseason as they did with A.Q. Shipley last year.