Since entering the NFL as an expansion team in 1976 the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had plenty of ups and downs. Long periods in the wilderness have been interspersed with moments of glory with the Buccaneers winning the Super Bowl on two separate occasions.
The first of these triumphs came during the 2002 season when they blew out the Oakland Raiders 48-21. More recently, they lifted the Vince Lombardi Trophy in 2021, besting the Kansas City Chiefs 31-9 thanks to an inspirational performance by veteran quarterback Tom Brady. Going by the NFL odds shown at DraftKings at the time, the Buccaneers were not expected to win – making the triumph all the more satisfying.
These may be the two most successful teams in Buccaneers history. But they are far from the only incredible players to have passed through Tampa Bay over the years.
The question is, who should be judged to be the best ever Buccaneers players? We took a look through the history books to find out.
Widely regarded as the greatest Buc ever, Derrick Brooks is one of the best linebackers that has ever played the game. Brooks spent his entire 13-year professional career with the Buccaneers, forming part of that aforementioned Super Bowl winning roster in 2002.
During his time in Florida he also secured a long list of franchise records. He is the Bucs’ all-time leader for tackles and forced fumbles, while only one player has featured in more games.
During his heyday, Warren Sapp was one of the most dominant defensive forces in the NFL. Spending eight years in Tampa Bay before joining the team he helped defeat in the Super Bowl, the Raiders, Sapp racked up a string of personal accolades during his career. These included being named in the 1990s and 2000s NFL All-Decade Teams, winning the Defensive Player of the Year in 1999 and securing four All-Pro first team appearances.
Lee Roy Selmon
When the Buccaneers took Lee Roy Selmon as their first ever draft pick all the way back in 1976, few could have predicted the legendary career he would go on to enjoy. Although his franchise initially struggled after joining the league, Selmon’s talent was never in doubt and the defensive end would end up being inducted into both the College Football and NFL Hall of Fame.
Currently the general manager of the San Francisco 49ers, John Lynch initially made his name as a talented safety. During a decade with the Bucs he helped them to a Super Bowl victory and was five-time Pro Bowl player. He is perhaps best known for his ability to come up with clutch plays late in games. This was extremely helpful for the Buccaneers throughout the 1990s and 2000s.
There is nothing better than a one-franchise man and Ronde Barber was exactly that, remaining loyal to the Buccaneers between 1997 and 2012. Drafted in the third round he bounced back for an unsensational start to become one of the most reliable cornerbacks in the entire league. The pinnacle of his career was the 2001 season where he completed more interceptions than any other NFL player.
Simeon Rice was not with the Buccaneers for as long as some of the other players on this list, spending just five years in Tampa Bay between 2001 and 2006. However, that did not stop him making a huge impact. He currently ranks second on the franchise’s all-time sacks list with 69.5, two of which came in the Super Bowl.
Mike Evans is one of only two inclusions on our list that is still playing for the Buccaneers today. Taken as the seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft, Evans incredible form has been one of the key reasons for the franchise’s recent rise. He holds a whole host of franchise records already, including most receiving yards, most receiving touchdowns and most consecutive 1000 yards receiving seasons. Expect him to topple a few more milestones over the next few years too.
Lavonte David is also part of the Bucs’ current roster. Drafted back in 2012 he soon established himself as one of the franchises’ key defensive pieces. In Super Bowl LV, his contributions were particularly important. During the game David recorded six tackles, ensuring he secured his first ever championship ring. He is the Buccaneers ’ all-time leader in fumble recoveries and tackles for a loss, also recording the most assisted tackles in a single season back in 2015.
Doug Williams was only with the Buccaneers for five years but he was instrumental in turning them from a laughing stock into a serious NFL franchise. Not only was Williams an incredible quarterback – he registered solid passing stats and also consistently led the league in QB rushing yards – his leadership both on and off the field was invaluable. He made his team’s offense run like clockwork and also ensured locker room morale never dipped. A born leader.
James Wilder Sr.
Rounding off our list is James Wilder Sr. He was not the flashiest running back, but he was extremely effective. Wilder Sr. scrapped for every yard and it is little surprise that he remains the franchise’s all-time leader for rushing yards. His fearlessness and willingness to put in the hard graft made him a fearsome operator.