It has been a long year for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It was a season full of underachievement and disappointment. Unfortunately, things will only get more difficult going into next season.
The Bucs have several key free agents this offseason. This includes stars like Lavonte David, Jamel Dean and, of course, Tom Brady. What makes this difficult is that the Bucs are projected to be well over the cap as of now and can’t afford to bring everybody back.
This means that key contributors to the Buccaneers success will be leaving in free agency. Guys like Mike Edwards, William Gholston and Akiem Hicks could very well be gone next season. In short, the Bucs are going to have a lot of holes in their roster.
It is looking so bad at this point that the word rebuild has even been tossed around. However, this might be premature. There’s a good chance that the Bucs could use a retool as opposed to a full rebuild. Here’s what I mean exactly.
What’s The Difference?
A rebuild is basically starting from scratch. It involves trading away key players for future draft capital. This is done when a player’s career timeline doesn’t line up with the team’s timeline for success.
Oftentimes, this is done with players who are coming out of their prime and only have a few good years left. Players in their early 30’s are often the type of players in this conversation. However, the Buccaneers don’t have many players who would fall into this category.
What might suit this team better is a retool. What I mean by that is letting the aging veterans walk away and replace them with up and coming young talent. This would mean saying goodbye to the Julio Jones and Keanu Neal type players on the roster.
However, to acquire the young talent that can help this team retool it will likely mean a down year next season. Getting high draft picks to bring in some of the best players in college football will make this team better quickly. That is the ultimate goal for a retool.
With many of the Buccaneers best players still in their mid and early 20’s this pathway makes sense. Supplementing what the Buccaneers have returning with young stars can get this team back to the playoffs after a year or two. This is a much faster turnaround than a full rebuild.
Why A Retool Is The Right Path
In some aspects, the Buccaneers are an older team. Many veterans joined this roster in an attempt to win a championship late in their career. However, most of the core group is still in their prime.
When you think of the Bucs’ foundational players you might think of guys like Tristian Wirfs, Devin White, Vita Vea, Antoine Winfield Jr, Mike Evans or Chris Godwin. That is a strong core to build on and all of those guys are under 30 years old. So strong that it seems more than possible to turn this team around quickly.
In fact, what the Buccaneers have in place is probably too good to effectively tank and rebuild. This group, even if surrounded by average talent and coaching, should push to win the NFC South again. This is another reason why the team should stay the course and supplement this group with a few young pieces.
Trading away or wasting the prime years of this many good players is not ideal. General manager Jason Licht must bring in the right guys to help capitalize on this core and get this franchise back on track as soon as possible. The other option is resetting and completely starting over.
Have The Buccaneers Already Been Planning For This?
A good general manager has the ability to keep his focus on the current season while also keeping one eye on the future. This allows a team to be prepared for certain losses due to free agency or retirement. Jason Licht is a good general manager.
The Buccaneers have really already begun their retool. This process started last year in the NFL draft. After trading back to acquire future assets, Licht drafted a pair of developmental players in the second round who could eventually become quality starters.
Logan Hall was an undersized defensive tackle out of Houston. He was more of an athlete than a technician coming out of college and everyone knew it would take a season of development to begin to reach his potential. He has now had that season to add weight and learn the finer points of the game and should be expected to replace William Gholston as a starter on the defensive line.
The same was true of Luke Goedeke. As an offensive tackle out of Central Michigan University there was no question that he needed time to adjust to the NFL. Especially considering that Goedeke would be changing positions and moving to guard. He has now had that time and is expected to play at a high level for the Bucs.
Licht has done the groundwork to replace two starters already, although Marpet retiring last year accelerated the timeline for Goedeke. Now he has an even taller task of replacing the next wave. And make no mistake, it’s a lot harder to develop a quarterback in the NFL than it was to develop an offensive or defensive lineman.
This process has already begun, but there is still plenty of work to be done.