With the departure of Tom Brady, a QB room with Kyle Trask and a tumbleweed blowing through, and a cap situation tighter than a beltline after Thanksgiving, it was well known that the Bucs were going to face a challenge to repeat as NFC South division champions this fall.
The Bucs did manage to secure a serviceable quarterback this offseason in Baker Mayfield, re-signed key defenders Lavonte David and Jamel Dean, and added some promising young players in the draft to help fortify both sides of the line of scrimmage.
However, for NBC Sports’ Peter King, that apparently wasn’t nearly enough to keep the Bucs from being almost literally at the bottom of his power rankings.
King has the Bucs at #31, at the very bottom of the tier of teams he has under the category “under construction”. His sole comment on the team: “Well, the Super Bowl was still worth it.”
He places them 5 spots below Indianapolis, who he notes as needing to improve what he calls an “atrocious D that allowed 36.6 points per game after Dec. 1”. The Colts are also riding with the huge question mark that is Anthony Richardson at quarterback.
The Bucs also sit below the Bears, who finished with the worst record in the league, and the hapless Texans, who will also be riding a rookie QB while implementing a new system with a new head coach in DeMeco Ryans.
It’s almost like King forgot that the Bucs still have largely the same pieces in place from a team that won a division title last year. Sure, yes, Brady – the straw that stirred the drink – is gone. That’s undoubtedly a big loss, and one that can’t be walked back easily. But this team is going to undoubtedly have a new identity this fall. It will have an improved offensive line with the return of Ryan Jensen and a number of quality candidates to fill the guard spots, including rookie Cody Mauch. And Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Russell Gage are still among the best top-three WR options in the game. The defense – which was the 13th-ranked scoring defense in 2022 – is also largely intact, with Sean Murphy-Bunting being the biggest loss. With that many positives, it makes little sense to list the Bucs one step above the cellar.
If nothing else, it will provide some very interesting bulletin board materials for the locker room at One Buc Place.
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