The Tampa Bay Buccaneers season is essentially over following their 27-20 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. While the Bucs are far from mathematically eliminated, sitting only one game out of first place in the NFC South, they feel lightyears away from being a playoff team. Tampa Bay has now lost six of their last seven games and there seems to be no end to this spiral in sight.
There will be plenty of time this offseason to talk about draft prospects and who the next head coach should be. However, there is a bigger conversation that we can have now regarding the Bucs future. The would be regarding the building blocks that are currently on the roster.
The foundation of the next wave of Buccaneers football is already on the roster. Identifying and keeping those key pieces will set this team up for success down the line. This is similar to how we viewed the likes of Lavonte David, Mike Evans and William Gholston when the team was rebuilding with Jameis Winston.
Fortunately, the Bucs appear to have a lot more talent to build around now than they did back then. Here are the players that the team can and should build around moving forward.
It is important for any team to be strong in the trenches. This is actually a bright spot for the Buccaneers regarding their young core. Both offensively and defensively, the Bucs have very good tackle play.
On offense they are headlined by All Pro Tristian Wirfs. After dominating at right tackle for the first few years of his career, he made the switch to left tackle this season and hasn’t missed a beat. Replacing him on the right side has been Luke Goedeke, who has been one of the biggest surprises in the league this year. These two combine for one of the best offensive tackle pairings in the entire NFL.
It’s also worth mentioning a guy who played tackle last year in rookie guard Cody Mauch. He has plugged into the right guard spot this season and the transition has gone much better than I would have expected. He still has a lot to prove, but the early returns are extremely promising.
On the defensive side they are led by star nose tackle Vita Vea. While at 28 years old he might not be considered young by NFL standards, he still has plenty of good football left ahead of him. Next to him is one of the youngest players in the league in rookie Calijah Kancey. He has 3.0 sacks and 8 tackles for loss in just 8 games.
The cupboard certainly isn’t bare in this department. However, with Mike Evans as a pending free agent and a 30 year old wide receiver, it’s hard to think of him as a long term piece. As much as I hate to say it, he probably won’t be around for the next Buccaneers championship.
Fortunately, there are several guys on this roster who could be. The most important one of that group is Chris Godwin. At 27 years old, Godwin is in the prime of his career and could have another half decade of very productive football ahead of him.
There are also a pair of secondary playmakers who can be good roleplayers moving forward. One is Cade Otton who makes for a good pass catching tight end and would be a very good second option at the position. The other is Rachaad White who is a gritty runner and an excellent pass catcher.
This core of playmakers gives the Bucs a foundation to build on as they continue to revamp their offense moving forward.
Star in the Secondary
There are a few interesting pieces in the secondary to work with. Cornerbacks Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean are both under contract and are one of the better duos in the league. However, with a new coaching staff it isn’t clear what type of defense this team will run moving forward. And with those two both being man coverage specialists, it’s unclear what their long term future will be.
One thing that is clear is that safety Antoine Winfield Jr is a star. He is a versatile player who can do it all in the run game and in coverage. He is young and one of the best players at his position and the Bucs should do everything they can to keep him under contract long term.
The Buccaneers kicking situation might be as strong as it has ever been. They have a big leg kicker in Chase McLaughlin and a big leg punter in Jake Camarda. Both are accurate and relatively young. Sign both to long term extensions and keep the special teams situation strong long term.
On the edge, the Bucs have a pair of pass rushers who could turn out to be something of value. Joe Tryon-Shoyinka and Yaya Diaby are very different styles of pass rusher, but both have proven to be disruptive at times.
They also bring elements to the run defense and even in pass coverage. I’m not sure either is the answer as to who the Bucs’ star pass rusher will be moving forward, but both bring value on the edge.