The Tampa Bay Buccaneers repeatedly stated that they wouldn't be going after big names in free agency. They mostly stuck to their word this year, but they still spent significant amounts of cash in free agency. With the numbers we have now, the Bucs probably spent about $32 million of their $58 million in 2016 cap space. That's quite a lot of cash for a team that supposedly wasn't going to be all that active.
The Bucs used free agency to address all of their needs: they re-signed a running back and a safety and added a guard, cornerback and defensive end. They bolstered both their offense and their defense, theoretically leaving themselves open to selecting the best player in the draft, mostly regardless of position. So let's take a look at what they did, exactly.
Buccaneers 2016 free agency
RB Doug Martin (re-signed)
Contract: five years, $35.75 million, $15 million guaranteed.
The Bucs made it a priority to re-sign their leading rusher, and they managed to do so in a market that was strangely friendly to running backs. Martin's only slightly more expensive than Chris Ivory, who signed a five-year, $32 million contract with $10 million guaranteed with the Jaguars. Martin has been far more productive than Ivory, so it feels like the Bucs got a steal. Martin will be asked to carry the Bucs' running game, providing some reliable first downs while Jameis Winston tries for the big plays down the field.
G J.R. Sweezy (Seattle Seahawks)
Contract: five years, $32.5 million, $14.5 million guaranteed.
The Bucs wanted to find a replacement for Logan Mankins, and they did. Sweezy will start at left guard, though third-year lineman Kevin Pamphile may push for some playing time. The question is whether Sweezy is reliable. NFL teams seem to love him: there was plenty of competition for his services, and Seahawks OL coach Tom Cable thinks the world of him. But outside analysts like Pro Football Focus think he's too weak in pass protection, and his highlight-reel blocks don't make up for his whiffs.
CB Brent Grimes (Miami Dolphins)
Contract: Two years, $13.5 million.
The Bucs needed secondary help, and they turned to an old acquaintance. Grimes not only repeatedly victimized Tampa Bay when he played for the Atlanta Falcons, he did so while playing for Mike Smith. The latter is now the Bucs' defensive coordinator, and probably played a big role in getting Grimes to come to Tampa. Grimes' presence shouldn't preclude the Bucs from drafting a cornerback high in the draft, giving his age (33) and the team's lack of depth.
DE Robert Ayers (New York Giants)
Contract: Three years, $21 million, $10.5 million guaranteed.
Ayers should start at left defensive end this year, and can play both on the edge and on the inside on passing downs. He's a late bloomer, his 9.5 sacks in 2015 a career-high at 30 years old. He should bring some much-needed veteran production to Tampa Bay's defensive line, but they're likely to add another edge rusher in the draft as well.
S Chris Conte (re-signed)
Contract: One year.
Conte had a solid season last year, and the Bucs hope that wasn't just because he was playing under Lovie Smith -- the only coach to have gotten Conte to play remotely adequate football in the NFL. The Bucs now have four adequate safeties, but no difference makers. There's a good chance they try to address that problem at some point in the draft.