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Will the Buccaneers lose Cameron Brate in free agency?

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The Bucs tight end is a restricted free agent next year.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Buffalo Bills Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

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Bleacher Report listed the ideal free agent addition for every team. The Bucs’ choice is pretty obvious: cornerback Trumaine Johnson. The Bucs will probably need cornerback help, especially if Brent Grimes leaves and/or retires, so he’d be a good choice.

More worrying, though, is the other time the Bucs are mentioned: with tight end Cameron Brate, who’s a restricted free agent next year and who Bleacher Report has moving to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

A player they could target in free agency is Cameron Brate of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With the team's selection of O.J. Howard in the first round in 2017, it's unlikely the Bucs will be able to keep Brate. But he has been highly productive for the Buccaneers over the past two seasons, catching 12 touchdowns in his last 20 games. Brate isn't a dominating blocker by any means, but he's a good enough player in the passing game to make up for that weakness.

It would be pretty disappointing if Cameron Brate left in free agency. He’s been a very productive and reliable receiving tight end, who’s gotten better as a blocker, too. He’d be the perfect compliment to O.J. Howard, who can be the in-line deep threat to Brate’s move-around, short-to-intermediate option.

But we also have to be realistic, and Brate may get better money and opportunity elsewhere. The Bucs need to extend Mike Evans’ contract, are paying DeSean Jackson a pretty penny, and just spent a first-round pick on O.J. Howard. They could afford to keep Brate, but he would never be a number one or even a number two target, nor would he get top-notch money.

That doesn’t mean Brate will leave, of course. He has tremendous chemistry with Jameis Winston, and while he may be promised a bigger role elsewhere, he knows what he’ll get in Tampa—and he’ll be played decent money, too.

Most importantly, Brate is set to be a restricted free agent. That means the Bucs will put a tender and contract on him to keep him in Tampa. That’ll give them the right to match any contract another team offers him. If they put a first-round tender on him, they’d get a first-round pick if he leaves too—though that would mean paying him more, too.

The Bucs may have to step up their offer beyond what they’re comfortable paying to keep Brate, then. Restricted free agency makes that a limited and predictable problem—they won’t have to pay top-of-the-market money unless they put the cheapest tener on him. But recent history also suggests the Bucs are rarely willing to pay more than they want to for any player.