There’s a saying in NFL analyst circles: offseason winners are regular season losers. Or something to that effect circulates, anyway, to be forgotten as soon as the offseason starts and we can all get really excited over (potential) new additions.
Bucs fans have encountered that excitement repeatedly in the past, ever since Tampa Bay loosened the purse strings way back in 2012. In fact, they were widely named Offseason Winners in 2012 (when they signed Vincent Jackson, Eric Wright and Carl Nicks) and in 2014 (when they signed Michael Johnson, Alterraun Verner, Anthony Collins and Josh McCown, among several others).
Both of those seasons didn’t get the Bucs very far, and 2014 was an outright disaster with a 2-14 finish in Lovie Smith’s first year. But the Offseason Winner stigma stuck, to the extent that Danny Kelly still uses that term for those teams in his piece on eh....winning the NFL offseason.
That whole piece really doesn’t tell us all that much. Some teams win the NFL offseason and actually have a lot of success—the Denver Broncos when they had Peyton Manning, for instance, or the New York Giants last year. Some teams win the offseason and then disappoint—like the Bucs in 2012 and 2014.
But that does tell us one thing, something we already knew: forecasting teams’ success based on their offseason moves is impossible.
I can think of many possible reasons for that: it takes draft picks a few years to really get going, and free agents often need a season to adjust to their new team, too. Free agency is highly speculative with players cashing in at their peak and then regressing to their more normal level of performance. And teams that win the offseason often sucked the year before, so expecting them to win a bunch of games is usually going to end with disappointment anyway. Plus, injuries.
Whatever the reason, though: the offseason hype for the Bucs probably doesn’t mean much. O.J. Howard and DeSean Jackson are exciting players, sure, but odds are they’ll be more complementary players rather than transformative pieces, at least early on.
The best reason to expect the Bucs to be good this year isn’t their offseason additions. It’s their performance last year: 9-7 and inches away from a playoff spot. Now that’s something to build on.