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ESPN rates Buccaneers’ offseason as “too soon to tell”

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Rather than making a major splash this offseason, Tampa Bay made calculated moves to fill out the roster under its new coaching staff.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Minicamp Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Buccaneers have “won” the offseason plenty of times in the past only to fall flat when the season actually rolls around. So, evaluating or grading offseasons as a whole before a down of football is played doesn’t have all that much meaning behind it.

Regardless, ESPN went ahead and rated all 32 teams on their respective offseasons, placing teams into four categories:

  • Elite
  • Above Average
  • Average
  • Too soon to tell

ESPN NFL Nation’s Jenna Laine placed the Bucs under the “too soon to tell” category. Here’s what she had to say under the “offseason goals” section for Tampa Bay:

Restore a winning mentality for a Bucs team that has had double-digit losses in seven of the past 10 seasons. New coach Bruce Arians will try to solidify quarterback Jameis Winston as the leader of the offense, set him up to take the next step in a crucial Year 5 and improve a defense that has surrendered a 72.5% completion percentage to opposing quarterbacks last year and 68.4% over the past five seasons.

The Bucs have been trying to restore a “winning mentality” for over a decade, but it truly doesn’t feel far away with Bruce Arians and his star-studded staff in town. Hype got built up around the coaches before Arians, of course. The return of Lovie Smith was supposed to be a big deal, then Dirk Koetter’s attitude was supposed to turn everything around. Yet, here Tampa Bay is, needing Arians to do what he was able to do in Arizona. The Bucs need him to take Jameis Winston to another level and they need Todd Bowles to transform the defense into one that can compete and keep the offense in games week in and week out.

As far as restoring a mentality in Tampa, you can say the end result of that goal still remains to be seen. We’ll likely find out for real in a few months. But as far as the offseason goes, the Bucs went a more subdued route this year. They re-signed Donovan Smith, Ryan Griffin and Peyton Barber. The additions of Breshad Perriman, Deone Bucannon, Shaquil Barrett, Earl Watford and Bradley Pinion came in free agency. DeSean Jackson was traded, while Adam Humphries and Kwon Alexander signed on elsewhere. The draft haul included Devin White, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Jamel Dean and Mike Edwards.

None of those moves really scream “splash” as opposed to some of the moves Tampa Bay went with in past offseasons (signing DeSean Jackson, trading for Jason Pierre-Paul, etc.). The biggest “splash” this year was the recent signing of Ndamukong Suh, though it’s less of a splash than it probably would’ve been a few years ago.

Instead, Jason Licht and his staff brought in players that were already familiar with Arians, Bowles and the staff. He brought in guys that can probably be looked at more as “role players” than stars, but those guys can still be expected to produce and will still help make or break the team’s 2019 season. This offseason was different than past years, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing when you consider what those busy offseasons usually led to.

As far as the biggest question remaining for the Bucs as of now, Laine had this to say:

Jason Pierre-Paul contributed one-third of the defense’s sacks last season (32.9%) and nearly half of its defensive pressures (43.8%), according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Best-case scenario for his neck fracture is five to six months of recovery, and that’s if he is able to return at all this season. Can outside linebackers Shaquil Barrett and Noah Spence and DE Carl Nassib step up to fill that void along with first-round LB Devin White?

This is definitely one of the bigger questions facing the team right now, considering Pierre-Paul was probably a major factor in plans for the defense in 2019. How the defense fares without its 2018 sack leader and overall leader in the locker room will be something worth watching early in the season.

Pierre-Paul’s absence obviously isn’t the only question hanging over the Bucs right now. For one, Jameis Winston’s future still isn’t overly secure, so there’s a lot riding on his upcoming season. The backfield is somewhat of a question mark, due in large part to the right side of the offensive line still being a significant concern. Plus, as much praise as the young secondary got coming out of OTAs and minicamp, we still haven’t seen these guys produce in game action quite yet.

So, yeah. While most offseasons should probably fall under “too soon to tell,” it’s fair to think that Tampa Bay’s is one of the more firmly-entrenched in that category.

For what it’s worth, the Browns were the only team to fall under the “Elite” offseason category, while 10 teams fell under “Above Average,” six were marked “Average” and the remaining 15 teams were considered “Too soon to tell.” As far as the Bucs’ NFC South rivals are concerned, the Saints were “Above Average” and the Falcons and Panthers were lumped in with the Bucs.

What’re your thoughts on the offseason, Bucs fans? Rather than going with ESPN’s categories, go ahead and give your overall grade in the poll below:

Poll

Which letter grade would you assign to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 2019 offseason?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    A
    (19 votes)
  • 55%
    B
    (147 votes)
  • 30%
    C
    (82 votes)
  • 4%
    D
    (13 votes)
  • 2%
    F
    (6 votes)
267 votes total Vote Now