The NFL’s Pro Bowl isn’t exactly the most exciting All-Star game among the pro sports leagues. Something which might add a little excitement to it, is the idea some of the guys playing in this year’s game could be playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020.
With somewhere around $90M in projected cap space this off-season, the Bucs will certainly have money to spend if they choose to. So, let’s take a look at some of the guys who could be seeking out new contracts this spring.
Tennessee Titans QB, Ryan Tannehill
Tennessee Titans RB, Derrick Henry
Baltimore Ravens OLB, Matt Judon
New England Patriots WR, Matthew Slater
FREE-AGENT FOCUS: RAVENS OLB, MATT JUDON
Ryan Tannehill doesn’t fit the typical Bruce Arians quarterback. I don’t see any way the Tennessee Titans let Derrick Henry leave Nashville. And Matthew Slater is good for what he does with the New England Patriots, but doesn’t fill any real need for the Buccaneers.
So Matt Judon is the only guy left here, and the one most likely to leave his current franchise, the Baltimore Ravens.
Baltimore is no stranger to losing Pro Bowl caliber players, having watched C.J. Mosley and Za’Darius Smith both leave town for other teams in 2019.
Speaking to NFL.com during the build up to the Pro Bowl, Judon himself said,
“I don’t know where I’ma be at next year, man, I don’t know. It’s a lot of organizations represented out here. Baltimore got the most. I don’t know, I honestly don’t know. That’s really a decision between me, my GM and my agent.”
What we know is spotrac.com projects Judon to fetch about $16.3M in annual salary in his next contract. A heavy price tag for Tampa Bay to even consider given the fact they’re trying to secure Shaquil Barrett and have a quarterback situation to deal with.
But, if the Bucs don’t invest in Jameis Winston long-term, they could decide to pursue Judon while allowing Jason Pierre-Paul and Carl Nassib to leave in free-agency as well.
Signing a cheaper veteran than what Winston would cost, or perhaps playing with a new first-round quarterback in 2020, would be easier to do with Barrett and Judon teaming up with Lavonte David and Devin White in the middle of their defense.
Just a thought. Not a prediction.
Atlanta Falcons TE, Austin Hooper
New Orleans Saints QB, Drew Brees
Minnesota Vikings FB, C.J. Ham
Tampa Bay Buccaneers OLB, Shaquil Barrett
FREE-AGENT FOCUS: BUCCANEERS OLB, SHAQ BARRETT
Bruce Arians said in December Shaquil Barrett wouldn’t be going anywhere. Which is great. However, Barrett isn’t under contract for 2020, and the team hasn’t stated publicly they’ll be using the franchise tag on their prized free-agent find from 2019.
I firmly believe the team will have to use their franchise tag on Barrett to keep him off the open market, and then spend the remainder of the off-season negotiating a multi-year deal.
However, they could also chose to have Barrett play under the one-year tag, and see how the landscape looks entering 2021. Either way, like Arians said, Barrett is a Buc in 2020.
So, why are we watching him? Well, the short answer is, because he’s the only member of the Buccaneers playing in Orlando this weekend after Mike Evans and Chris Godwin both had to bow out due to hamstring injuries.
Amari Cooper is too expensive to play third receiver in Tampa Bay. Austin Hooper fills a need the Bucs don’t have. And Vita Vea is a solid fullback for the Buccaneers on the rare occasion they decide to use one.
The only other NFC candidate is Drew Brees, and while it’s not completely certain he’s returning to New Orleans (he is) it’s highly unlikely he’ll go to Tampa Bay if he leaves (which he’s not).
Are there any other guys on this list you want the Buccaneers to pursue, who you feel may actually become available? Let us know your thoughts, in the comments!