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Who could be the five or six free agents the Buccaneers bring back?

A second run at a title could hinge on who they can squeeze in under the cap.

NFL: FEB 07 Super Bowl LV - Chiefs v Buccaneers
Lots of questions hover over the Buccaneers roster and three big names are in this photo alone.
Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians has been making his rounds since the team’s Super Bowl victory talking about what’s next for the organization. Aside from trying to make it to the big game again next season, the topic of retaining most of the roster has been brought up several times.

Arians initially said he felt very confident the roster would remain intact, but just recently stated in separate interviews locally on 95.3 WDAE and also nationally on CBS Sports Radio that if they just get five or six guys back they’d have a good chance at repeating. More specifically, on WDAE he referenced the accountability factor being key for him.

The latter certainly makes it seem all that much more important to bring back most of their top free agents in an effort to also move forward with continuity and that accountability Arians likes. Those that were big factors in their Super Bowl run would most likely be a priority, but that means it’s almost all of their big name free agents they’d have to bring back and that’s not realistic.

So who could these five or six players be that Arians speaks of? Edge rusher Shaquil Barrett has shared thoughts on returning but he’s ready to “break the bank” when it comes to making money this season, wide receiver Chris Godwin can be tagged but that would eat up a bulk of their cap, and linebacker Lavonte David may be valued much higher elsewhere. Those are three names that could be listed as a Tier 1 category of sorts.

Then you have guys like tight end Rob Gronkowski who has said he’s definitely returning and would only play with Tom Brady, veteran defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh has said he’s already decided on making a return to Tampa Bay, wide receiver Antonio Brown who he and the Buccaneers both want him back in pewter, and running back Leonard Fournette who just may have played his way out a new contract with the Bucs. Perhaps this can be their Tier 2.

The NFL has informed teams of the salary cap floor for the 2021 season pending television and futures deals. The reported $180 million figure is all we have to work with currently, which may not increase much anyhow. With that said, at the time of this writing, the NFLPA has the Bucs sitting at a little over $162 million in contracts that count towards the cap while ESPN is looking to be projecting the Bucs to have around $30 million of cap space. If we take the NFLPA numbers and ESPN’s estimate, are we safe to assume that Tampa Bay could have a final cap number anywhere from $18 million to $30 million to spend?

Keeping any of those big names would be a challenge regardless of what their final cap space number will be. Barrett and Fournette are most likely gone, which would leave Godwin and David as the biggest paid names they bring back. That would leave Gronkowski, Suh, and maybe Brown who can return.

Or, we can see Godwin and David walk while Barrett, Suh, Brown, and Gronkowski return. Fournette still remains a wild card but could return under that scenario depending on his demands.

Then of course you have the ever important kicking game. Kicker Ryan Succop played a crucial role in the Buccaneers success in 2020. He, too, should be prioritized.

Tampa Bay has always worked magic with the salary cap under Jason Licht’s staff and there are so many different ways they can fit the contracts into their budget. We just have to wait and see which five or six guys they can bring back.