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Rebuild for the Bucs? Not so fast

While some believe a full on rebuild is in store, fans should maybe pump the brakes a little

NFL: JAN 23 NFC Divisional Round - Rams at Buccaneers Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Buccaneers face an offseason with a ton of questions and with that, a lot of fans and media are speculating that the Bucs will be entering a rebuild if Tom Brady were to either retire or sign elsewhere.

Not so fast.

Now, people have different definitions of a rebuild, some realistic, some not so much. When I hear the word rebuild I think trading away pieces for future assets and letting older players walk in free agency.

The Bucs aren’t going to be doing that this offseason.

If Brady does not return, Tampa Bay’s championship window does indeed close... for now. There is still a ton of talent on this team and Brady is the only offensive starter that is not under contract for 2023. That means that whoever the quarterback is, he will be walking into a situation with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin as his top receiving options. Assuming Russell Gage is still on the team, he could also be a nice piece for the offense. The offensive line may naturally improve with Ryan Jensen being 100% healthy. Assuming left tackle Donovan Smith returns, him having a bounce back year could prove massive for the line and could result in them getting back to the level of play that they had in 2020 and 2021.

The Bucs offense also has some young pieces that are still developing but have shown promise with the likes of Rachaad White and Cade Otton. Both players figure to have a bigger role in the offense in 2023. Despite the potential change at quarterback, this offense could still be ready to roll.

On defense, there are a lot more questions because there are a lot more free agents. Names such as Lavonte David, Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Mike Edwards, Akiem Hicks, Logan Ryan, Anthony Nelson and Will Gholston are all scheduled to hit the open market in March. The Bucs will be able to bring back some of the guys like David and potentially one of Murphy-Bunting or Dean as well as maybe Edwards if those players wish to return but they will also need to replace some of the main stays on the team the last few years.

The core though is still mostly in place. Carlton Davis, Vita Vea, Antoine Winfield Jr, Devin White, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka and Shaq Barrett are still under contract. There are certainly questions surrounding some of those names, but you should still be able to build a solid defense around those players. Another year of development may be huge for Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, who would have had double digit sacks if he was able to wrap up the quarterback. A similar thing could be said for Bucs second round pick in 2022 Logan Hall. His development could really help the team, even though they will still have holes to fill.

Carolina Panthers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bucs’ Antoine Winfield Jr and Devin White
Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

They have pretty much all of their draft picks besides their fourth round selection which was used to trade up for Zyon McCollum last year. They can add a legit contributor with the 19th overall pick no matter what side of the ball it is on.

Another reason there will be no rebuild in Tampa? The NFC South still seems ripe for the taking with major questions surrounding the Saints as well as the Panthers and Falcons both trying to build things up. Eight wins was enough to win the division in 2022. Who’s to say it won’t be the same case in 2023?

The final reason? Jason Licht and Todd Bowles likely would not survive a rebuild. 2023 is a pivotal year for both guys. Do they need to make the playoffs and have a deep playoff run if Brady isn’t back? Probably not but that doesn’t mean the Glazers will be pleased with three or four wins either. Licht and Bowles aren’t going to damage the future to help the present, but they also are going to want to be competitive.

So for all the fans and media penciling the Buccaneers in for a top 10 pick in 2024, I would hold off on that for now as there is a lot that can happen between now and then, but if you ask the ones in charge over at Advent Health Training Center, I don’t think they plan to go back to the dwellar of the division anytime soon.