Dedications, News, Franchise Tag, Released, Re-Signed, UFA, RFA
The Buccaneers used their franchise tag for the third straight offseason, with Godwin getting it for the second time after switching to Shaquil Barrett in 2020. Prior to this current run, the franchise had never used a franchise tag in the during consecutive seasons. For the first time in the past three years, however, the franchise tag has led directly to a new long-term deal in the same offseason. On March 21, the team announced that Godwin had signed a three-year contract for the 2024 season.
A year ago, in addition to placing the franchise tag on Godwin, the Buccaneers also set up new deals for potential UFAs Lavonte David and Shaquil Barrett on or before the launch of free agency. This time around, the first couple signings were for an offensive line that was in danger of losing up to three of its starters in 2021. That made the return of Stinnie, a valued reserve who could play a bigger role in 2022 a priority and he made a deal the weekend before free agency.
Next up was Ryan Jensen, the team’s starting center and emotional lightning rod on the pitch. Jensen is fresh off his first Pro Bowl campaign, which came at the end of the fourth and final year of his initial UFA contract with the Buccaneers. That 2018 deal provided such good returns that the Buccaneers gave Jensen another three-year contract on Monday. With Pro Bowl left guard Ali Marpet retiring and the Bucs’ other starting guard cashing in on the open market (see below), it was very important to maintain some continuity between tackles Donovan Smith and Tristan Wirfs.
The Bucs weren’t done. If Jensen was “a top priority” for the Buccaneers in free agency, as Licht said on Monday, Davis wasn’t far behind. The 2018 second-round pick, still just 25 and at the peak of his career, surely would have had plenty of teams interested in him if he made it to the open market, but he opted to stay in Tampa with a new three-year contract, signed the day before the start of free agency. Davis has led the NFL the past three seasons with 48 passes defended despite missing 11 games over that span.
With Brady back and the offensive line looking strong despite some transition, the logical decision was to bring back Fournette, assuming he wanted to stay in red and pewter. Fournette was a massive offensive force for the Bucs in their 2020 playoff run to the Super Bowl title, and he followed that up by taking over the backfield leader position in 2021 and getting good numbers as a runner and pass receiver, not to mention scoring 10 touchdowns. The Bucs officially announced his return on Wednesday, March 23.
Defensive lineman Will Gholston then opted to return for a 10th season with the only NFL team he has known so far. The second-longest-serving starting player on the Tampa Bay roster, Gholston has been a consistent contributor in several different defensive systems, but has seen his production increase over the past three seasons under defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. Gholston had a career-high 4.5 sacks last year and has 37 quarterback hits over the past two seasons. The Buccaneers formalized the move on March 24, along with the re-signing of wide receiver Breshad Perriman. Perriman had one of the Bucs’ biggest plays of 2021 with a game-winning catch touchdown in an overtime win over Buffalo, and had a hugely productive final month of 2019 during his first stint with the Buccaneers.
Players released, traded and/or signed by other teams
A 2018 third-round pick in Humboldt State’s Division II, Cappa took over as the starting right guard in his second season and has since opened 46 games on one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses. He was the only Buccaneer to play every offensive snap in 2022 and he helped the team lead the NFL in passing yards while allowing the fewest sacks. Cappa moves from one main contender to another, joining a Cincinnati team that just lost Super Bowl LVI to the Rams and has a talented roster with a clear need to block better up front. His departure means the Buccaneers will start two new guards in 2022. Whitehead missed time with hamstring and calf injuries last season but has otherwise started all 16 games he has played, including the playoffs. He finished fourth on the team with 78 tackles and added two interceptions and eight passes defended. Particularly effective around the line of scrimmage, Whitehead was known as one of the toughest hitters in the Tampa Bay defense.
Howard was the Buccaneers’ first-round pick in 2017 and averaged 485 yards and four touchdowns per season in his first three years in Tampa. However, he missed all but four games in 2020 with an Achilles tendon injury and was limited to 14 catches and 135 yards in 17 games last year. Howard is now settling on the site of his best game as a pro, as he had six catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns at Buffalo during his rookie season.
Remaining Unrestricted Free Agents
- S Andrew Adams
- RB Giovani Bernard
- CB Pierre Desire
- QB Blaine Gabbert
- TE Rob Gronkowski
- RB Ronald Jones
- DL Steve McLendon
- ILB Kevin Minter
- OLB Jason Pierre-Paul
- S Curtis Riley
- CB Richard Sherman
- DL Ndamukong Suh
- T Josh Wells
Players with expired contracts and at least four accumulated seasons of free agency credit are unrestricted free agents (UFA) and can sign with any team. After exiting in the Divisional Round of the 2021 playoffs, the Buccaneers had 23 players who could have landed in that category on March 17, including seven who started in the title game. However, they have already made good progress on the roster with the tag for Godwin and offers for Stinnie, Jensen and Davis.
That roster, however, still contains backup primary quarterback Blaine Gabbert and Tom Brady’s fusion passing connection, tight end Rob Gronkowski. The inside defensive line could take several hits as Ndamukong Suh, Will Gholston and Steve McLendon are also on the roster.
Remaining Restricted Free Agents
Players with expired contracts and three years of free agency credit become restricted free agents if they receive a purchase offer before free agency begins. There have been fewer players in this category since the NFL established four-year contracts for each draft pick. Players in this category did not make it through that four-year deal or were undrafted players who got shorter original deals.
Remaining exclusive royalty-free agents
Exclusive royalty free agents have an expired contract and two or less years of free agency credit. This year, the Buccaneers have no players in that category.
Players who could have become restricted or exclusive free agents become equivalent to unrestricted free agents if they do not receive a qualifying offer from their respective teams. Such is the case for O’Connor and Triner, who both racked up three years of free agency credit but didn’t receive offers from the Buccaneers. O’Connor was one of the most active players on the Bucs’ special teams before a season-ending knee injury brought him to a halt. Triner handled the Bucs’ long duties for 11 games, sandwiched around a seven-game stint on injured reserve with a broken finger.