Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson breaks down how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were able to effectively win free agency by resigning three members of their Super Bowl roster.
CHARLES ROBINSON: Well, Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians told us one day after the 2020 Super Bowl win that he was very confident the team would be able to retain the core of its roster, despite a looming free agency and a salary cap rollback, and Monday came and went, and he was absolutely right. Shaq Barrett, one of the prime free agents poised to hit the market, re-signs in Tampa Bay for four years, up to $72 million, and it now accounts for three top tier free agents that the Buccaneers have been able to keep off the market, effectively making them the winners of free agency before free even begins.
Now they kicked this off, obviously, by franchise-tagging wide receiver Chris Godwin, who was expected to be one of the top five free agents to hit the market. Then they followed that up with signing linebacker Lavonte David to a two year, $25 million deal that was sub-market at the time that he signed it. That was another top end free agent that the Buccaneers keep from market. And then Shaq Barrett, who would have been a top 10 free agent, pass rusher also kept off the market by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Now this was all kicked off by Tom Brady restructuring his 2021 salary, kicking out $19 million down the line, creating $19 million of cap space for the Buccaneers, and giving them some room to breathe. Now the Buccaneers still have a lot of free agents to sign. They don't have a ton of money to do it. But what's interesting here is Rob Gronkowski, the tight end who obviously came to Tampa Bay to be with Tom Brady, it's believed he's going to take a contract structure that's going to be favorable to the 2021 cap. And then Antonio Brown, the wide receiver, is expected to also return into the fold after he has a chance to talk to the team about what his 2021 salary and structure will look like.
As I said, I think you could say that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers effectively won free agency before free agency even started. It's rare to keep your top three high-end free agents, particularly in a season when most teams are having problems with the cap rollback. Working together to figure out how to find this cap space for the Buccaneers has been a huge benefit for the Buccaneers, and now you have to look at this team and wonder if maybe some other prime free agents, veteran free agents, who might command middle-tier money may be able to even take a little bit less, or structure their own contracts to push money out down the road, to join Tom Brady and this cast of characters in 2021.
Still a lot to do for the Buccaneers, but an absolutely huge start for last season's Super Bowl champs, and definitely positioning themselves as an NFC favorite to win the Super Bowl again in 2021.