Which Remaining Buccaneers Free Agents Could Tampa Bay Bring Back?

Ten former Buccaneers who were on the 2020-21 Super Bowl roster remain free agents. Could Tampa Bay bring any of those veterans back next season?
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers found a way to return their top free agents this offseason and will field the same starting lineup, offensively and defensively, in 2021 as they did throughout their 2020, Super Bowl-winning campaign.

Ten free agents, however, remain unsigned at this point. The Buccaneers are extremely limited on cap space with just about $2 million to spend right now per Over the Cap, making it difficult to bring back everyone. Depth will need to be addressed via the draft across the entire roster as such, but there remains a case for a select few players to wear red and pewter again in 2021. 

Below, you'll find the remaining free agents that were rostered through Tampa Bay's Super Bowl run this past season, as well as arguments for and against those players potentially signing new contracts with the Bucs before the offseason is over.

QB Blaine Gabbert

The Buccaneers have teased the idea of Gabbert returning to the team numerous times this offseason, however, Tampa Bay and the 31-year-old quarterback have yet to strike a deal as of this story.

Gabbert, a first-round pick by the Jaguars in 2011, never lived up to his selection but has paved out a solid career as a backup. He's filled that role for three years under Bruce Arians - two in Tampa, one in Arizona - and threw for 143 yards and two touchdowns in relief of Tom Brady against the Lions this past season.

Arians suggested that the Bucs could draft a quarterback to groom behind Brady if the value is right, but we wouldn't be surprised to see Gabbert in a Tampa Bay uniform again next season on a cheap contract.

QB Ryan Griffin

With Gabbert emerging as the favorite to re-sign among the Bucs two free agent signal-callers and the idea of drafting a quarterback not being too far-fetched, Griffin appears to be the odd man out. It's extremely unlikely that Tampa Bay would carry four quarterbacks in any season, much less in 2021 as the Bucs aim for a second consecutive Super Bowl title.

Perhaps Griffin would demand less of a salary than Gabbert, in which case there is a reality where the former returns to Tampa Bay over the latter. Griffin nearly doubled Gabbert's cap hit in 2020, however, so that seems unlikely.

RB LeSean McCoy

McCoy is far past his prime and was able to manage a mere 132 yards from scrimmage this past season. He didn't play a snap in the Super Bowl, either.

Arians has expressed confidence in the top three running backs on the roster this offseason: Ronald Jones II, Leonard Fournette, and Ke'Shawn Vaughn. McCoy traditionally offered a different style of play than those backs with a large presence in the passing game, but Tampa Bay would be wise to draft a similar player in the draft.

RB T.J. Logan

Logan has gone on season-ending injured reserve twice in as many years with the Bucs. It would be a surprise to see Tampa Bay bring him back this year, similarly to McCoy.

RB Kenjon Barner

Barner was on and off the Buccaneers roster throughout the 2020 season and barely saw playing time at running back. Barner is an intriguing kick-returning option for Tampa Bay next season, though, unless the team finds a return specialist in the draft.

WR Antonio Brown

Brown is the biggest name remaining from the Buccaneers' full list of free agents this offseason. As such, as one might expect, Brown and the Bucs are reportedly "not close" on financial terms in contract negotiations.

The 32-year-old, four-time First-Team All-Pro is undoubtedly a threat with the ball in his hands. After over a year out of the league due to his off-the-field track record, Brown caught 45 passes for 483 yards and four touchdowns in eight regular-season games this past season.

The Bucs aren't in a position to cave to Brown's contract demands with tight cap space, and his previous troubling conduct wouldn't exactly warrant a large deal. With that being said, it's hard to let a weapon like Brown walk away whilst contending for Super Bowls. There's certainly a chance he returns in 2021 if the two sides can reach a middle ground in negotiations.

DT Steve McLendon

The Buccaneers traded for McClendon in the first half of the 2020 season following Vita Vea's placement on the injured reserve. Making a move for a proven depth piece who has experience with the coaching staff was a smart move for the Bucs at the time and it paid off as McLendon took on 332 snaps throughout the regular season on Tampa Bay's defensive line.

However, as McLendon recently turned 35, he was most likely a one-year rental that can be replaced in the draft on a cheaper salary. Vea was able to return in the second half of the postseason and played well, so the need for McLendon at this point is minimal.

ILB Deone Bucannon

Bucannon has been with the Buccaneers on separate occasions, the first time being in 2019 after Arians was hired as the Bucs head coach. Bucannon was a member of the Cardinals for four years under Arians after Arizona selected him in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

However, he was released by the Bucs in October 2019 and spent time with the Giants and Falcons before returning to Tampa Bay for the playoff run. Bucannon was signed to the Buccaneers practice squad days before the Wild Card round and went on to play on special teams in every postseason game.

So long as he would be inexpensive, Bucannon is a candidate to return based on his familiarity with Arians and the coaching staff. Like others, though, Bucannon's role could be filled by a rookie. 

ILB Jack Cichy (restricted free agent)

The Buccaneers did not extend a qualifying offer to Cichy as a restricted free agent this offseason, meaning he is now free to sign with his team of choice despite the restricted label.

CB Ross Cockrell

Cockrell should be one of the Buccaneers remaining priorities to re-sign at this point given the team's lack of cornerback depth. We expect Tampa Bay to select a corner at some point in the upcoming draft, but Tampa Bay has virtually zero experienced depth at the position right now. Cockrell offers that.

Cockrell, a rising eighth-year pro, signed midseason in 2020 and took on a meaningful as a depth nickel cornerback behind Sean Murphy-Bunting. He tallied 11 tackles, a pass breakup, a tackle for loss, and a quarterback hit in seven appearances.