The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a master plan for the 2020 offseason, and so far, it's going off without a hitch.
Sure, there are a handful of key role players who won't be returning next season, such as Carl Nassib and Breshad Perriman. But the biggest things on Tampa Bay's to-do list have all been checked off up to this point, and they're positioning themselves to be a legitimate playoff contender this fall.
The most important mission, obviously, was landing Tom Brady to be their starting quarterback. Brady signed a two-year deal near the beginning of free agency, giving the Bucs the most successful quarterback in NFL history.
“I think it speaks volumes," Arians said of the message Brady's signing sends about the Bucs franchise. "Arguably the best player to ever play the game is available. Our ownership was totally in agreement – let’s go get him, and Jason [Licht] got it done. With everybody this time of year, you are trying to do the best thing you can for your football team to get better for next year. For us, my priority was the defense and then the quarterback. Right now, we’ve got just about the whole defense back and we’ve changed quarterbacks. I think getting the best quarterback to ever play the game – I think it sends a good message.”
But perhaps equally important to securing the quarterback position, Bucs head Bruce Arians had been adamant since the end of the 2019 season that his top priority would be keeping one of the NFL's most dominant defensive lines in tact.
With exception of role players like Nassib and Beau Allen, the Bucs have done just that.
Just before the start of free agency, Tampa Bay brought back NFL sack leader Shaq Barrett via the franchise tag. They quickly added another key veteran in Jason Pierre-Paul, re-signing him to a two-year deal. Then came the return of Ndamukong Suh on another one-year contract.
“Yeah, I wanted the entire defense, if we could, to stay together," Arians said after Suh's re-signing Wednesday. "They played so well together; each piece of the puzzle knew each other. Suh was a big, big part of it obviously – not as much in the sack game as much as his interior pressure and the great job he did against the run. We were number one against the run in the league last year and a lot of it was because of him and Vita [Vea].”
Not only is the core of their defense returning for the 2020 season, but so is Todd Bowles, one of the NFL's best defensive coordinators.
“I think that was the number one goal for me coming out of last season to continue to build on defense," Arians said. "The only way to build is to keep everyone in place and grow. It’s huge. They’ll be so far ahead of our offense, if and when we get back out on the field. I think our offense will catch up pretty fast. We did some really nice things last year and we got better and better, especially those last six weeks of the season. I really liked the way we played against Houston. If we were a playoff-caliber team, I think our defense played more than well enough for us to win that game.”
There are still a few areas of need for the Bucs, but considering the amount of cap space the Bucs have already devoted to Brady and the players they've retained (as well as league restrictions related to the spread of COVID-19), they're most likely to focus on this year's draft for filling those.
“Yeah, I think with free agency it’s going to be tough because of guys who need physicals," Arians said. "To go any further, you need to get a physical on him. We’d like to add a pass-catching back. Obviously, there’s more depth [needed] in the secondary. There are little pieces of the puzzle, and I think the draft is going to be huge for us."
The Bucs aren't done improving their roster just yet, but so far, everything is going according to plan.