Let's say the NFL went haywire, reset all 32 rosters and created a free agent draft with each player's 2021 cap hit remaining set in stone.
You, the general manager of a participating team, have $182.5 million to spend as each team had in cap space this year. Who would you select, and how many games would your team win?
NFL.com put together such an experiment on Tuesday and used up 99.993% of the allotted cap space to field a 53-man team of all-stars. Three Tampa Bay Buccaneers made the list, with another five considered but missing the final cut.
Rob Gronkowski was one of four tight ends selected with his $3 million cap hit, alongside Kansas City's Travis Kelce, San Francisco's George Kittle, and New Orleans' Garrett Griffin.
"Gronkowski is a shell of his former self, but he can still contribute as a receiver (see: two touchdowns in Super Bowl LV) and as a blocker," NFL Research's Anthony Holzman-Escareno wrote. "Plus, a locker room with Kelce, Kittle and Gronk would be a happy one."
Although he signed an extension worth up to $72 million this year, Shaquil Barrett's affordable $5 million cap hit landed him on the list of six edge rushers with Cleveland's Myles Garrett, Washington's Chase Young, Arizona's Markus Golden, Seattle's Kerry Hyder, and Las Vegas' Maxx Crosby.
"Barrett leads the NFL with 31.5 sacks, including playoffs, since joining the Buccaneers in 2019," stated Holzman-Escareno. "His eight pressures in Super Bowl LV were key to the Buccaneers victory."
Lavonte David earned a payday this offseason, too, but maybe considered a bargain at his position with a $3.4 million cap hit in 2021. That landed him on the list of inside linebackers with Indianapolis' Darius Leonard, San Francisco's Fred Warner, Atlanta's Foye Oluokun, and San Francisco's Dre Greenlaw. Devin White was one of the five other linebackers considered.
"David provides veteran leadership and top-notch playmaking ability," Holzman-Escareno explained. "He's the only player with 20-plus sacks and 20-plus takeaways since entering the NFL in 2012."
Buccaneers offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs, defensive tackle Vita Vea, cornerback Carlton Davis III, and safety Antoine Winfield Jr. were contemplated to make the dream team as well.
Although Tampa Bay is well represented across the roster, none of Gronkowski, Barrett, nor David were considered starters as a part of the 53-man roster. Kelce and Kittle would start for the team if its base offense operated out of 12 personnel, Garrett and Young are the No. 1s on the edge, and Leonard and Warner would be the first team inside linebackers.