NFL Free Agency: Ranking 4 Players the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Must Target

This is going to be an enormous offseason of transition for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and that was going to be the case even before Tom Brady announced his retirement late last month.

The Buccaneers are loaded with expiring contracts, at all sorts of skill positions on both sides of the ball: WR Chris Godwin, RB Leonard Fournette, CB Carlton Davis, RG Alex Cappa, and on and on.

Some of these players might return on discounted contracts, but many will not, and that makes the Buccaneers’ free-agency decisions as critical as ever.

But the Bucs are also dealing with about $22 million in available salary-cap space, at least before the restructuring and outright releasing frees up more cash. So not only will the Buccaneers need to replenish the ranks, they’ll have to be judicious in how they do it.

Here is a look at four players the Buccaneers need to target in NFL free agency in order to remain a force in the NFC:

WR Chris Godwin

Godwin’s knee injury late in the 2021 season complicates things a bit, as he might not be available in 2022 until around mid-season. But, still, this is arguably the top wide receiver available behind Davante Adams, and with Antonio Brown gone and tight end Rob Gronkowski a good bet to retire, the Buccaneers need to keep Godwin in the fold, especially if they are able to work a trade for a veteran quarterback like Russell Wilson.

If the Buccaneers use the franchise tag, it could cost upwards of $19 million. But perhaps they can get creative with a new contract that backloads his salary as he looks to prove he is still an All-Pro talent, post-injury.

RB Cordarelle Patterson

Running back is another area that could get depleted because of free-agent defections. Most notably, Leonard Fournette is eligible to sign elsewhere, and with Ronald Jones also a free agent, the Buccaneers could find themselves down to just Ke’Shawn Vaughn as the only veteran back on the roster.

There are some intriguing options at running back in free agency. J.D. McKissic had proven his worth as a change-of-pace back with Washington, and Marlon Mack needs to get out from under the long shadow of Jonathan Taylor and reclaim his role as a lead back. He can had for a decent discount.

But the option that might interest the Bucs the most comes from within the division. Cordarelle Patterson had a career rebirth with the Atlanta Falcons in 2021 and now is set to get paid for his variety of services. If Godwin and Fournette both leave, having a skill player who can run the ball and play wide receiver could be a godsend in Tampa.

TE Evan Engram

Why Engram’s career with the New York Giants fizzled so dramatically over the past few seasons is a genuine mystery. The talent, the size, the pass-catching ability, it should all still be there. Engram might be the ultimate example of a player who needs a change of scenery.

With Gronkowski likely retiring, or at least finding a new home, and O.J. Howard in bust territory, the Buccaneers might want to give Engram a chance to reclaim his career on a short deal.

Mo Alie-Cox is another tight end who could probably use a new address, mainly to get away from Jack Doyle and be the pass-catching focus with another team, likely at a reduced cost.

C Ryan Jensen

Jensen was an All-Pro for the Buccaneers in 2021 and regardless of who winds up replacing Brady at quarterback, the Buccaneers need to prioritize the offensive line. Jensen and right guard Alex Cappa are both free agents, and Cappa is the more likely of the two to sign elsewhere. The Bucs need to make re-signing Jensen a priority, or next season could become a mess on offense in a hurry.

If Jensen and Cappa were to both leave, the Bucs could look at free agents such as guard James Daniels from the Chicago Bears or center Ben Jones from the Tennessee Titans. But the best course of action will be to keep Jensen in the fold, as the free-agent center pool is weaker than at guard.

Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference

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