TAMPA- The band is getting back together one by one and with each day, it’s looking like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers might be fully loaded.
On Monday, the Buccaneers announced the re-signing of outside linebacker Shaquille Barrett and tight end Rob Gronkowski. With Barrett now back on defense, for the most part, Tampa Bay keeps their entire front seven intact in order to make another Super Bowl run. On the flip side on offense, Tom Brady’s longtime teammate Gronkowski makes his return for Year 2 in Tampa Bay.
The return of Barrett comes with a hefty price tag that's attached to him, as the former Denver Bronco was in high demand when the free agency period began. Barrett, who was the leading sack getter in 2019, dropped in production in 2020 when it came to sack numbers. That’s because teams paid a little bit more attention to him and he still caused havoc. Barrett made a difference in the Super Bowl getting after Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Lavonte David re-signed before the free agency period began, so retaining Barrett and others became a top priority for Tampa Bay. Bringing back Gronkowski was a must for a Buccaneers’ offense that benefited greatly from his run blocking and timely pass catching. Gronkowski caught two touchdowns from Brady in Super Bowl LV and he will join an already loaded tight-end room with Cameron Brate, Tanner Hudson, and OJ Howard, who is coming off an injury. The Buffalo Bills made a late run at trying to acquire Gronkowski and he briefly considered it before returning to Tampa Bay.
Now Tampa Bay’s front office is starting to focus on other skill players on offense to surround Brady and the core with. Antonio Brown and Leonard Fournette, both key cogs in the postseason success for Tampa Bay, remain unsigned at the moment. Rumors have surfaced that Tampa Bay has mutual interest in former New England Patriots’ running back James White, who was a very reliable pass-catcher out of the backfield in Foxborough.
With the NFL Draft less than 50 days away, the Buccaneers will load up in free agency and then shift their focus towards needs through the draft. Look for the Buccaneers to look at the offensive line and secondary needs exclusively.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.