What a season for Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Bucs! Tampa is coming off a 11-5 season where they won Super Bowl LV in dominating fashion, beating the Chiefs 31-9. Brady is going into his 21st season in the league and is a young spry 44 years old. It is clear Brady has had a drop off in skill but he has transitioned into a very good game manager. His Super Bowl performance was a perfect example of this going 21-29 with 201 yards and 3 TDs. Tampa finished last season ranked 7th for yards per game at 384.1. Their passing attack was ranked 2nd at 289.1 yards per game and their rushing attack was ranked 28th at 94.9 yards per game. Defensively they came in ranked 6th, giving up 327.1 yards per game. Their passing defense was ranked 21st giving up 246.6 yards per game and their rush defense was ranked 1st giving up only 80.6 yards per game. Although they won the Super Bowl, going into this off-season there was still room for improvement in the running game as well as in pass defense.
The Bucs are coming back with the same core of coaches. Bruce Arians and his staff are entering their third season with the Bucs. Although he has 2 Super Bowl rings as an assistant coach with the Steelers he was finally able to get a ring as a head coach. He was a very good coach for the Cardinals from 2013-2017. Following the 2017 season, he took a year off before joining the Bucs in 2019. Also coming back this season is Todd Bowles as defensive coordinator, Byron Leftwich as offensive coordinator, and Harold Goodwin as the assistant head coach. Look for Leftwich to make improving the run game and Bowles to make improving the passing defense a priority this upcoming season. If the Bucs do not have a good season this year it will not be due to their coaching staff.
Cap Space: -2.51 million (Last in the NFL)
Key Free Agent Losses: Joe Haeg (T), Ryan Smith (CB), Andrew Adams (S), Antony Auclair (TE)
Key Free Agent/Off-season Additions: Giovani Bernard (RB), Joe Jones (OLB), Antonio Hamilton (CB), Raven Greene (S), Jonathan Hubbard (T)
This off-season for the Bucs has been more about getting under the cap and resigning their own players than anything else. They did not make a big splash in free agency outside of resigning their own players. They brought back the following guys: Suh, Succop, Gronk, Fournette, Brown, Barrett, and Shipley. Bringing back the majority of a 11-5 Super Bowl winning team is never a bad thing. Being able to bring back all these guys made for a very successful off-season for them to this point.
Round 1 Pick 32: Joe Tryon (OLB, Washington)
Tampa Bay is one of the few teams going into the draft that had the luxury of taking the best available player rather than filling a need. Tryon is a perfect example of this. Tryon had a very good sophomore season ending with 41 tackles, 12.5 of which were for a loss and eight sacks. He was picked as a preseason All-American going into the 2020 season, but chose to sit out the season due to Covid-19. He has enough talent that, if he had played and had a good season, he could have been a top 10 pick. He is 6-foot-5 and 262 pounds. He ran a 4.65 40-yard dash at his pro day and did the three-cone drill in 7.18. He has good speed and is agile. He also has good length with 34-inch arms. He will come in and compete for a starting role right away. He will accel in this defense and will not be required to be “the guy”. Look for him to contribute right away this season, being a rotational player on the defensive line. This was a great pick as it helped fill a need and should improve their pass defense.
Round 2 Pick 64: Kyle Trask (QB, Florida)
This is a complete luxury pick. Trask had a great senior year at Florida. He finished with 4283 yards, 43 touchdowns, and only eight picks. He is a great pick for a team that needed a developmental QB for the future, which Tampa is. Brady, although some people believe otherwise, cannot play forever. Trask has the potential to be a good QB in this league and the QB of the future in Tampa. He has prototypical size for an NFL quarterback, as well as good anticipation and accuracy. His arm strength and mobility, however, have been called into question. Trask will sit the next couple years under Brady and learn from him. This is a pick of the future, not the pick of a team trying to improve as much as possible looking to repeat. Tampa was going to have to make this move at some point, so from that regard late in the second round I am ok with this. However, they missed on the opportunity to try and bolster the defensive backfield here.
Round 3 Pick 95: Robert Hainsey (OT, Notre Dame)
Hainsey is a very good pick here for the Bucs. With the departure of Haeg, they had a hole on the offensive line. Hainsey, like Haeg, is a versatile player that can play any of the offensive line positions. At Notre Dame he was tackle but at the Senior Bowl he played guard and center. His versatility will get him some good reps this year if anyone goes down. He has great instincts and can get to the second level very well. He is also a very disciplined player. Last year he played 863 snaps and committed zero penalties. Look for them to get contributions from him this year and be a starter in the future.
Round 4 Pick 129: Jaelon Darden (WR, North Texas)
The Bucs started this draft with the 137th pick but traded with Seattle to move up to 129. They swapped picks and Tampa also gave up their sixth-round pick, number 217. Darden had a great senior year, finishing with 74 receptions for 1,190 yards and 19 touchdowns. He was the Conference USA MVP. Darden is 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds. He will be challenging for the slot receiver spot but will be a big contributor on special teams in the return game. This filled a need that Arians talked about. Expect that he will not crack the starting lineup until next year short of an injury. Darden was considered by many here as a steal. He will have some great receivers to learn from this year.
Round 5 Pick 176: K.J. Britt (ILB, Auburn)
Britt was selected to contribute on special teams. Britt is coming in behind White, David, and Minter. He is going to be a depth player on the defense but will contribute on special teams right away. Arians felt that special teams were this team’s biggest weakness and this is their second pick to address that need. Britt was Auburn’s leading tackler prior to getting hurt last season. He had a great performance in the Senior Bowl and was voted by his Senior Bowl teammates as the “Best Linebacker”. Britt will have to transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme and is not the fastest guy around but he has a nose for the ball and is a good run stuffer.
Round 7 Pick 251: Chris Wilcox (CB, BYU)
This is another special teams pick for the Bucs. Wilcox is 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds. He ran a 4.31 40-yard dash at his pro day and posted a 37.5-inch vertical. He is a big, fast, and athletic corner. His is a press-man coverage corner. He fits well with the Bucs defensive scheme. He will be a depth guy at corner for the Bucs this season and will be an instant contributor on special teams. Look to see him in the gunner position from day one. He has a ton of upside but needs to grow as a corner and show development.
Round 7 Pick 259: Grant Stuard (LB, Houston)
Stuard is another special teams pick. He is a high motor, fast, and physical player. He struggles on defense in coverage and in changing directions. He is primed to be a big contributor on special teams and has that attitude and personality to be a special teams star. If he can improve in technique and coverage, he could fight for a starting role down the road.
Draft Grade: B
Notes & Predictions
The Bucs were one of the few fortunate teams that did not have any big needs coming into this draft. They did address improving the pass rush with the addition of Tryon. They also found a great depth guy and potential future starter on the offensive line in Hainsey. They also improved their special teams with their later round draft picks. The only reason I could not give this a higher grade was because of the pick of Trask. I understand why they made this pick but if you are trying to improve the roster for a repeat, they could have gone a different direction and looked to add a corner sooner to compete for a starting job. This team is still very good. The question going into this season is when is Tom Brady going to see the big decline in his performances? Can he continue to lead a team to wins? Can the Chiefs and Mahomes finally take the mantle from Brady?
Season Record: 13-4, 1st in the NFC South, Lose in the NFC Championship