Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2024 NFL offseason primer: Run it back after surprise NFC South title?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2023 season: 9-8, won NFC South, lost in divisional round

Overview: Tampa Bay's 2023 season gamble on Baker Mayfield worked out, as the journeyman quarterback threw for 4,044 yards and 28 touchdowns with just 10 interceptions and led the Bucs to an NFC South title and the divisional round.

The Bucs had work to do to keep this group together. Entering this offseason, Mayfield and All-Pro safety Antoine Winfield Jr., not to mention other aging but impactful contributors to their recent success, were set to become free agents. The Bucs made significant steps in retaining part of the team's successful core by re-signing star receiver Mike Evans on a two-year, $52 million deal. That was followed by the reported re-signing of Mayfield on Sunday and the franchise tagging of Winfield last week.

The ceiling with Mayfield under center may not be through the roof but it was hard to see better options for the Bucs than running it back, capitalizing on what still appears to be a weak NFC South and seeing where that shakes out.

They'll be doing so without offensive coordinator Dave Canales, who was hired as the new head coach of the division rival Carolina Panthers. Otherwise, things look similar in 2024 in Tampa, which isn't a bad thing.

(Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)
(Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)

Key free agents

LB Lavonte David
LB Devin White
G Aaron Stinnie
DT Greg Gaines
G Matt Feiler

Who's in/out: Mayfield is reportedly returning on a three-year, $100 million deal including $50 million guaranteed. Evans is back on a two-year, $52 million deal, and the Bucs placed the franchise tag on star Winfield. The ceiling for this team may quite not be Super Bowl champion anymore, but Tampa Bay prioritized keeping a good thing together.

Will Baker Mayfield and Mike Evans be back together in Tampa Bay this upcoming season? (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
Will Baker Mayfield and Mike Evans be back together in Tampa Bay this upcoming season? (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)

Key free-agent needs

Interior offensive line
Edge rusher

Why the holes? Center Ryan Jensen retired, so the Bucs need help along the interior of their o-line. And finding a pass rusher to pair with 2023 first-round draft pick Calijah Kancey, who was named Rookie of the Month in November and had a standout debut campaign, would boost the front seven.

Do they have the money?

Tampa Bay is $22.5 million under the salary cap, according to Spotrac, making it possible to retain most of their key free agents.

Potential notable cuts

WR Russell Gage
LB Anthony Nelson

Why they might be gone: The team reportedly plans to release linebacker Shaq Barrett, which will result in a roughly $5 million cap savings after he becomes a post-June 1 cut. Gage missed last season with a torn patellar tendon and is due $13.35 million against the cap in 2024. Nelson, meanwhile, is scheduled to make $5.4 million next fall and is less impactful than other defenders the Bucs might want to bring back.

2023 NFLPA report card

(Yahoo Sports)
(Yahoo Sports)

Draft picks

1st round: No. 26
2nd round: No. 57
3rd round: No. 89
3rd round: No. 92 (from Lions)
4th round: No. 124
6th round: No. 220 (compensatory)
7th round: No. 246

Good draft fit

Jared Verse, EDGE, Florida State

Why him? Verse's game is all about power, and he could be a "high-end secondary pass rusher," according to Yahoo Sports draft expert Nate Tice. That would fit a need for the Bucs, who are picking 26th overall, thanks to their success this past season. Washington's Troy Fautanu makes sense for the Bucs too, though he's more of a guard/tackle prospect than a center.

What can move the fantasy football needle this offseason?

The hope is that the Buccaneers can bring back most of what worked last year; Mayfield and Evans are both free agents. And the team is going to miss OC Dave Canales, though we should also mention Tampa Bay ranked a modest 20th in points scored and 23rd in yards last year. The offense needs to get Chris Godwin more invested around the goal line (he scored just twice last year), and a third wide receiver of note would make this team much more difficult to defend. It's likely Tampa Bay takes a swing at a field-stretching receiver in the draft. — Scott Pianowski