32. TAMPA BAY BUCCANNERS (15-5)
LAST SEASON: Talk about peaking at the right time. Everything fell into place down the stretch for Tom Brady and an all-star roster assembled around the seven-time Super Bowl winner. From leading informal offseason workouts to getting acclimated with new teammates during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic — and to playing his best during an eight-game winning streak that carried the Bucs to their first NFL title in 18 years — the 43-year-old quarterback set the tone for a magical year. It culminated with Tampa Bay becoming the first franchise to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in a Super Bowl played in its home stadium.
FREE AGENCY: When Bruce Arians and Jason Licht vowed to “keep the band together” to enhance the prospect of repeating as champs next season, the odds of actually retaining all of the club’s key players seemed remote. Somehow, the coach and general manager found a way to navigate a tight salary-cap situation and actually get it done. Tampa Bay placed the franchise tag on WR Chris Godwin, re-signed LBs Shaquil Barrett and Lavonte David, and brought back TE Rob Gronkowski, RB Leonard Fournette, and DL Ndamukong Suh on one-year deals. Brady helped by signing an extension that’ll not only give him a shot at playing until he’s at least 45, but provided much-needed salary-cap relief.
THEY NEED: DT, CB, RB, OL, EDGE.
THEY DON’T NEED: TE, WR, S, LB.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: Wake Forest EDGE Carlos Basham Jr., Florida State CB Asante Samuel Jr., Clemson RB Travis Etienne.
OUTLOOK: With all 22 starters returning, the Bucs enter the draft without a pressing need for maybe the first time in franchise history. That affords them the luxury of adding prospects counted on to bolster depth and contribute on special teams next season. The team’s top two picks a year ago, right tackle Tristan Wirfs and safety Antoine Winfield Jr., became immediate starters. With no gaping holes to fill, the focus this year will be on finding players with potential to take on bigger roles in 2022 and beyond.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL