Buccaneers 5-Time Pro Bowler Could Bolt for Rival, Says Analyst

Todd Bowles

Getty Todd Bowles takes over as the new Buccaneers head coach.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers free-agent pass rusher Ndamukong Suh is likely to be wearing a different uniform next season. ESPN’s Matt Bowen’s prediction is not a welcome sign for Bucs fans as the analyst labeled the Saints as the best fit for Suh.

“I originally considered matching the veteran defensive tackle back with the Buccaneers, but with Tampa Bay signing Akiem Hicks, we should expect Suh to land with another contender during camp,” Bowen wrote on June 2, 2022. “Suh had six sacks in 2021 and put some good tape out there in the postseason.

“I really like the idea of Suh playing in Dennis Allen’s defense. Even in a rotational role, Suh can still create disruption, command two in protection and get home to the quarterback in schemed fronts. He’d be effective in New Orleans with interior stunts and loops that create A-gap pressure and eliminate the quarterback’s ability to climb the pocket. And you need that when you see Tom Brady twice a season.”

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The Hicks Signing Signals Suh Will Not Be Playing for the Bucs in 2022

The Buccaneers were mentioned as a contender for Suh prior to the recent signing of former Bears defender Akiem Hicks. Suh joining the Saints and facing Tom Brady two times per season would not be good news for the Bucs. ESPN’s Adam Schefter noted that Hicks’ signing likely signals that, “Suh’s time in Tampa figures to be over.”

“Akiem Hicks now joins a stacked Bucs’ defensive front that includes Vita Vea and second-round pick Logan Hall,” Schefter tweeted on May 31. “And Hicks addition means free-agent Ndamukong Suh’s time in Tampa figures to be over.”

After former defensive coordinator Todd Bowles took over as head coach, Suh indicated he was interested in a return to Tampa. Yet, more than two months went by without Suh reaching a new deal with the Buccaneers, and Hicks joining the team unofficially signals the five-time Pro Bowler will be playing elsewhere in 2022.

“Congrats to Todd Bowles on becoming head coach of a great team that still feels one man light on talent 👀,” Suh tweeted on March 31.

The Panthers Have Also Been Linked to Suh

Another Bucs division rival could also be in the mix for Suh as 247Sports’ Brad Stainbrook reported the Panthers, Raiders and Titans are all showing an interest in the pass rusher.

“Source: Panthers, Titans, and the Raiders are teams who have recently discussed the possibility of signing DT Ndamukong Suh,” Stainbrook noted on June 1. “With June 1st passing, some teams may have some extra cash to spend.”

Hicks: ‘Can’t Wait to Be in That Stadium, Hear Those Cannons Go Off’

Despite Suh remaining unsigned, the Bucs have a strong rotation on the defensive line heading into the season. In addition to Hicks, Tampa Bay has Vita Via, Joe Tyron-Shoyinka, rookie Logan Hall and William Gholston who are all expected to play key roles in 2022. After signing his new contract, Hicks sent a message to Bucs fans noting he “can’t wait to be in that stadium.”

“Hey guys, just finished signing the contract, I’m officially a Buccaneer,” Hicks said during a June 1 video released by the Bucs. “Can’t wait to be in that stadium, hear those cannons go off. Krewe, let’s go!”

Hicks notched 3.5 sacks, 25 tackles and nine quarterback hits during his nine appearances for Chicago in 2021. The veteran defender has been impactful on the field but has struggled to stay healthy during recent seasons. The Buccaneers protected themselves a bit from Hicks’ injury history by placing per-game incentives in his new deal.

“This is another contract designed to take up minimal 2022 salary cap space at the expense of future seasons,” The Athletic’s Greg Auman detailed on June 3. “Hicks’ deal is for $6.5 million, with another $1.5 million in per-game roster bonuses. This serves two purposes, first allowing the Bucs to guard a bit against injuries that limited Hicks to five games in 2019 and nine last season. They save about $700,000 in cap space because only nine of those bonuses count immediately against the cap.”

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