Things look daunting for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency next year beyond whether or not Tom Brady plays after 2022.
That’s what The Athletic’s Greg Auman forecasts for the Bucs ahead of an all-in season for 2022 with Brady, 44. Auman noted that the salary cap will catch up with the Bucs because “they borrowed heavily from 2023’s salary cap space” amid key free agent acquisitions. The Bucs will also need to sell Brady on playing another year and find a way to keep defensive leader and linebacker Lavonte David.
Overall, the Bucs have 25 unrestricted free agents for 2023 who range from starters to players who look to crack the 53-man roster according to Auman. Notable 2023 free agents include defensive ends Akiem Hicks and Will Gholston plus cornerbacks Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting.
“The Bucs can make all kinds of maneuvers to create cap space and kick the can down the road again, but even presuming a healthy bump to the cap in 2023, the Bucs are well over that,” Auman wrote. “Spotrac, presuming a $218 million cap, has them $59.3 million over the cap already — only the [New Orleans] Saints are in worse shape — and OvertheCap has them $51.8 million over, presuming a $225 million cap.”
“Bucs general manager Jason Licht and cap wizard Mike Greenberg have found ways to keep the team’s core mostly intact before, but that creativity will be challenged in March,” Auman added.
Brady’s Murky Future After 2022
Brady, who already retired and unretired once, may not play again just because of age, Auman noted.
While Brady hasn’t tipped his cap on which way he will go in 2023, he at least told Dan Patrick on the “Dan Patrick Show” that he knows he is near the end. Brady also has a mega deal for broadcast with Fox Sports that’s waiting for him.
“At this stage, it’s like 55% yes and 45% no. It’s not 100-0. That’s just the reality. It’s not that I’m not 100% committed, it’s just as soon as I make the commitment to do it, it’s like, ‘Ugh. All right, here we go,'” Brady told Patrick.
David a Bucs for Life?
Age has also been catching up with David, 32, though he could continue producing at a high level. Auman noted that and gave examples of star linebackers who still shined in their mid 30s such as Derrick Brooks and London Fletcher.
When David signed his last extension in 2021, he indicated that he hopes to stay with the Bucs long term. He has spent his whole career with the team.
“With all the stuff that I dealt with the previous eight years, and finally you win one and finally up and leave, I’m like, ‘no, man, I want to keep on winning,'” David said in a March 2021 press conference.
“This organization, this team, this city deserves a lot more, and I want to be a part of it,” David added.
Variables Abound for Offensive Free Agents
Tampa Bay has few offensive starters slated for free agency in 2023. It’s possibly just Brady and unless guard Aaron Stinnie becomes a full-time starter.
Several other offensive role players could head elsewhere before the 2022 season even kicks off. Running back Giovani Bernard and wide receiver Breshad Perriman got tapped as potential training camp cuts. Wide receiver Scotty Miller has been mentioned in trade rumors.