We’ve all understood that things are going to look different for the Bucs next season after Tom Brady’s retirement and the team’s many, many contracts coming off of the books. But just how bad is it?
ESPN came out with their “way too early” NFL rankings for the 2023 season and the Bucs find themselves very low. Of all the 32 teams across the NFL, Tampa Bay ranks 25th. That’s a far cry from a year ago when they were once again looked at as Super Bowl contenders.
A group of national reporters from ESPN came up with the rankings and Tampa’s own Jenna Laine gave her review of the Bucs’ 2023 objective.
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2022 record: 8-9
Offseason in three or fewer words: Fill Brady void
“It’s an impossible task, replacing a seven-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, not only in terms of play but leadership. But to keep their window for contention open and maximize the time they have receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and linebackers Lavonte David and Devin White all together, the Bucs will need to find a veteran replacement or strike gold in the draft at No. 19. — Jenna Laine
Bucs TE Cade Otton – Photo by: USA Today
Bucs vs. Rest Of NFC South
While the Bucs are down bad at the moment, the bright side is that they still had the second best ranking in the NFC South. The Panthers were ahead of them by just two spots at 23rd. The Falcons, on the other hand, were one spot behind the Bucs at 26th and the Saints aren’t much farther behind at 28th. Still, it’s not a great look when your whole division is ranked in the 20s. It’s no surprise, though, given that the Bucs won the South with eight wins in 2022.
Free Agency And The Draft Will Determine A Lot For The Bucs
Bucs WRs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and QB Tom Brady – Photo by: USA Today
Things could still change around for the Bucs if they can navigate the offseason correctly. They have a number of top players heading into free agency, including Jamel Dean and Lavonte David, among others. If Tampa Bay is able to keep a couple of starters on the roster and find another playmaker or two in the draft, the roster is still capable of winning the division.
It looks bleak without Tom Brady around, but an offense that already has Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and the budding Rachaad White and Cade Otton isn’t exactly a walk in the park for opponents. It’s a big “if,” but if the organization can match the new offensive coordinator Dave Canales with the right quarterback, this team will fare much better than what its ranking says.
There’s a lot of heavy lifting to do for the coaches and front office. But perhaps don’t doubt them just yet.
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