Buccaneers Rumors

Buccaneers To Sign Giovani Bernard

There’s been a lot of talk this offseason about what the Buccaneers’ backfield will look like between Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette, but in the meantime they’ve added an outside option.

Tampa has agreed to a one-year deal with Giovani Bernard, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network tweets. Bernard was released by the Bengals just last week, and Pelissero reports that Tom Brady and Bruce Arians both helped recruit him to Tampa Bay. Patriots running back James White apparently had interest in joining the Bucs as their third-down back before ultimately re-signing in New England, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweets.

In the same tweet, Rapsheet notes that Bernard also had interest from the Chiefs, so he had his pick of last season’s Super Bowl teams. The Bucs have mostly prioritized locking up all of their own guys, and this is their first significant outside free agent signing of the spring.

He had been set to earn right around $4MM in Cincy in 2021, so it’ll be interesting to see if he beat that when we get the financial terms. A pass-catching specialist who ended up carrying the ball a lot this past year in the wake of Joe Mixon‘s injury, Bernard has 342 receptions for 2,867 yards since entering the league as a second-round pick in 2013.

The North Carolina product spent his first eight seasons with the Bengals. He’ll turn 30 in November, and he should see a lot of targets from Brady, who loves to check down to his ‘backs.

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NFL Distributes Performance-Based Payouts

Since 2002, the NFL’s performance-based pay system has rewarded low-salary players who exceed their expected playing time. This year, due to the pandemic, the league and the players’ union negotiated a gradual payout schedule, one that will meter out the money between now and 2024.

All in all, the league divested $8.5MM per club. This year’s top earner is Buccaneers guard Alex Cappa, a 2018 third-round pick who played every single snap for the eventual champs. Cappa will now receive an extra $622K on top of his $750K base salary for 2021. Per the union’s records, 25 other players also topped $500K, including Cardinals tackle Kelvin Beachum ($604K), Bills cornerback Taron Johnson ($579K), Rams guard Austin Corbett ($573K), Lions cornerback Amani Oruwariye ($572K), Bears tackle Germain Ifedi ($571K), Steelers offensive lineman Chukwuma Okorafor ($568K), Vikings offensive lineman Dakota Dozier ($561K), Ravens safety DeShon Elliott ($557K) and Bucs safety Jordan Whitehead ($555K).

The full list, going team-by-team, can be found here, courtesy of the NFLPA.

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Bucs, Antonio Brown At Standstill

Antonio Brown wants to return to the Buccaneers. The Buccaneers would love to have him back. Unfortunately, the two sides remain at a standstill, according to Joey Knight of the Tampa Bay Times.

Even after re-signing the majority of their stars, the Buccaneers have a shade over $5MM in cap room. Half of that space will go towards signing the incoming draft class, which probably means that the Bucs are offering Brown a one-year, ~$2MM deal.

We’re just gonna take our time,” head coach Bruce Arians said recently. “There’s offers out there. We’ll see how it goes.”

After his suspension, Brown recorded 45 catches for 483 yards and four touchdowns across eight games. Extrapolated for a full 16-game season, he would have been on pace for 90 catches, 966 yards, and eight touchdowns. At least, that’s the type of math that Brown’s camp is likely presenting. The Bucs’ negotiators would probably note that all of Brown’s TDs and 20 of his 45 catches came in the final three weeks of the regular season.

With Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Rob Gronkowski ready to go, the Bucs could comfortably move ahead without Brown. Meanwhile, it’s not clear if there are any other suitors for AB, so there’s no real sense of urgency in Tampa.

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O.J. Howard On Track To Participate In Buccaneers’ Offseason Program

O.J. Howard appears to be navigating Achilles rehab well. The fifth-year tight end is on track to participate in the Buccaneers’ offseason program, should the NFL proceed with onsite workouts this year.

Howard suffered an Achilles tear in early October of last year, but Bruce Arians confirmed the former first-round pick is close to taking a key step. While Howard should not be expected to be full-go until training camp, the fact that he has resumed running at all represents a positive development for a player who has battled some injury trouble as a pro.

He’s not running on the grass yet, but he’s really close. The last time I checked (he) was 85% body weight running in ‘AlterG’ and looks fantastic,” Arians said of Howard’s pace on a customized treadmill, via Scott Smith of Buccaneers.com. “I don’t see any setbacks. If and when we can get together in this offseason program, he’ll be ready to go.

What a huge addition to have him back because he was having a great year. I think, again, the sky’s the limit for what he can do in this offense.”

Howard seemed a better fit for Dirk Koetter‘s offense, posting 565 receiving yards in just 10 games in 2018. After recovering from knee, ankle and foot injuries, Howard did not fare as well in Arians’ first season. The Alabama alum played 14 games but was not the same kind of factor in 2019. He popped up in trade rumors, with the Bucs discussing him in a deal that would have sent then-Washington left tackle Trent Williams to Tampa. But Howard stayed. The Bucs picked up his fifth-year option, and the October injury essentially ensured it would vest. Howard, 26, is due $6MM this season.

Tampa Bay re-signed Rob Gronkowski and still has Cameron Brate on its roster. The Bucs also are working on re-signing Antonio Brown. This would make for another crowded pass-catching situation, but Howard remains in the Super Bowl champions’ plans at this point.

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Latest On Tom Brady Knee Injury

When it was revealed in February that Tom Brady was undergoing knee surgery for an injury that would keep him sidelined from team activities until at least June, it understandably raised some eyebrows.

A 43-year-old quarterback getting knee surgery that will knock him out for a handful of months is significant no matter what. But fortunately, it sounds like everything is going well with Brady’s recovery. “I talked to him last week,” Bucs GM Jason Licht said, via Jenna Laine of ESPN.com. “I know things are going well. I don’t want to put an exact timeline on it right now because I don’t want to set expectations one way or the other, but I know that things are going very well.”

The injury also apparently wasn’t out of left field for the team, and the procedure had been planned for a while. Brady had been planning on having the surgery for months, and the news was “not a surprise” to the Bucs, a source told Laine.

Licht also called it a “minor surgical procedure” although it can’t really be that minor if Bruce Arians was saying back in February that he was hopeful Brady could do some 7-on-7 work in June. Obviously if there’s anyone who doesn’t need much offseason time it’s Brady, but this will still be something to monitor as the ageless wonder gets set to turn 44 in August.

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Buccaneers GM: I Won’t Draft A Kicker

Buccaneers GM Jason Licht has learned his lesson. He’s reached for kickers twice during his tenure as Tampa’s GM, but he’s ruled out the position in this year’s draft.

I won’t take a kicker,” said Licht, who intends to head into the fall with Ryan Succop as his kicker.

In 2016, Licht went for Roberto Aguayo in the second round, citing him as a generational talent. The Florida State product was the first kicker since 2005 (Mike Nugent, Jets) to be selected in the second round, but he made just 71-percent of his field goal attempts as a rookie. During the 2017 offseason, he was replaced by Nick Folk.

This is the best kicker I’ve ever seen in college, my favorite kicker,” Licht said of Aguayo following the draft. “I’m not going to risk [not] getting him and then have to go through a kicking carousel again during my tenure. I want to get the best kicker. Every position, I want to get the best.”

Then, in 2019, Licht took Matt Gay with the No. 145 overall choice. This time around, he’s standing pat with Succop, who recently inked a three-year, $12MM contract extension.

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Buccaneers To Pick Up Vita Vea’s Fifth-Year Option

It’s about that time of year where we’ll start to hear a lot of decisions on the fifth-year options of first-round picks from the 2018 draft class, and we got a significant one on Thursday.

The Buccaneers will pick up the fifth-year option on Vita Vea‘s contract, GM Jason Licht said Thursday, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. Unlike in previous years, many of these option decisions won’t be no-brainers or formalities. That’s because starting with this cycle, the fifth-year options are now fully guaranteed. They had previously been guaranteed for injury only.

That means teams will be a lot less loose with picking up these fifth-year options, and it also means Vea’s salary for 2022 will become fully guaranteed when they pick it up. That salary will be about $7.64MM for the Bucs. It’s a significant commitment for two years from now, but it’s also still a very good deal compared to what Vea would fetch on the open market.

The defensive tackle was a huge part of Tampa’s defense last year, and was a massive disruptor before going down with a serious ankle injury after five games. Originally believed to be lost for the season, Vea battled his way back and improbably returned for the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl.

Vea, the 12th overall pick of the 2018 draft, started all 16 games in 2019, finishing with 35 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and three passes defended. He had two sacks in only four-plus games in 2020, and was looking dominant before the injury.

Teams have until May 3rd to make their fifth-year option decisions on 2018 first-rounders.

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Latest On Buccaneers, Antonio Brown

Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians recently said that the team is waiting to hear back on its latest offer to Antonio Brown. However, the two sides aren’t close to an agreement, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL.com

There’s still mutual interest, but the Bucs aren’t on board with Brown’s asking price. It’s not clear what Brown is seeking; nor is it clear whether Brown has offers from anyone but the Bucs. Between Brown’s lingering legal issues and his overall baggage, it’s hard to imagine him having a strong market in free agency. Jason Licht & Co. have offered the wide receiver something in the range of last year’s deal, which paid him $2MM for a half-season.

Earlier this offseason, we saw DeSean Jackson score a one-year, $4.5MM deal with the Rams. One could argue that Brown offers more upside than DJax, but every player’s market is dictated by demand. Right now, it doesn’t seem like there is a ton of demand for Brown outside of Tampa.

Brown, 33 this summer had 45 catches for 483 yards and four touchdowns in eight games. Extrapolated for a full 16-game slate, that would have given him a 90/966/8 line.

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Buccaneers Waiting On Antonio Brown

The Buccaneers managed to keep just about everyone from their Super Bowl squad. However, wide receiver Antonio Brown stands out as a notable straggler. On Tuesday, head coach Bruce Arians said that it hasn’t been for a lack of trying. 

We’re just gonna take our time,” Arians said (Twitter link via WTSP’s Grace Remington). “There’s offers out there. We’ll see how it goes.”

For his part, Brown has said that he wants to stay put. Shortly after the Bucs beat the Chiefs, AB expressed his desire to go for a “two-peat”.

Man I’d love to, I look forward to going through the process, this is a great spot for me and I would love to come back and give it another shot at a two-peat,” Brown said after the game. “I would love to be back here next year. It would mean everything to be back. I’m just excited and super grateful.”

Brown, 33 this summer, posted solid — but not spectacular — numbers in 2020. In eight post-suspension games, the veteran had 45 catches for 483 yards and four touchdowns. Extrapolated for a full 16-game slate, that would have given him a 90/966/8 line.

Brown wants to come back and the Bucs have reciprocated with an offer on the table. The real question is – Does anyone else have real interest in adding Brown and the baggage that comes along with him? Ultimately, Brown may have to settle for less than what he wants if he hopes to play in 2021.

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