NFC South Reporter
Change, and probably quite a lot of it, appears inevitable for the Bucs within the subsequent two months.
It begins with quarterback Tom Brady, who might have performed his last recreation in Tampa — and perhaps or perhaps not within the NFL — with Monday’s disappointing 31-14 wild-card loss to the Cowboys.
It additionally would possibly embody offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, although a report that he is anticipated to be fired seems to be not less than untimely, with head coach Todd Bowles saying Tuesday afternoon that no resolution has been made about Leftwich’s future.
“I don’t have any assessment right now,” Bowles mentioned of Leftwich and his different assistants. “I’m evaluating players. We’ll meet as a coaching staff later in the week, and I’ll meet with individual coaches as well as the staff, which we do every year, and we’ll make those assessments then.”
What does Tom Brady’s future appear like?
In his postgame interview, Tom Brady mentioned that he’s going to “take things one day at a time.” Emmanuel Acho, Pleasure Taylor, LeSean McCoy and David Helman focus on what they imagine is subsequent for TB12.
And past these two, the approaching months virtually actually will carry important change in free company, with restricted cap house and 25 free brokers, together with longtime captain and linebacker Lavonte David, in addition to three 2019 draft picks within the defensive secondary.
David is the longest-tenured Bucs participant, having completed his eleventh season, spanning 5 coaches and going from years and not using a playoff berth to the present three-year postseason streak. He is additionally 32 and a free agent at a place that’s much less forgiving of age than many.
“Of course. You never know what could happen,” he mentioned when requested if he thought of Monday being his last recreation in Tampa. “I don’t worry about it too much. That’s not up to me. I’ll take the offseason, just reflect, get my body right, see what I do from there.”
The identical might be true for 4 2019 draft picks — corners Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean, security Mike Edwards and outdoors linebacker Anthony Nelson — who’ve performed 4 years in Bowles’ protection however at the moment are in place to check the free-agent market, probably with demand that exceeds the Bucs’ skill to maintain them on the town. Many of the defensive position consists of free brokers, in addition to receiver Julio Jones and veterans on each side of the ball.
“I would love to be back, but you’ve got to look at the best opportunity,” mentioned Dean, who was restricted to special-teams play Monday as coaches went with Murphy-Bunting at nook, citing Dean’s toe damage and sickness throughout the week as elements.
The Bucs are about $43 million over the projected wage cap proper now, which would require restructuring if not cuts and different strikes to place them in place to maintain one of the best of their free brokers. Deal with Donovan Smith, who took a step again this 12 months and has a $15 million non-guaranteed wage for 2023, could possibly be among the many cap-related cuts.
Bowles supplied encouraging information Tuesday on the well being of receiver Russell Gage, who was injured late in Monday’s recreation and carted off the sphere whereas immobilized. Bowles mentioned he was anticipated to be launched from a Tampa hospital on Tuesday afternoon, and whereas Gage did maintain a concussion, he has no severe neck damage and has full motion and feeling in all his extremities.
“I appreciate all the texts, calls, thoughts and prayers you all have expressed towards my family and I,” Gage wrote on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon. “Just wanted to let you know that I’m doing great and in great spirits! Thank you!”
The Bucs went by end-of-season interviews with gamers Tuesday as they bid them farewell for the offseason. Bowles mentioned whereas offseason work might be voluntary for the following few months till minicamp in June, he was hopeful to have excessive ranges of attendance from gamers appreciating the significance of working collectively.
“The offseason is voluntary, but at the same time, it builds camaraderie, it builds chemistry and it builds culture,” he mentioned. “When you have an offseason and everyone has their own personal trainer and you come back, you’re not really together at that point.”
Tampa Bay took a significant step again offensively, going from 61 touchdowns in 2021 to 31 this season to almost reduce that scoring manufacturing in half; as a staff, they scored 198 fewer factors in 2022 for the second-largest single-season drop-off in NFL historical past. The Bucs completed with the league’s worst working assault, and Bowles mentioned that should not be attributed to only blocking or his working backs.
“I think any time you’re worst in the league, it’s a combination of everything,” Bowles mentioned. “There is no one thing that you can point to, to say we weren’t good in the running game. We just weren’t good in the running game. We’ll look at the tape and reevaluate everything and make decisions going forward of why we had such a bad thing.”
Bowles took over as head coach on the finish of March, so he was left to inherit Bruce Arians’ teaching workers, and if there are adjustments to be made, it is smart to do them quickly, earlier than prime replacements are grabbed by different groups constructing their very own new teaching staffs. Brady, who retired after which modified his thoughts 40 days later final spring, has mentioned he needs to take time to make his resolution this time, and that ideally would come forward of Tampa Bay’s troublesome selections forward of free company in March.
The Bucs completed 8-9, giving Brady a shedding report for the primary time in his 21 years as a beginning quarterback, and the comfort of successful the NFC South was rapidly overshadowed by Monday’s emphatic and early exit from the playoffs. The 2023 Bucs might have a really completely different identification if Brady is retired or enjoying elsewhere, however they will have the expectation of competing for a division title, if no more, regardless of all of the change that is possible forward.
“Nobody likes this feeling, from the top on down, so we want to fix it and do whatever it takes so we can easily get to the playoffs and make some noise in the playoffs instead of barely making it in,” mentioned former Professional Bowl outdoors linebacker Shaq Barrett, who missed half the season after tearing his Achilles tendon. “We’re a team. One person doesn’t make the team. We have to rally around each other.”
Greg Auman is FOX Sports activities’ NFC South reporter, overlaying the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints. He’s in his tenth season overlaying the Bucs and the NFL full-time, having frolicked on the Tampa Bay Occasions and The Athletic. You may comply with him on Twitter at @gregauman.
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