When he initially announced his retirement back in February, Tom Brady left the door open for a return to the NFL, and that's exactly what will be happening in 2022. Brady announced he will be returning to the Buccaneers for his 23rd season Sunday afternoon. The seven-time Super Bowl champion's retirement ended up lasting all of 40 days, and it's great news for the Buccaneers' Super Bowl hopes – as well as the Fantasy appeal of the rest of the Bucs offense.
Because things were probably going to be pretty ugly without him. The Buccaneers were looking at going into next season with, in all likelihood, Blaine Gabbert as their starting quarterback, and that was going to make it tough to trust anyone as a starting Fantasy option. Oh, sure, Mike Evans could still be good with someone like Gabbert, but Chris Godwin coming off a torn ACL would be hard to get excited about – and those were the relatively sure things.
With Brady back, the whole offense is going to be in a much better place, and Evans is the big winner. He returns to the fringe No. 1 WR discussion – he finished 12th in PPR points per game in 2021. Outside of Evans however, there are still pretty significant question marks across the offense, starting with Godwin.
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Godwin was WR7 before his injury, and if he's 100%, I think it's entirely reasonable to expect similar production. But it's not clear when he'll be available in 2022 after his Week 15 injury. It's not out of the question he could be back by Week 1, but that would be a remarkably fast recovery. It's more likely he misses the start of the season, with a potential return in October probably a realistic hope. Godwin could be a No. 1 WR when he returns, but between the time he's likely to miss and the potential that it takes him a while to get up to full speed, you certainly can't draft him as a WR1. I'd guess he'll settle in around the low-end WR2 in drafts, though that could rise or fall depending on his progress.
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After those two, there are a lot of unknowns on this offense. We're assuming Rob Gronkowski is coming back at this point, and he should be a top-10 tight end in all drafts – he was TE4 in points per game last season with 802 yards and six touchdowns in just 12 games. However, the Bucs will also be replacing Antonio Brown's 62 targets in his seven games as well as Leonard Fournette's 84 targets if he isn't re-signed in free agency, in addition to whatever time Godwin misses.
Fournette would be a borderline top-12 RB for me in PPR leagues if he does return, but it doesn't seem like that is a given at this time. Ronald Jones is also a free agent, so there's a significant opportunity here for some running back to emerge as a must-start Fantasy option, especially if they add someone Brady can trust in the passing game. That'll be one of the low-key most important storylines to watch in free agency.
And the thing to keep in mind is, the Bucs don't have much flexibility with regards to the cap to make the additions they likely need. Which could mean someone like Tyler Johnson or Cyril Grayson stepping into a larger role as the No. 2 WR to start the season and the eventual No. 3. Or, they could add someone in the draft to step into that role. Whoever does get that opportunity is going to be a really interesting Fantasy sleeper to know about, so you'll want to keep a close eye on whatever happens here.
Brady coming back answers the biggest question about the Buccaneers offense, but they've got quite a few left to answer. This offense should be excellent with Brady back, but what shape that takes and who benefits beyond Evans remains to be seen. It'll be one of the key offseason storylines.