The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have most of their key pieces back as they look to become the first team since the 2003-2004 New England Patriots to repeat as Super Bowl champions. Tampa Bay will always have a chance with Tom Brady at quarterback, but head coach Bruce Arians wants to make sure Brady has all the pieces in place for the 43 year old to make a run at that eighth title.
And the Buccaneers head coach wasn't talking about offense.
"Whatever's left, we'll score enough points," Arians said about the upcoming free agent period Wednesday, per Carmen Vitali of the Buccaneers website. "So, it's a matter of keeping the defense as solid as we can."
Tampa Bay is projected to be $13.3 million under the salary cap (per Over The Cap) and has plenty of free agents on defense to retain. The leader in the clubhouse is Shaquil Barrett, who will command a high salary on the open market. Barrett ranked sixth in the NFL with 42 pressures despite having just eight sacks on the year -- and he tied for the NFL lead in hurries with 24. Barrett made his money in the postseason, having four sacks and 14 pressures for the Super Bowl champions -- including 11 combined pressures between the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl LV.
Lavonte David and Ndamukong Suh are two other defensive free agents that Tampa Bay would like to keep on the roster. David is the best linebacker in the free agent class -- and arguably the best coverage linebacker in the game -- earning an All-Pro selection in 2020. David recorded 117 tackles and three forced fumbles last season and is a longtime leader of the Buccaneers defense.
Suh finished with 29 tackles and six sacks for the Buccaneers at the age of 33. Will Tampa Bay have enough cap space to retain Barrett, David, and Suh -- keeping a defense intact that allowed the fewest rushing yards per game (77.2) and fewest rushing yards per carry average (3.43) over the last two seasons?
Arians is well aware how good the Buccaneers defense is. Tampa Bay can't repeat without keeping the backbone of that unit intact.