The Broncos will surely spend a few weeks celebrating their championship, but the rest of the league has now turned the page to 2016. Player contracts that end in 2015 will expire on March 9, bringing on the free agency period; between now and then, teams will contemplate what they wish to do with their own pending free agents.
The Buccaneers have 10 players who will become unrestricted free agents on March 9 if they do not receive a new deal before then:
- DT Da'Quan Bowers – Re-signed with the team in December to provide D-Line depth and played about 13 snaps per game over the final three weeks.
- S Chris Conte – Started 13 of 14 games before ending season on injured reserve and was reasonably productive with 78 tackles, two interceptions and two forced fumbles.
- DE Larry English – Former first-round pick in San Diego who spent all of last year on the Bucs' injured reserve list.
- CB Mike Jenkins – Started early in the year but was mostly a reserve after midseason.
- RB Doug Martin – Had tremendous bounce-back season, ranking second in the NFL with 1,402 rushing yards and averaging a robust 4.9 yards per carry.
- DT Tony McDaniel – Signed in August after release by Seattle and saw most of his playing time in December.
- DE Henry Melton – Provided valuable D-Line depth throughout the season, contributing 30 tackles, two sacks and 12 quarterback hits, second on the team to Gerald McCoy.
- CB Sterling Moore – Stepped into the starting lineup at midseason and was generally the team's most effective cornerback in a season of upheaval at the position.
- RB Bobby Rainey – Not needed much on offense with Martin and Charles Sims providing so much production, but was the team's primary kickoff and punt returner.
- S Keith Tandy – Mostly a special teamer over his four seasons in Tampa but has played well on defense in limited opportunities.
Moore came from Dallas to Tampa on a one-year deal but may have shown enough in the second half of the season for the team to warrant trying to get a second contract done. The same could be said of Melton. Most of the rest of the list is potential defensive depth, and it's a bit early to guess which of those players remains a good fit in the new defense being installed by Mike Smith.
Tampa Bay has four players who will become restricted free agents on March 9 if the team submits the necessary tender offer prior to that date:
- FB Jorvorskie Lane – Generally played between 10 and 20 snaps a game as a lead blocker but ended the season with a serious leg injury.
- LB Danny Lansanah – Won the starting strongside linebacker job in 2015 after playing all three LB positions the year before and recorded 47 tackles, four tackles for loss, one sack and four passes defensed.
- S Bradley McDougald – Played more snaps (887) than any other defensive back for the Buccaneers in 2015 and had 88 tackles and two interceptions.
- WR Russell Shepard – Continued to shine on special teams, serving as a team captain, and also got an occasional look on offense.
Another four Buccaneers will be exclusive rights free agents if they receive the necessary tender offer before March 9:
- LS Andrew DePaola – Handled all of the team's long-snapping duties for the second straight season without incident.
- DE T.J. Fatinikun – Like English, a pass-rusher with some promise who spent the season on injured reserve.
- LB Jeremiah George – Came aboard as a waiver-wire pickup at the beginning of the season and played well on special teams.
- DE Jacquies Smith – Injuries limited him to 11 starts but he still finished second on the team with 7.0 sacks while also forcing and recovering three fumbles.
DePaola has done a fine job handling the long-snapping duties for the Bucs the past two years, so it is likely that he'll get a tender offer and be the front-runner, at least, to hold that job again in 2016. One would expect Fatinikun and George also to get another shot at making the roster this season.